Monday, August 2, 2010

Newnan, GA: McNaughton murder trial begins today

BY ALEX MCRAE THE TIMES-HERALD The trial of Alec McNaughton, accused of stabbing his wife to death in February 2009, is scheduled to begin today in Coweta Superior Court. MacNaughton became a suspect in the killing of his wife, Cathy Mendenhall McNaughton, just days after calling Coweta 911 on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009, to report he had arrived at the couple's north Coweta home to find his wife "unresponsive and bleeding." Coweta Emergency Medical Service and Coweta Sheriff's Office deputies arrived on the scene and located Cathy McNaughton in a back room of the residence. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and her body was transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Atlanta crime lab for autopsy. Autopsy results listed McNaughton's official cause of death as "sharp force injuries to the torso," according to Coweta County Coroner Ray Yeager. In late October 2009, Coweta Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin set bond for McNaughton at $3 million. Baldwin had denied McNaughton bond in July 2009, but warned prosecutors if McNaughton's trial hadn't started by the end of October, he would reconsider a bond. During the October 2009 bond hearing, McNaughton's co-counsel, Coweta attorney Mike Kam, asked that the defendant be given a $100,000 bond, following precedent set during two recent Coweta County murder cases. Kam said that McNaughton wasn't taken into police custody until 12 days after his wife's murder and that if he were going to flee, he likely would have done so prior to his arrest. Coweta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry said the prosecution had been unable to set a trial date because the GBI had not completed its investigation, which included examination of more than 100 pieces of evidence. McMurry asked Baldwin to set bond in excess of $2.5 million to prevent McNaughton from fleeing. McMurry called the attack "calculated," saying, "This is not your garden variety murder. The victim was severely and violently attacked." Authorities said the victim was stabbed 20-30 times, the majority of the wounds inflicted post-mortem. McMurry also argued that McNaughton was a flight risk and told the court about a 2003 incident in Oklahoma when McNaughton -- then a practicing lawyer -- surrendered his bar license after allegedly taking money illegally from his clients. McMurry claimed that, at the time, McNaughton had a Swiss bank account and had purchased tickets to Switzerland. McMurry said it is believed McNaughton did not flee but sent the money back to avoid prosecution. At the bond hearing, the victim's daughter, Heather Mendenhall, told the court that McNaughton has "a history of violence both professionally and domestically." Anita Cramer, McNaughton's sister, testified that McNaughton was violent toward his four siblings growing up and that he sends three to five letters a week to their mother, who is 81 years old. She said the letters are "manipulative" and that he has asked repeatedly for money for his defense.

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