Judge: Canterbury man accused of killing mother not competent to stand trial

  • 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: 11/15/2018 5:04:09 PM

A Canterbury man accused of fatally stabbing his mother is not mentally competent to stand trial, but that could change with further treatment, a Merrimack County judge ruled recently.

Phillip Nash, 21, 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 May.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara issued an order under seal last month in which he agreed with defense attorney Emma Sisti and Associate Attorney General Jeff Strelzin that Phillip Nash is “currently incompetent, but restorable.” McNamara wrote that Chief Forensic Examiner Shannon Bader evaluated Phillip Nash and determined that he could be restored to competency within 12 months. The Oct. 15 order was unsealed Thursday at the Monitor’s request and without objection from attorneys.

The court is expected to schedule a review hearing in eight months to revisit the issue of competency.

Last month, McNamara also unsealed three affidavits prepared by police in support of Phillip Nash’s arrest, after the Monitor filed a motion asking for the records to be made publicly available. The filings provide a glimpse into the final hours of Frances Nash’s life, and the missing person investigation that ultimately led to her son’s arrest nearly 700 miles away on Interstate 95 in Virginia.

At that time, authorities had issued a warrant charging Phillip Nash with two felony counts of unauthorized taking for allegedly stealing his mother’s 2011 Mercury Mariner and, later, a 2000 Ford F-350 pickup from his employer. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office filed the murder charge against him in late June, around the same time he waived extradition to New Hampshire from Virginia, where he’d been held for almost a month.

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.

Canterbury police received a report of a broken down vehicle on Hackleboro Road in the town the morning of May 21. The vehicle, identified as the stolen Mercury Mariner, was leaking fluids and smelled of gasoline. Its undercarriage was coated in dried mud and its interior spotted with reddish-brown stains determined to be blood.

The body of 51-year-old Frances Nash was nearby. 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 stabbed in the head, neck and back.

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.

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