Slaying victim’s family visits site

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson

David and Maria Beardmore view a cross they placed Thursday to mark the location where the body of their daughter, Laura McNaughton, was found by hunters in December.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

On the edge of a desolate, wind-whipped field stands a small homemade cross wrapped in a pink feather boa. It was placed by a mother and father mourning their daughter.

Thursday, for the first time, David and Maria Beardmore visited the ditch where the battered body of their daughter, Laura McNaughton, was found more than seven months ago.

“Pink was her favorite. She was a girl-girl,” Maria Beardmore said, explaining her choice of the fuzzy pink boa embracing the cross.

Inscribed on the cross are the words, “We love you, Laura.” Strands of letter beads wrap around it, bearing messages that include “you are my shining star,” and “we love you,” strung lovingly by McNaughton’s three sisters.

A yellow gossamer butterfly is affixed to the fence post behind the cross.

The cross marks the spot on a lonely stretch of County Road C, about two miles south of the Pleasant Hill Fire Department, where a group of quail hunters found McNaughton’s nude body Dec. 10 in the dry winter brush.

“It’s so beautiful here — but sad,” Maria Beardmore said as she gazed across the plains, the wind whipping her hair. Her eyes wandered to the ditch mere feet from the small rise where the cross was placed.

It took seven months, she said, before she was ready to see the place where her daughter’s body had lain in the brush.

They came to Clovis from San Diego to visit their granddaughters and to attend a status hearing in the death-penalty murder case against James Smith.

Smith, 37, is accused of killing McNaughton, 30.

He was arrested Dec. 20 and faces the death penalty if convicted.

In another first, the Beardmores said Thursday’s hearing was the first time they have been in the courtroom, though they have listened to every hearing by telephone.

They just weren’t ready before, Maria Beardmore said.

A third attorney has taken over as defense counsel, leading to delays in the case.
Originally scheduled for January, the trial has been rescheduled for June 2007.

“We want to have it done and over with so we can grieve for Laura,” her mother said. “We’re in so much pain, we’ve never gone through anything like this before.”

“But (the case) it’s got to be done right,” David Beardmore said.

Visiting the place their daughter was discovered is one step toward healing for them, they said.