Expert: NH woman, 83, not competent in murder-for-hire case

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A state expert testified Tuesday that an 83-year-old New Hampshire woman accused in a failed murder-for-hire plot involving her son’s ex-wife is not competent and won’t be in the near future as her mental and physical health decline.

Dr. Jennifer Mayer Cox, a forensic examiner who visited with Pauline Chase several times for a total of about four hours, said at a hearing in Concord that Chase is often confused and disoriented and has difficulty moving about. She shows symptoms of dementia.

Chase was not in court Tuesday. She and her 63-year-old son, Maurice Temple, both of Plainfield, have been jailed since July on $1 million bail each. They’ve pleaded not guilty to criminal solicitation of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and attempt to commit murder. Temple faces trial.

Cox said video recordings of Chase earlier this year in which she is discussing the plot with another man to kill Temple’s ex-wife, Jean Temple, shows Chase functioning “much higher” than when she met with Chase in August and September. Cox said Chase’s cognitive and physical abilities have deteriorated while in jail.

Cox also said she believes Chase is a danger to herself and to others. She recommended that Chase undergo further medical evaluation for a formal diagnosis and care, and that she not live independently.

Prosecutor Justin Hersh asked Judge Brian Tucker that Chase stay in state custody for up to 90 days and face court-determined evaluations and treatment.

“She hired somebody to kill someone,” Hersh said.

But Chase’s attorney, Lauren Breda, said Chase had no criminal record before she was arrested in July and there’s evidence she had memory issues going back to 2013, calling the police, for example, to say her washer and dryer were stolen when they actually were out being serviced.

Breda said the state “poked and prodded and forced” its way to build a case against Chase by taking advantage of her cognitive decline. She said Chase’s condition has only gotten worse in jail because she’s in a strange place and not in her house or with her family, who have offered to take care of her.

It wasn’t immediately known when Tucker would rule on Chase’s status or the charges.

According to court documents, Maurice and Jean Temple divorced in 2009 after 35 years of marriage and had disputes over money afterward. Maurice Temple was jailed in 2016 for failing to pay $51,000 he was ordered to pay in the divorce and again in June for not paying $20,000 in legal fees.

At a hearing in August, prosecutors played recordings of phone calls between Chase and the man they say she hired as a hit man. In one call, the man asked Chase if she’s sure she wanted the woman dead. Chase responded, laughing, “Yes, that’s right.” Maurice Temple’s lawyer has said Temple wasn’t part of the plan until the hit man persuaded him to be.

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