November 2, 2009
-- emergence of DNA evidence key --
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today that DNA technology made possible the conviction of Donald Nash for the 1982 murder of his 21-year-old girlfriend, Judy Spencer, in Dent County.
Koster said records show that following an argument with Mr. Nash in March 1982, the victim got in her car, saying was going to Houston, Missouri. She was found the following day in a hole behind an abandoned schoolhouse, strangled to death and shot in the neck by a shotgun blast.
At the time of Spencer’s autopsy, a Highway Patrol investigator clipped her fingernails and placed them in a sealed envelope. DNA testing was not available at that time. Koster said the case was reopened in 2007 at the request of the family, and the fingernails were examined for DNA. He said the tests confirmed a mixture of the victim’s and defendant’s DNA. A lab expert stated that the quantity of DNA was not consistent with mere casual contact, refuting the defense’s assertion that the DNA was present because the victim and defendant lived together.
The trial was held in Rolla with a jury from Crawford County. The jury deliberated for nearly four hours before reaching a guilty verdict. Judge Doug Long sentenced Nash to life in prison without possibility of parole for 50 years.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to Judy Spencer’s friends and family,” Koster said. “Though nothing can undo this horrible tragedy, I’m pleased that our office was able to see that justice is finally being served.”
Koster commended Page Bellamy, Chief Counsel of the Attorney General’s Public Safety Division, and Ted Bruce, Assistant Attorney General, for their outstanding work in obtaining the murder conviction.