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In N.H., a call to expand the death penalty

Home invasion slayings debated

By Norma Love
Associated Press / February 2, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien wants slayings committed during home invasions like one that rocked his hometown of Mont Vernon punishable by death.

O’Brien testified yesterday in support of his bill to expand capital punishment to include home invasions like the gruesome murder of Kimberly Cates in a 2009 burglary in her Mont Vernon bed with a machete. O’Brien’s bill would name the act the Kimberly L. Cates Law.

“They hacked Kimberly Cates to death in bed and then turned their machetes and knives on her 11-year-old daughter Jaimie,’’ said O’Brien, Republican of Mont Vernon. Jamie threw her body across her mother’s, he said.

“These men did not know Kimberly Cates; they did not know Jaimie Cates. They didn’t know the Cates family. All they knew was they wanted the thrill of killing,’’ he added.

O’Brien disagreed with death penalty opponents who say the punishment isn’t a deterrent.

“It deters those who are put to death,’’ he said.

Cates’s husband, David, testified that he isn’t seeking vengeance since it wouldn’t apply in his case. But he believes the death penalty should be an option for home invasion slayings, he said. He wife died not knowing if her daughter lived, he said.

“Close your eyes for a moment and imagine just how scared they were when dozens of stabs and slashes were delivered with razor sharp knives to their helpless bodies,’’ he said of his wife and daughter. “I live with this image everyday of my life.’’

Opponents argued expanding the death penalty in response to a grisly crime would encourage others who have lost loved ones in different situations to seek to have them covered.

State Representative David Robbins, Republican of Nashua, said he isn’t convinced the death penalty solves anything. His father was murdered 30 years ago in his bed with a claw hammer by a homeless man, and Robbins knows the pain and anger other victims’ families feel, he said.

But Robbins said he wound up supporting the killer’s bid for parole last year from a Massachusetts prison.

“I let go of my fear and my anguish and by doing so I found myself celebrating dad’s life rather than suffering every day his death,’’ said Robbins.

The young men charged in Cates’s death could not have faced the death penalty because the crime did not fall into one of the six types of murders eligible for death under New Hampshire’s statute, one of the narrowest in the nation.