NEW - Judy Lynn Spencer's Murder Linked to Suspect by DNA

A 26-year wait to determine who killed Judy Lynn Spencer, the Houston High School graduate who was found strangled and shot in Dent County, took an amazing turn Friday with the arrest of a 65-year-old acquaintance of the victim.

According to the court documents, DNA evidence found under the fingernails of the then 21-year-old woman is linked to Donald R. “Doc” Nash of Beaufort, who was arrested by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Capt. Luke Vislay said investigators with the patrol arrested Nash at about 12:10 p.m. in Franklin County. He is held on $750,000 cash bond in the Dent County Jail on capital murder charges. Nash made a court appearance Monday and is to return later this month.

The arraignment was relocated to a larger courtroom because of an overflow crowd.

Associate Circuit Judge Sandy Ball set the bail after hearing from the victim’s 77-year-old mother, Mildred, who read a two-page statement that urged no bond be set.

A resident of the Montauk area, she said the family considered Nash a flight risk who might be a danger to himself and others. She noted that prosecution, which is expected to be handled by the Missouri attorney general’s office, might get more information about the crime if Nash is behind bars and the family would rest easier if they knew he was in jail.

On Monday, Sgt. Jason Clark of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Jefferson City said the agency is “actively working” the case.

A link to Nash came in November when H. James Folsom, a state patrol sergeant, submitted physical evidence to the Missouri State Highway Patrol lab in Jefferson City. The examination, according to court documents, found an unidentified male DNA profile discovered under fingernail clippings taken from Spencer’s left hand. It was determined that the nature of the clipping indicated a struggle occurred.

According to court paperwork, Folsom obtained a voluntary swab of Nash’s DNA from his residence on March 13. On March 19, the crime lab determined that Nash’s DNA matched the profile found from the body. It was later determined that a mixture of both person’s DNA was found under the left hand fingernails of Spencer. During an interview last Wednesday, Folsom told Nash of the connection before the suspect terminated the interview.

According to the court documents, a witness, Texas County native Janet Jones, told investigators that the DNA couldn’t have been there earlier because Spencer washed her hair before leaving before the murder. The patrol, in its probable cause statement, said the DNA found is typically discovered when a struggle occurs and not during casual contact.

According to Folsom, an investigation showed Spencer had two verbal arguments with Nash, her boyfriend, within an hour of each other on March 10, 1982. Spencer returned to the home of Janet Jones and offered to take Jones on a trip to Houston. Jones declined.

On Wednesday, Folsom conducted an interview of Nash, who offered no explanation of why his DNA was found under the fingernails of Spencer. It is not the first time Nash has been questioned. Investigators say in March 1982 they interviewed Nash about the Spencer’s death, and he acknowledged that he had argued with her twice the day she disappeared. During the interview, inconsistencies were noted in how long Nash had looked for her when she vanished.

The body of Spencer, a 1978 graduate of HHS and former cheerleader, was discovered about 11 miles west of Salem. A former employee of the Brown Shoe Co. in Houston, Spencer was working at a Salem hospital at the time of her death.

The unsolved mystery continued for years as members of the Spencer family struggled looking for answers. At one time, a plea was made to air the case on a national television program and a $10,000 reward offered. Most recently, a class with Drury University did a “cold-case” study of the crime and later completed a report that was turned over to the family.

PDF: Court documents: Authorities earlier looked at Nash, a Judy L. Spencer boyfriend.

PDF: Original Herald story on Judy Lynn Spencer slaying.

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