Competency determination looms for Canterbury murder suspect

  • Phillip Nash, 21, waived extradition to New Hampshire from Virginia on Thursday night and will be arraigned on the murder charge Friday afternoon in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord. He is accused of knowingly causing the death of his mother, Frances Nash, 51, of Chichester. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Frances Nash Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 10/17/2019 4:46:39 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 4:46:29 PM

A Canterbury man accused of fatally stabbing his mother early last year will remain in state custody to undergo further mental health treatment as the court continues to weigh his competency to stand trial.

Phillip Nash, 22, was initially found incompetent in October 2018 to stand trial in the death of Frances Nash. At the time, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara ruled that Nash is “currently incompetent, but restorable.”

Attorneys returned to court this past June and again this week to revisit the matter, but the court has yet to draw any final conclusions. Rather, the case will be back before McNamara on Jan. 14 when there could be a further competency hearing with testimony from a forensic expert or simply another status conference with attorneys to decide whether the case will move forward.

Associate Attorney General Jeff Strelzin said after the court hearing Thursday in Concord that the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has until March 2020 to make a determination. 

If Nash is found incompetent and not restorable, prosecutors could argue for a civil commitment order that places Nash in New Hampshire’s secure psychiatric unit for up to five years.

Nash faces alternative counts of second-degree murder in the death of his mother, Frances Nash, 51, of Chichester, whose body was recovered by investigators from a swamp in late May 2018. Prosecutors allege Phillip Nash killed his mother on May 17, the last day friends and family members had heard from her. However, investigators did not recover her body until almost four days later.

Three affidavits unsealed at the Monitor’s request last year detail the final hours of Frances Nash’s life and the missing person investigation that resulted in her son’s arrest in Virginia. Prosecutors allege Phillip Nash fled south after the murder.

Canterbury police received a report of a broken down vehicle on Hackleboro Road in the town on May 21, 2018. The vehicle, identified as Frances Nash’s stolen Mercury Mariner, was leaking fluids and smelled of gasoline.

Her body was not far away. Led by a K9 unit, investigators walked a trail, beginning in the area of 354 Hackleboro Road, and found her body in a swamp, partially covered with a blanket that appeared burned. Roughly 100 feet away from her body, they also marked an area where it appears an SUV had been stuck in the mud and lost a piece of its undercarriage.

Through later forensic testing, investigators concluded Frances Nash was likely in the driver’s seat at the time she was fatally stabbed.

Phillip Nash was previously arrested in January 2017 and charged with domestic violence for allegedly placing his mother in a chokehold inside her vehicle before wrestling her to the ground, court records show. 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 charged with trespassing at a Manchester school and resisting arrest. He never received the mental health evaluation.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)



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