Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Football Player and the Millionaire: Deadly Love Triangle

Prelude to Murder


When McLaughlin started dating Johnston, who was half his age, the new relationship didn't sit well with the millionaire's two grown daughters.

"His daughters couldn't stand her, they saw her for what she was — wanting a sugar daddy," Byington said. "Nanette started dating him and said, 'Hey — I need a job.' So she moves in and becomes his bookkeeper." That job paid $1,000 a month plus the free room and board for Johnston and the child from her recent marriage.

During the three years that the couple dated, Johnston integrated herself into his finances and was eventually on the deed to one of his Newport Beach homes. She also became a beneficiary to a million-dollar life insurance policy on McLaughlin and stood to receive $150,000 in his will.

Matt Murphy
Matt Murphy
Apparently the besotted millionaire didn't think to audit his books. Johnston started embezzling tens of thousands of dollars, writing herself a series of checks beginning in January 1994. Then within 24 hours of McLaughlin's death, Johnston wrote herself three more checks totaling $355,000, according to court records. Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy theorized that McLaughlin had discovered the theft and was going to break up with Johnston, a decision that would have fatal consequences.

"Now, maybe you get away with $4,000 and nobody's going to notice," Murphy said. "Maybe with a man as wealthy as he was you could get away with $20,000 and nobody's going to notice. But there is no way anybody is going to be able to cut a check for a quarter of a million dollars, one check, and not have a bank make a phone call.

"And talk about trouble in their relationship," Murphy continued. "As soon as Bill McLaughlin realizes that Nanette Johnston is stealing from him, I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that relationship is not going to be very healthy. So, as we see their relationship ramp up, 'their' being Miss McNeal — Miss Packard-Johnston — and Mr. Naposki. As their relationship heats up, the thefts heat up."

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'