Wealthy Men Only
Nanette Johnston's personal ad made it clear: "I know how to take care of my man if he knows how to take care of me." Newport Beach millionaire Bill MacLaughlin made the fatal mistake of responding.
Within months, the gorgeous 28-year-old moved in with the middle-aged entrepreneur. Three years later, she began seeing another man on the side, a former NFL linebacker who took a job at a nearby nightclub. Three weeks later, MacLaughin would be dead.
He was found lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. Nannette had an alibiand a million-dollar life insurance policy on the victim. Police discovered she'd embezzled a small fortune from MacLaughlin's businessbut didn't have enough evidence to charge her with murder. For years, the crime went unsolveduntil new evidence brought the golddigger and her boyfriend back to the courtoomin a sordid case of lust, betrayal, greed, and murder…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Stella Sands is Executive Editor of Kids Discover, an award-winning magazine with over 400,000 subscribers geared to children 7 to 12 years old. She is the author of The Dating Game Killer, The Good Son, Murder at Yale, Behind the Maskall available from St. Martin's Press True Crime Libraryand Baby-faced Butchers, as well as other works including Odyssea and Natural Disasters. Her plays, Lou Passin' Through, Black-eyed Peas, and E-me, have been produced in Off-Off Broadway theaters in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Wealthy Men Only
The True Story of a Lonely Millionaire, A Gorgeous Younger Woman, and the Love Triangle That Ended in Murder
By Stella Sands
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Stella Sands
All rights reserved.
The Newport Beach area of Southern California isn't for everyone. Curmudgeons and sourpusses will find paltry little to enjoy. But aside from devotees of those two marginal groups, most people agree that Newport Beach is about as close to paradise as it gets — regardless of how you choose to define "paradise."
If it's surf, sand, and sunbathing you're after, the area is pure bliss. With ten miles of perhaps the cleanest beaches in the United States, it boasts the Pacific Ocean's best breaks, especially between Newport Pier and the Santa Ana River. With mountain-size waves, the Wedge, at the extreme eastern end of Balboa Peninsula, offers some of the most breathtakingly unpredictable and insane bodysurfing and bodyboarding to be found anywhere in the world.
If it's perfect weather you crave, the Mediterranean climate warms the soul as it mocks the rest of the country's winter doldrums and cold-weather blues.
Hiking and bird-watching — indeed. Crystal Cove offers a must-walk wooded wilderness, while the estuary on Back Bay beckons birders from all over to observe ospreys, endangered brown pelicans, grebes, and egrets.
With their stunning views, eighteen-hole championship golf courses lure even the most golf-averse putters.
As if all that weren't enough. Newport Beach has museums, farmers' markets, trendy shops and restaurants, and lively nightlife. It's a postcard-perfect playground by the sea.
And if you happen to be lucky enough to own a piece of this paradise, Balboa Coves is the place to be. An affluent community of charming bay-front homes, its sixty or so residences radiate luxury. Although they vary in layout, not one is size challenged and some boast over forty-five hundred square feet. A typical Balboa Coves property might include four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, one hundred–plus feet of azure-water frontage, a luxurious patio overlooking the bay, a private dock, and an oversized three-car garage. These houses are more than homes; each one is someone's dream come true.
Like many upscale Newport Beach communities, Balboa Coves is gated. No one walks or drives into the neighborhood without a gate key or security card. This gives the residents a feeling of extra privacy and safety. But in an area where the crime rate is so low, one might wonder if such a precaution was really necessary.
And it wasn't. Tranquility and uninterrupted peace reigned each and every day in this secluded enclave — well, at least it did until December 15, 1994.CHAPTER 2
Thursday, December 15, 1994
At around 7 p.m., Kevin McLaughlin, 24, and his father Bill, 55, were enjoying the last bites of their dinner in the kitchen of Number 67 Balboa Coves. It was a gorgeous house. With a prime end-of-the-block location, it offered privacy, spectacular south-facing bay views from the sunken hot tub on the deck, and a dock where Bill tied up his boat. It was the epitome of dreamy California coastal living.
Bill and Kevin lived in the Balboa Coves house with Goldie, their perpetually optimistic golden retriever, along with Bill's fiancée, Nanette Ann Johnston, and her two young children. Kevin was recovering from an accident, which was why he was living with his dad. Bill and his ex-wife, Susan, had been married for twenty-four years before their contentious divorce in 1991. But now Susan was living in one of their former vacation homes in Hawaii and Bill was planning to remarry. Things were settling down.
The topic of conversation between Kevin and his father during dinner was how well Kevin was doing in his classes at Coastline Community College. When the two finished eating, at approximately 7:55 p.m., Kevin told his father he was going upstairs to listen to some music and chill — not the usual routine for Kevin on a Thursday night. Most Thursdays Kevin went to a meeting, but that night he told his father he simply didn't feel like it.
Nanette would be home later. She had left a yellow Post-it on a lampshade in the formal dining room near the patio. It read: "Bill and Kev. We won our game so we are playing again tonight. See you later, Nanette."
"Restful sleep, Kev," said Bill as Kevin left the kitchen.
* * *
Once upstairs in his room, Kevin called his girlfriend, Sandy, to arrange to meet her the following day. Then he put on his headphones, turned up the music, and sprawled across his bed.
Around an hour later, as he was thrumming along to the beat, he heard several thunderous booms. Startled, Kevin took off his headphones. He knew that the sounds weren't part of the tune, but he had no idea what they were or where they came from.
Throwing his legs over the side of the bed, he sat bolt upright. Anxiously he listened for other, similar sounds. But ... nothing. Not a single noise could be heard from either inside or outside the house. In fact, the silence felt eerie.
With curiosity getting the better of him, Kevin decided to check on his father — although finding him wasn't always easy in their sprawling house. There were three bedrooms on the second floor, with Kevin's being the farthest from the staircase, and three bedrooms downstairs.
Leaving his room, Kevin proceeded down the long hallway, quickly glancing in each bedroom as he passed. The beds were all made perfectly, as usual, with their colorful, plump comforters and pillows. The shades all rested at their customary half-staff position. Except for him, no one was upstairs.
As Kevin made it to the mid-stairway landing, he started doubting himself. Maybe he had only imagined hearing the sounds. The mind can play some pretty weird tricks — he knew that for sure. He even considered going back upstairs and crawling into bed. But something made him press on.
Navigating the staircase took some doing. Although he'd been making huge progress since his accident, his brain and body weren't always in sync these days.
Kevin finally made it to the bottom step. From there, he surveyed the grand living room and dining room. Nothing out of the ordinary.
He then headed for the kitchen, his concerns abating. But when he entered the room, he stopped in his tracks. What he saw made no sense. Panic rising, he knew he needed help.
* * *
"Newport Beach Emergency," said Dispatcher Anne Donnelly after receiving a 911 call at precisely 9:11 p.m.
"Ohhhh nooo ohhhh nooo!" said a man's profoundly slurred voice.
"I can't understand what you're saying. Say it again to me, sir. Are you hurt?"
"I've got your location. What's the problem there at Sixty-seven Balboa Coves?"
"Somebody's dying? Your mother? What's the matter with your mother?"
"Your son? Your dad?"
"Okay, we have an officer on the way to your house now. Is anybody out there that can talk to me?"
"Is it your dad? Or a dog?"
"Okay, we'll have an officer out there any minute. You're at Sixty-seven Balboa. Has he been sick? Do you know what's wrong with him?"
"Talk to me. Has he been sick?"
"Do you know what's the matter with him?"
"Is he conscious? Is he breathing?"
"Your dog was shot?" asked the operator.
"Is there anyone there with you? Are you there by yourself with your father?"
"We're on the way. We're going to help you. Is your dad breathing?"
"He is not breathing? Did he fall over? Were you with your dad when he fell?"
"Okay okay, just try to be calm. We'll be right there. Is there an officer at the door? Go to the door. Open the door. Do you know how to open the door?"
"How can they get in your door?"
"Is your father on the floor?"
"Do you know what happened to him? Is it his heart? Heart attack?"
"Did you say a gun? Did he shoot himself?"
"Where's the gun?"
"Where is he shot? Can you tell where he's shot? In his head?"
"I don't understand. Okay, okay. Don't move him. What's your name?"
"Okay, Kevin. What's your dad's name?"
"Do you have a mother? Where's your mother? Does she live there?"
"Can you open the front door? Can you go to the front door? I'll stay with you. Go to the front door."
* * *
Newport Beach police officer Glen Garrity was working uniformed bicycle patrol in the nearby Lido Beach Plaza area that night when his radio squawked. "Sixty-seven Balboa Coves. Caller saying something about a gun. I'm still on the line with him. Sounds intoxicated or possibly mentally handicapped. Man lying on floor. Possibly shot himself."
Luckily, Garrity wasn't far away. He pedaled hard and arrived soon after the call. As he biked up the driveway, two Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) officers had just pulled up and exited their patrol car and were approaching the front entrance. The three men met there.
"What've we got?" asked a breathless Garrity.
"Key in the lock," said Officer Mike Pule, observing a shiny key sticking out of the already-wide-open front door.
"And another here on the mat," stated Officer Spencer Arnold as he stared down at his feet.
The officers heard the sound of moans coming from inside the house. A young man was walking toward them, sobbing and obviously highly agitated. Seeing him, the officers immediately sensed that in addition to the man's distress, something else was not quite right. His walk was ponderous and ungainly, and his speech was slurred to the point of incomprehensibility.
Garrity touched him gently on the shoulder. "Come with me," he said. "Let's sit in here." The officer led the young man to the living room, where the two sat down on the couch.
Meanwhile, Officer Arnold remained stationed at the front door while Pule began to search the house for intruders. Seconds later, as more officers arrived, a complete sweep of the home began.
By now, with sirens screaming and cherry lights twirling, nervous neighbors began to congregate along the street.
"Was it a burglary?"
"Must have been. What else?"
"Wonder if anyone was home?"
"First time I remember anything like this," said Stan Love. "And I've been here over twenty years."
"Never seen anything like this in my forty-five years on the block," responded neighbor Bill Kennedy.
"Hope it's not serious," said Love.
"I was watching a rerun of I Love Lucy," said Kennedy, "and kinda napping on and off when the guy next door called and said he heard gunshots. Five gunshots. I said, 'You must be kidding.'"
"I didn't hear gunshots," said Love.
"You know the folks in the house?" asked Kennedy.
"I've only said 'morning' as he jogged by with his dog. Seems like a nice enough guy."
"Sure is. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Lives with his son."
As more neighbors began to gather, rumors started to fly:
An accident in the house — maybe someone fell down the stairs.
Someone was kidnapped.
A domestic dispute of some sort.
A false alarm.
* * *
While the neighbors outside pondered what could have taken place, the officers inside continued to examine the premises. When they entered the kitchen, they encountered the cause of the young man's extreme agitation.
There, on the floor in a pool of blood, lay a man on his side. He was wearing a blue bathrobe and slippers. His glasses were off to the side on the floor. He wasn't moving.
One of the officers put his hand to the man's neck and after a moment shook his head. No pulse. There was no question in the officers' minds that the man was dead. They looked closely at the body. "Looks like six of 'em. All in the torso," said police sergeant Kent Stoddard.
"Up close and personal," commented Sergeant Al Fischer. "See the stippling?" Gunpowder flying off the muzzle of a gun had left tattoo-like marks around two of the wounds — a clear indication the victim was shot at close range.
"Hey, look," said Stoddard, eyeing the floor around the man's body. "Casings." Kneeling down to get a closer look, he could see they were from a 9mm.
"So where's the piece?" asked Fischer.
The officers examined the kitchen, but there was no gun anywhere. Plus, the place was surprisingly intact. No dishes were strewn over the floor. No chairs were overturned. No bits of food were scattered about.
Either the intruder totally surprised the victim, or the victim knew the intruder — but didn't know his or her intentions.
Patrol officers sealed the crime scene and went outside to wait for the detectives.
By 9:30 p.m., after having spoken with the highly upset young man in the living room, Officer Garrity had discovered that his name was Kevin McLaughlin and that the dead man in the kitchen was Kevin's father, Bill McLaughlin. Garrity had also determined that Kevin was not drunk, as he had originally thought. Kevin, he learned, had been in a serious accident a few years previously and experienced brain trauma. He had been hit by a drunk driver while he was skateboarding and was still suffering from motor impairment and slurred speech. But none of this stopped Kevin from remembering or recounting the horror of the preceding hour.
During dinner, Kevin recounted, the conversation with his father had been fine. Everything had been normal. Kevin told Garrity that after dinner he had gone to his bedroom and soon after heard the suspicious sounds. He then headed downstairs to investigate, and finding his father lying on the kitchen floor in his slippers ... blood everywhere ... holes in his father's bare chest, he dialed 911.
Kevin said that when the 911 operator advised him to open the front door so the police could get in, he did what he was told. But when he got there, the door was already open.
And that was how the police had found it — the front door wide open with a key in the lock and another key lying on the mat right outside. Garrity asked Kevin if it was his key that was in the door. Kevin said it was not his key and he had no idea where the key had come from.
Garrity apologized to Kevin for bombarding him with questions at this tragic time, but until more information was gleaned Kevin needed to understand that he was technically considered a suspect — family members, Garrity told him, were always the first to be scrutinized after a homicide. He then asked Kevin if he could bag his hands.
"Do you understand why?" Garrity asked.
"Yeeehhhh," Kevin responded, although Garrity wondered if Kevin really did understand, because the moment after he asked the question the young man's demeanor changed from relatively calm to panicky. "It's routine," explained Garrity, trying to allay the man's fears. "We'll just be checking for gunshot residue."
While Garrity and Kevin were in the living room, members of the Newport Beach Fire Department had arrived and gone directly to the kitchen. After turning the victim onto his back and connecting him to a monitor to register vital signs, the officers declared what everyone else already knew: "Deceased."
* * *
At 9:40 p.m., Detective Tom Voth received a call at home from Lieutenant Doug Fletcher at the Newport Beach Police Department. Voth had been assigned to the crimes-against-persons unit (which dealt mostly with domestic violence, robbery, and "a lot of barroom fights") for less than a month when this homicide took place. Before that, he had been a burglary and narcotics detective.
Fletcher advised Voth that a homicide had occurred in Balboa Coves and that Detective Sergeant Steve Van Horn and Detective Bill Hartford were already on their way to investigate. Fletcher told Voth to respond as well.
Meanwhile, at 67 Balboa Coves, at 10:15 p.m., officers were checking everywhere for clues. In the garage, there was a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 CE. While searching the sedan, Officer Rick Bradley located a Davis Industries P-380 pistol under the driver's seat. On close inspection, it appeared that it had not been fired.
Hmmm, wondered the detectives, what was the victim doing with a pistol in his car?
* * *
At 10:55 p.m., when Detectives Van Horn, Hartford, and Voth arrived on the scene, Officer Arnold briefed them on what he knew. Then Voth and Hartford headed into the living room to speak to Kevin, who was their only witness so far.
After Garrity got them up to speed, Voth asked Kevin to tell him who possessed keys to the residence. After numerous tries, Kevin was able to get across that several family members did, including his sisters and his mother — as well as his dad's live-in girlfriend.
Voth asked Kevin, "Do we have your permission to search the house?"
"Any weapons here?" they asked.
"Can you tell us why?"
After more questioning, Kevin was able to explain that his father owned many guns. Some of them were in the house in Balboa Coves, said Kevin, and others were in another house his father owned, in Las Vegas. Kevin also told the detectives that he and his father had recently fired several of the guns at a shooting range in Las Vegas.
Excerpted from Wealthy Men Only by Stella Sands. Copyright © 2012 Stella Sands. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well written and hard to put down. I skipped through some of the trial pages since it was mainly repeating but overall loved it.
This is a very well written book, no dull moments and is not drawn out like some books .. Nanette most of all deserves what she got !! Shes evil, greedy etc. I cant stand her !! Her lover is just stupid and deserves what he got, heck anyone who associates with her should be locked up !! .. my heart goes to victim and family, it broke my heart n brought tears when i read what happened to Kevin (victims son) he had his whole life ahead and dreams, i could go on n on but dont want to give to much to readers, you wont be disappointed .... Bn
Havent but sounds weirdk
A good read, went by quickly as wanted to see what was next. No boring page after page filler like some books