Canterbury man charged with murdering mother, disposing of body

  • Phillip Nash, 21, is led away after his arraignment at the Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Friday.

  • Frances Nash Courtesy

Published: 6/22/2018 10:07:25 AM

A Canterbury man accused of stabbing his mother to death and dumping her body in a swamp is back in New Hampshire and being held without bail pending trial.

Phillip Nash, 21, did not face a judge Friday after waiving his arraignment in Merrimack County Superior Court on a charge of second-degree murder, as well as two felony counts of theft by unauthorized taking. Nash waived extradition and arrived Thursday in New Hampshire from Virginia, where he has been held on a fugitive from justice charge since May 21.

Prosecutors say Phillip Nash knowingly caused the death of his mother, Frances Nash, 51, of Chichester, by stabbing her multiple times. Frances Nash, a former librarian in Loudon, was last heard from May 17. She was reported missing two days later.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office filed the murder charge against Phillip Nash this week – a month after his mother’s body and her abandoned 2011 Mercury Mariner were found in Canterbury. Phillip Nash is accused of stealing the SUV and a 2000 Ford F-350 pickup from his employer to help facilitate his escape to Virginia after his mother’s death.

“There is no requirement that we charge as soon as we have probable cause, so Mr. Nash was being held in Virginia on two pending felony theft charges. In the meantime, state police continued to investigate the case and eventually decided it was appropriate to bring that murder charge,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told reporters outside the courthouse Friday.

Strelzin said investigators have developed a timeline for Frances Nash’s death, but he declined to comment further, adding those “specifics will come out in the trial itself.”

Authorities have released few details about the murder, which court documents allege occurred on May 17. At the request of the attorney general’s office, a judge sealed arrest affidavits containing evidence supporting the three felony charges against Phillip Nash. Prosecutors argued in their motion that premature disclosure of the affidavits could compromise the ongoing criminal investigation, which they said is in its “early stages.”

In the days after her death, a close friend remembered Frances Nash for her generous heart and infectious smile.

“She always was sincere and your biggest cheerleader and always wrapped that up in love and laughter,” family friend Alicia Grimaldi told the Monitor.

Grimaldi said it’s been difficult for her to come to terms with what has happened. She said she saw Phillip Nash battle depression, an illness that caused him to become erratic, unpredictable and sometimes violent toward the people closest to him.

“This is my friend, but her son was our friend, too. When I look at these pictures (mug shots), I don’t see him,” she said. “I see the little boy that I knew that was just really sweet and dear and very, very loving and fun – and to get to this level of illness, it just really breaks my heart. Her son wouldn’t do something like that. This is her son that is ill who got sick.”

Phillip Nash was arrested in January 2017 and charged with domestic violence for allegedly placing his mother in a chokehold inside her vehicle before pushing her out of her car and wrestling her to the ground, court records show. Further, police say Nash grabbed his mother by her arms and wrestled her to the ground to prevent her from calling police once inside her Boscawen apartment.

A judge agreed to drop the case against Phillip Nash if he remained of good behavior and underwent a mental health evaluation. But nine days later, he was arrested and charged with trespassing at a school in Manchester and resisting arrest. He never received the mental health evaluation.

Grimaldi said the criminal cases against Phillip Nash point to a greater issue with New Hampshire’s criminal justice and mental health systems. His repeated arrests should have been an indication he needed help, Grimaldi said.

“When someone is starting to break down and the people who care about you see that, there needs to be someone who can step in and say, ‘something is off here ... we need to do something to help,’ ” she said.

Phillip Nash is represented by defense attorneys Eliana Forciniti and Emma Sisti, who declined to comment Friday on the case. He is being held at the Merrimack County jail in Boscawen and is next scheduled to appear in court on July 19.

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