DENT COUNTY, Mo.- The prosecuting attorney in Dent County has dismissed murder charges against Donald Nash.
Donald Nash was charged in the death of Judy Spencer in 1982.
According to a press release from Dent County Prosecutor Andrew Curley, Spencer was found dead, initial investigation suggested she was strangled with her shoelace and then shot in the neck by a shotgun.
The case remained unsolved until 2007, 25 years later.
“Investigators collected a DNA sample from Donald Nash to compare with the DNA evidence found on the fingernail clippings taken from Spencer’s body in 1982 due to the advancements in DNA testing,” the release states.
Because of matching DNA after DNA analysis, Nash was charged in 2008 with capital murder. At the time, the prosecutor withdrew from the case, and a trial was held in 2009 with the state being represented by the Attorney General’s Office and Nash by private counsel.
As a result of the trial, the jury convicted Nash of murder. The conviction was initially affirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court, who later appointed a special master to hear evidence for Nash’s habeas relief, the release states.
In June of this year, Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Curley says the Special Master heard evidence about the case and recommended the Supreme Court to vacate the conviction rendered by the jury in 2009 due in part to a change in DNA expert testimony.
“During the hearings, the DNA expert testified that “I have revised my opinion regarding the effect of hair washing from the original adjective of “great effect” to “some effect.” The expert was unable to quantify the “some effect” opinion other than to say it’s more than no effect. On July 3, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court vacated the sentence and remanded the case back to the trial court due, in part, to this change in testimony,” says Curley.
Curley then inherited the case and began reviewing more DNA testing. New DNA testing of the shoestring used to kill Spencer showed two male contributors; Nash was ruled out as one of those contributors.
“As a result of the change in testimony from the DNA analyst and the existence of genetic material from 2 unknown males on the shoestring, the case against Donald Nash will be dismissed by the state. In addition, at least three of the witnesses who testified at the previous trial are now deceased,” the release says.
According to Prosecutor Curley,
“The criminal justice system utilizes the stringent standard of proving a defendant guilty by beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is meant to protect an innocent person from being convicted. I was not the Prosecutor in 2009, but I am the prosecutor that inherited this case in 2020. I have reviewed the original preliminary hearing, trial transcript, appellate transcripts, and newly discovered DNA evidence. The DNA expert previously testified in the preliminary hearing and at trial that the frequency of occurrence for the partial profile under the fingernails was one in 16.13 million in the Caucasian population and one in 325.3 million in the black population and that Donald Nash’s DNA fit the standards for the profile.
This testimony and evidence was utilized to implicate the Defendant in the homicide. The results of the recent DNA testing identifying 2 unknown males, while excluding Donald Nash, and the reversal in opinion of the expert testimony creates a reasonable doubt as to whether Donald Nash committed the offense charged in 2008. As a result, the charges against Donald Nash have been dismissed. This decision was made following consultation with the prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office, who concur in my conclusions and have recommended this same course of action.”
Curley says he hopes justice will be delivered for Judy and her family.