2018 Stories of the Year: Frances Nash’s son charged with her murder 

  • Friends of Frances Nash (above) said she suggested to her son, Phil, that he try therapy, medication or spending time in an inpatient facility, but he always refused. Courtesy

  • Phillip Nash, 21, is accused of killing his mother, Frances Nash, 51. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 12/28/2018 4:46:21 PM

Everywhere Frances Nash looked to find help for her son, she hit a roadblock.

The Loudon librarian had watched Phil’s erratic, angry – and sometimes violent – behavior escalate for years. She saw him change from a kind and loving son who played trombone in the Merrimack Valley High School marching band, to someone who was constantly being arrested for assault, stealing, trespassing, excessive drinking, friends said.

Phil was in and out of the criminal justice system where questions were repeatedly raised about his mental health. A judge ordered him to undergo an evaluation as part of a condition of his sentencing in 2017. There was never any follow up, and the day he was released from jail in May, prosecutors say he killed his mother.

The case is another example of the struggles of the criminal justice system to deal with a growing mental health crisis in New Hampshire and one of the Monitor’s top stories of the year.

Beds at the state hospital are often full, leaving law enforcement to deal with someone who is having a mental health crisis.

In other cases, individuals who have been civilly committed or pose a danger to themselves are held at the state prison in the Secure Psychiatric Unit. That practice has also faced legal challenges as the parents of men held there have sued the state for their child’s release.

In Nash’s case, he started making his way through the criminal justice system early, including some low-level offenses and more serious charges like assaulting his mother.

Despite multiple attempts to protect Phil and those around him – and repeated warning signs that he was suffering from an untreated mental health condition and capable of exhibiting violent behavior – Phil fell through the cracks in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system.

His repeated arrests should have been an indication he needed help, family friend Alicia Grimaldi told the Monitor in May.

“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,’ ” Grimaldi said.

Friends said Frances suggested to Phil repeatedly that he try therapy, medication or spending time in an inpatient facility, but he refused.

“The last few years, Phil was in the forefront of her life constantly,” Grimaldi said. “That’s what she was living for, to help manage whatever was going to be best for him.”

Family friends were relieved when Phil was ordered by a judge to receive a mental health evaluation after he assaulted his mother outside her Boscawen apartment in January 2017.

But Phil never received the evaluation. The day Frances Nash died, Phil was dropped off by his father at the Loudon library, where she worked. He had just been released from jail.

In November, he was found not competent to stand trial. Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara issued an order that Phil is “currently incompetent, but restorable,” and that he be revaluated in eight months. He faces alternative counts of second-degree murder.

In 2019, a court will decide if Phil’s mental competency has been restored and whether he is fit to stand trial.

“This is my friend, but her son was our friend, too. When I look at these pictures (mug shots), I don’t see him,” Grimaldi said in May. “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.”

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