Former NFL linebacker convicted of murder in Calif.

Posted July 14, 2011, at 8:47 p.m.
Last modified July 14, 2011, at 9:20 p.m.

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A jury on Thursday found a former NFL linebacker guilty of killing a Southern California millionaire nearly 17 years ago.

Orange County jurors found Eric Naposki guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of William McLaughlin in his Newport Beach home in 1994. The panel also found true a special circumstance allegation that Naposki committed the murder for financial gain and that he personally discharged a firearm.

Naposki, wearing a pink shirt and tie, shook his head as jurors read the verdict. As he was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs, he mouthed ‘I love you’ to his fiancee, who was crying. Several jurors stayed after the verdict to speak with the victim’s family but declined to discuss the case with reporters. His fiancee declined to comment.

Sentencing for the former New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts linebacker is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Authorities said Naposki was romantically involved with McLaughlin’s girlfriend, Nanette Johnson Packard, who stood to collect $1 million in life insurance from McLaughlin’s death. She also is charged with murder and her trial is scheduled for later this year.

Both Naposki and Packard had long been suspected in the 1994 shooting death, but the case went cold until police said they uncovered evidence that linked the pair to the killing.

McLaughlin’s daughter, Kim McLaughlin, spoke with reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was read.

“My dad is honored today. We’re very grateful. This is one down, one to go,” said McLaughlin while fighting back tears.

Prosecutors said Naposki was given a key to McLaughlin’s home by Packard and shot him six times. After the shooting, Naposki headed to his job at a nearby bar where he was a bouncer, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys argued that Naposki had an alibi and that Packard was the only one who had the motive, means and opportunity to kill McLaughlin.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said outside court that investigators retraced the route from a Santa Ana Denny’s restaurant to McLaughlin’s home to rebuff defense attorney’s claims that Naposki could not have made it there in time to be the killer.

“He told a million lies when he spoke to the police,” Murphy said, adding that investigators drove multiple possible routes. “Once that was done it was crystal clear that Eric Naposki committed that murder,” Murphy said.

Defense attorney Gary Pohlson was not present outside the courthouse for comment after the verdict was announced. A phone message left at his office was not immediately returned.

Packard also was accused of writing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of checks drawn from his accounts. Packard pleaded guilty in 1996 to stealing nearly $500,000 from McLaughlin before and after his death. She was sentenced to one year in jail for that crime.

McLaughlin made his fortune as the founder of a company that developed a device that separates plasma from blood.

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