Homicide victim remembered as cheerful, dependable

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

She was a mother, a waitress, a student reaching for a bachelor’s degree. Laura McNaughton approached those endeavors wholeheartedly — those who knew her said she was a hard worker, a dedicated mother, a person perennially cheerful.

A Sunday phone call alerted Toni Russo of the slaying of her childhood friend. She and McNaughton grew up together in La Mesa, Calif., a small region in San Diego county where McNaughton was born.

But they lost touch after McNaughton moved to Clovis in 2002.

“When I think of her, I think of her dimpled cheeks and her smile,” said Russo, who still lives in La Mesa. “Laura was beautiful inside and out. She was just as gorgeous on the inside as on the outside. Everybody loved Laura.”

In her third semester at Wayland Baptist University, McNaughton studied science and occupational education, said Wayland Baptist University interim dean Gary Mitchell. Mitchell said she was a pleasant, well-liked student.

“I was stunned by the news. I couldn’t believe it,” said Mitchell, who taught two classes McNaughton attended.

McNaughton also waited on tables part-time at the Rib Crib restaurant. Rib Crib Manager Tommy Cardonita said she was a dependable worker, always on time and cheerful.

Likewise, McNaughton was a dedicated mother to two daughters, a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old, said kindergarten teacher Barbara St. John. She often brought in snacks for her daughter and her classmates.

“She truly loved her children,” St. John said.