Judy Spencer

More than 27 years after a Houston High School graduate was found murdered, the suspect in the case was found guilty Thursday night.

Donald R. “Doc” Nash of Beaufort, who was arrested last year, was charged in the death of Judy Spencer, 21, whose shot and strangled body was found about 11 miles west of Salem, where she was employed by the hospital.

Nash was found guilty by a jury hearing the case on a change on venue in Rolla. The panel began deliberations at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday and returned the verdict early that evening.

Nash’s arrest due to improved DNA testing capped an unsolved mystery that has haunted the Spencer family and her friends for generations. If convicted, Nash faces life in prison or the death penalty.

A link to Nash came in November 2007 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 of last year. 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, 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, the day she was killed. Spencer returned to the home of Janet Jones and offered to take Jones on a trip to Houston. Jones declined.

Spencer later was found strangled with a shoelace from her right shoe and shot in the neck with a shotgun. Since that time, authorities and family members have fought for answers on who committed the crime.

Jurors will hear evidence at the Phelps County Courthouse, where Senior Judge Douglas E. Long of Waynesville oversaw the trial. A Crawford County sequestered jury was transported to Rolla to hear the case.

The prosecutor in the case was Theodore Bruce, a Missouri assistant attorney general, who specializes in serious, high-profile cases.

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