Linda Nash case

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nash: I stabbed newborn while ‘freaked out,’ scared

By Billy Davis

Linda Ann Nash admitted Friday to stabbing her newborn in a moment of panic, when she locked herself in a bathroom at home while her adopted mother banged on the door.

The child, a boy, was pronounced dead when the Nash family rushed him to Tri-Lakes Medical Center January 30.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Nash, 17, had pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge in September, avoiding a jury trial in which she faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of murder.

Nash and defense attorney Tom Womble tried Friday, at the sentencing hearing, to avoid a prison sentence.

“This child already has a life sentence,” Womble said of his client at one point. “She’s serving it every day.”

Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker sentenced Nash to a seven-year prison sentence after he listened to three hours of pre-sentencing testimony.

Baker ordered Nash to serve two years of the sentence, the minimum allowed under Mississippi law.

Nash delivered the infant naturally, on a Saturday afternoon, at her adopted family’s home in the Pope community.

Two doors led to the bathroom and Nash, wiping tears on the witness stand, told the court she stabbed the child with scissors as her mother moved from one door to the other.

“I was scared,” she told her attorney. “Kind of freaked out.”

Nash testified that she had asked a sibling to get the scissors after she delivered the child in the bathroom.

“What were you going to do with the scissors?” Womble asked.

“Just cut the cord,” Nash replied, “because it hurt when he fell out.”

Panola sheriff’s investigator Barry Thompson, the prosecution’s only witness, said an autopsy showed the child’s lungs had filled with blood after the stabbing.

DNA from the child matched the scissors, Thompson, who oversaw the murder case for the sheriff’s department, testified.  

A Tri-Lakes doctor, testifying for the defense, said the dead infant had weighed 7 ½ pounds when it was weighed at the hospital.

Before Nash testified, Womble put four witnesses on the stand, building a case that Baker was overseeing a peculiar sentencing with mitigating circumstances.

Among those circumstances was the revelation of the newborn’s father: Nash’s 14-year-old brother, Lewis.

“In a split second she had to come to terms with an unwanted pregnancy,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Wyatt Nichols. “Most women have seven or eight months to prepare.”

Wyatt said he had interviewed Nash several times, first to ensure she was competent to stand trial. His client is bright but naïve, and has a “façade” of happiness.

“There is no street sense,” Nichols said, “because she was very overprotected.”

Other witnesses included Tri-Lakes doctor Dr. Charles Haley, North Delta school headmaster John Howell Jr., and Nash’s adopted mother, Patricia Nash.

Mrs. Nash testified that she had warned her daughter about getting pregnant, saying it would ruin her plans to pursue an education and become an attorney.

“What about dating?” Womble asked.

“No sir,” Nash replied. “Education came first.”

Haley, an OB/GYN, was asked by Womble if a woman can be unaware she is pregnant, a claim made by Nash.

“I’ve never been completely convinced,” Haley replied, but he cited cases of other women have also claimed to be unaware of the pregnancy.

Howell described Nash as a “bubbly, vibrant” student who was well liked among students.

“We have had a difficult time wrapping our minds around what we were being told,” he told the court.   

District Attorney John Champion, tasked with summarizing the prosecution’s case, told Baker he was troubled by the number of “hesitation wounds” on the infant’s chest and abdomen.

“That shows she did consciously think about this. It was not a knee jerk reaction,” Champion said.

Still, Champion said he agreed with Womble’s claims before Baker that the defense had presented mitigating circumstances.

“I’m rarely at a loss for words,” Champion said. “I can’t think of another case quite like this.”  

Womble’s witnesses seemed to build his case since Judge Baker choked up as he announced the prison sentence.

The two-year sentence allows Nash time to “start life over,” Baker explained, “but a child who is brought into this world should be given a chance to live.”

The two-year sentence will give Nash time to think about the life she took, he said.

“Whatever you do with your future,” Baker told Nash, “you have to live with your past.”