Judy Spencer

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

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

Nash, 66, 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. last Thursday and returned the verdict about four hours later. Nash faces life in prison without a chance of parole. A state assistant attorney general had earlier waived seeking the death penalty.

Nash’s arrest was due to improved DNA testing. A link to Nash, Spencer’s boyfriend, 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.

A witness, Texas County native Janet Jones Edwards, told investigators that the DNA couldn’t have been there earlier because Spencer washed her hair prior to 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.

In testimony, Ruth Montgomery, a Missouri State Highway Patrol crime laboratory employee, said washing hair would likely remove DNA from a person’s fingernails. Montgomery has tackled more than 500 DNA cases. A defense witness disputed the claim. Testimony from Stephanie Beine, senior forensic scientist with Genetic Technologies Inc. in St. Louis, relayed that whether or not DNA stays under fingernails depends on how much contact the people involved have had, the length of the fingernails and dishwashing._

“Hand washing, showers or baths shouldn’t make a difference,” Beine said.

Spencer was found strangled with a shoelace from her right shoe and shot in the neck with a shotgun. A farmer discovered the body. Authorities testing Nash a day after the murder found no gunshot residue.

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