NASHUA – Steven Spader, a 19-year-old whose grisly fantasies centered on thrill-seeking murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole this afternoon by a judge who said Spader belongs in a "cage for the rest of your pointless life.''
Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson sentenced Spader today, shortly after a jury of six men and six women convicted him on two counts of first degree murder and four other charges stemming from the home invasion that ended the life of 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and the maiming of her then-11-year-old daughter, Jaimie.
"I could go on for days and days about the depths of your depravity,'' Abramson said from the bench. "It's sufficient to say you belong in a cage.''
Abramson imposed the maximum sentence for each conviction after hearing a victim impact statement from David Cates, who lost his wife to Spader's vicious attack and whose daughter remains scarred both physically and emotionally by the failed attempt to murder her.
The judge told Spader she wanted "to make sure you stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.''
Spader chose not to address the judge or the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.
Standing a few feet away from Spader as he gave his victim impact statement, David Cates said mother and daughter were exceptionally close.
"It was more than the usual mother-daughter bond,'' he said. "They were like one.''
Cates never spoke directly at Spader, but did describe what his daughter endured in their home early on the morning of Oct. 4, 2009. David Cates was away on business at the time.
"She has had to witness more evil in this world than any human being,'' her father said. He said she has undergone numerous surgeries, some of which has left her body with scarring. "The emotional scarring she has felt is immeasurable at this point.''
Cates also said that people were drawn to his wife because of her zest for life, and for enthusiasm for her profession as a registered nurse.
"Everyone smiled at Kim's energy and kindness,'' he said. "You wanted to be with her.''
Spader turned 19 years old today and discussed that fact with his attorneys as the jurors came into the courtroom this morning.
"Maybe they will sing happy birthday to me,'' he told them.
He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder -- one count for the killing during a burglary and one court for the attack itself.
The jury also convicted Spader of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with witnesses and informants, and conspiracy to commit burglary. The New Hampshire state court system has set up a Web page with Spader legal documents.
The attack horrified residents in tiny Mont Vernon because of its randomness and its brutality. Kimberly Cates had often been seen on runs around the hilly town, and Jaimie had earned a black belt in karate in a studio above the small police station.
In the early morning of Oct. 4, 2009, Jaimie lay asleep with her mother in the same bed while her father, David, was away on business in Maryland. Spader and the other intruders chose the Cates home that night only because the adjacent house appeared too large and possibly a problem.
Spader, wielding the machete, entered the home intent on killing the occupants as well as stealing their valuables, prosecutor Jeffery Strelzin said. The other three intruders were armed with knives, according to two of them.
The testimony, heard over two weeks in Hillsborough County Superior Court, was chilling. According to other teens who were in the house but testified as prosecution witnesses, Spader and Christopher Gribble, also of Brookline, N.H., walked into the master bedroom using the light from an iPod that Spader had taken from Jaimie’s bedroom
Kimberly stirred and asked, “Jaimie, is that you? Who’s there?”
She reached for the light, but the power had been turned off. Spader and Gribble, now on either side of the bed, began to hack, slash, and stab the pair. Spader, holding the machete with two hands, rained blow after blow on the victims. Gribble used a knife.
Jaimie cried out, “You don’t have to do this! Please! Stop!”
Kimberly warned her daughter and pleaded with her assailants. “Jaimie, run!” she said. “Please don’t do it! No, please, no!”
And, in what might have been her final words, Kimberly called to her only child: “It’s OK; everything will be OK.”
Kimberly had been hacked and stabbed 32 times and apparently died after Gribble used his knife to cut her throat, according to testimony. Jaimie, who had jumped from the bed and lay crumpled against a sliding-glass door, pretended to be dead despite 18 wounds and a final blow to the head from Spader’s machete.
After the intruders had left the home, Jaimie made her way to the phone and called 911 while covered in blood.
Following the assault, Spader and the other intruders laughed about the crime. According to Quinn Glover, an admitted co-conspirator, Spader recalled his attack on Kimberly in grisly detail and “joked how she woke up to being hacked to death by a machete.”
Spader delighted in thoughts of murder, Glover said.
“By the week prior, it was a conversation that happened almost every time I saw him,” said Glover, then 17, of Amherst. “He spoke about breaking into houses. And then he spoke generally, fantasizing, about violence, murders, killing people, roasting people, eating people, putting heads on stakes, and making scenes for news crews.”
A month before the attack, Spader formed a small group of alienated teenagers he called the Disciples of Destruction. The idea, Glover said, came from “The Sons of Anarchy,” a television show about outlaw bikers.
Defense attorneys tried to damage the credibility and motivations of Glover and William Marks, another participant in the burglary, who each testified for the prosecution in exchange for lesser charges.
The attorneys also said that the lack of DNA evidence and fingerprints that could be linked to Spader raised questions about who attacked the victims.
Gribble, then 19, is scheduled to face trial on first-degree murder charges next year. Marks, then 18, of Amherst, is scheduled to be tried next year on murder-conspiracy charges.
Autumn Savoy, then 19, of Hollis, did not travel to the home on the night of the killing but provided an alibi for the accused. He also pleaded guilty to lesser charges testified against Spader.
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