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N.H. suspect talked of a desire to kill

Documents show grisly details

By Sarah Schweitzer
Globe Staff / January 6, 2010

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MILFORD, N.H. - A man accused of brutally killing a mother and maiming her 11-year-old-daughter in Mont Vernon told authorities that he had wanted to kill for a long time and was disappointed that he did not feel any emotion after the slaying.

A police affidavit released yesterday said that Christopher Gribble told police that his one regret was that “he did not kill the child, because she now had to live this.’’

The affidavit and other documents unsealed yesterday provide new details of the case, often in the words of the accused. They paint a portrait of a crime more diabolical than many could have imagined, a mother killed by machete, with her young daughter as close witness.

“They killed my mommy,’’ Jaimie Cates, bleeding profusely with an extremely damaged foot and toes, told a police officer when he arrived at the scene at about 4:15 a.m. on Oct. 4, according to the affidavit.

Beyond the grisly details, the documents illuminate an indifference by the four alleged intruders, who after the attack cleaned the bloody machete with a paper bag, bought food at a convenience store, and bragged to friends about the attack, according to accounts contained in the affidavit.

In Mont Vernon, a bucolic town of 2,400 residents about 60 miles from Boston, residents struggled for words yesterday to describe their reaction to the new information, with some declining to comment out of respect for David Cates, the husband of the 42-year-old victim, Kimberly Cates, a nurse. Cates, an engineer who was traveling on business at the time of the attack, has not spoken publicly.

Meanwhile, school officials were bracing for fresh fallout.

“We want to help parents talk to their children about loss, not just loss of life, but loss of what they imagined life would look like,’’ said Mary Jennings, the School Administrative Unit 39 superintendent, whose district will hold workshops to help parents discuss the new details of the attack with their children.

The four men accused in connection with the killing, along with a fifth charged with helping to dispose of evidence, have not been indicted and therefore have not yet entered pleas, said Jeffery Strelzin, senior assistant attorney general. A trial date has not been set,

Gribble, 20, of Brookline, N.H., is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder along with his longtime friend, Steven Spader, 18, also of Brookline, N.H. William Marks and Quinn Glover, both 18 and of Amherst, N.H., face charges of burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, and armed robbery, although prosecutors have said both were armed with deadly weapons and were willing participants in the scheme.

Lawyers listed at the court as representing Gribble, Marks, and Glover did not return phone calls yesterday. A lawyer for Spader, Jonathan Cohen, declined to comment.

Spader and Gribble were longtime friends and were both “sociopaths,’’ according to Gribble’s account in the affidavit. Within a week of the Cates killing, the two men had robbed a house near Spader’s house and pawned the robbed items, but money had run low and they planned another robbery, Gribble told police, according to the affidavit.

Spader and Marks targeted a house in Mont Vernon in a remote location, and Spader and Gribble planned to kill anyone home at the time “for fun,’’ said Gribble. In the early hours of Oct. 4, he and Spader met Marks and Glover at a Wal-Mart, and Gribble drove them in a 1995 Oldsmobile Ciera to the Cates residence, Gribble said. When they entered the house, Spader was armed with a machete, and Gribble was armed with a long knife with a handle and a sheath, Gribble told police, according to the affidavit.

When they entered a bedroom, they thought no one was there, but then they heard a woman ask, “Jaimie, is that you?’’ Gribble said.

Spader approached one side of the bed, and Gribble went to the other, Gribble said. The woman tried to turn on a light, but the teenagers had turned off the electricity in the circuit, Gribble said.

As Spader attacked the woman, her daughter, who was sleeping in the same bed, jumped over her mother, Gribble said. Gribble stabbed the girl in the face and chest and tried to stab her in the heart to kill her, he told police, and threw her against a glass door, assuming she was dead. The mother appeared to be still alive, and Gribble stabbed her in the neck and chest, Gribble said. Spader then went over to the girl and kicked her with his boot and gave her a whack with the machete, according to Gribble’s account in the affidavit.

After the killings, Gribble, Spader, Marks, and Glover searched the home for jewelry and returned to the car, where they removed their clothing and put it in a bag and wiped the knives clean with a Burger King bag, Gribble said.

Afterward, Spader and Gribble headed to the home of a friend, Autumn Savoy, and told him about the attack, Savoy told police, according to the affidavit. They told him that they had chosen the Cates house because it had no security and that they had found their way around the house by illuminating the hallways with an iPod, Savoy said. Savoy accompanied the teenagers to the Nashua River, where he threw into the water a black bag containing bloody clothing and two wooden jewelry boxes, Savoy said. Afterward, he told police, Spader, Gribble, and Savoy went to the Hatch Convenience Store and bought food.

Savoy is charged with two counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution and one count of conspiracy to commit hindering apprehension or prosecution. His lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Later the same day, Gribble and Spader went to the home of another friend, Kyle Fenton, Fenton told police. Gribble and Spader talked about the killing in Mont Vernon and showed Fenton two knives, and Spader talked about how he wanted to play with the machete, Fenton said. After Spader and Gribble had left, Fenton told his mother about what Spader and Gribble had said, and the mother contacted the Amherst police chief.

As police were closing in on the four men charged in the attack, the investigation was aided, the affidavit states, by rain the day before, so that tire tracks near the Cates home were “very fresh.’’ Meanwhile, the accused became concerned that they had shown the knives to too many people, Gribble told police, and so they buried the knives, along with some pearls and iPods. Then they went back to Savoy’s house where they checked online and read a news account of the killing, and Spader and Savoy gave Gribble a hard time for not killing Jaimie Cates.

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