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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Thrill killing
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 4, 2009
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: November 1991
Victim profile: Kimberley Cates, 42
Method of murder: Stabbing with a machete
Location: Mont Vernon, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole plus 76 years in prison on November 9, 2010
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2

The State of New Hampshire
Superior Court


The State of New Hampshire v. Steven Spader


To exclude evidence of other bad acts


The Mont Vernon Murder was a thrill killing that attracted national and international attention due to the brutality of the killers' crimes, the apparent lack of remorse of the murder's mastermind Steven Spader, and the ages of the thrill killers when they committed murder.

On October 4, 2009, 17-year-old Spader and Christopher Gribble murdered Kimberly Cates and severely maimed her 10-year-old daughter Jamie during a home invasion in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. Both victims were assaulted with a machete. Spader admitted to hacking Kimberley Cates to death with 36 blows to the head and torso.

A former Boy Scout, Spader was a high school dropout who passed the GED high school equivalency exam. Spader had formed a club he called "The Disciples of Destruction" shortly before the murder, to whom he recruited his confederates. Spader designed a logo with the initials D.O.D. Spader told his recruits that the home invasion was to be a rite of "initiation" for club members.

Both Spader and Gribble were sentenced to life in prison, while three other accomplices are also serving prison time.

Because of the U.S. Supreme Court's Miller v. Alabama ruling that circumscribed the sentencing of minors to life sentences, both Spader and Gribble were granted sentencing rehearings. Apparently content with his life sentence, Spader informed his attorneys during an April 2013 resentencing hearing that he did not want a reduction in sentence, describing himself as "the most sick and twisted person you'll ever meet." He did not appear at the hearing.

The State of New Hampshire claimed that Spader lacked remorse, considering it "unnecessary" and a form of weakness, and likely would commit more crimes upon release from prison.

His sentence of life plus 76 years was upheld. In May 2013, the New Hampshire Supreme Court allowed Spader to drop the appeal of his conviction. His appellate attorney told the press that Spader did not want to appeal for "personal and moral reasons."

Spader was moved to a New Jersey prison in February 2014 and subsequently sustained injuries in a prison fight. In October 2014, Gribble sought a reduction in his sentence based on his young age; the court did not rule immediately.

The murder led to the New Hampshire legislature expanding the crimes punishable by the death penalty to include murder during a home invasion.


Prosecutor: Convicted killer Spader 'chose' to be evil

By Shawne K. Wickham - New Hampshire Sunday News

August 3, 2013

When teenagers commit horrific crimes, we often look for easy explanations: an unhappy childhood, violent media, mental illness.

But it wasn't the system, or his parents, that failed Steven Spader and turned him into someone who would murder a woman in her bed with a machete and maim her young daughter, the state's top homicide prosecutor says.

It's who he is.

"He's a psychopath," Jeffery Strelzin said of Spader, now 21, who was convicted of killing Kimberly Cates in her Mont Vernon home in 2009 and the attempted murder of her then-11-year-old daughter.

Spader, Strelzin said, "has no regard for anybody else's life or well-being. The only person he truly cares about is himself."

And that's the only explanation for why Spader and his friend Christopher Gribble were able to commit such a horrific crime "and to show no remorse except for the fact that they were caught," Strelzin said.

The crime unsettled residents across New Hampshire. And it prompted many to ask how boys from decent families, who attended church and Boy Scouts, could grow up to be killers.

Last week, a judge granted a request by the New Hampshire Union Leader to unseal court documents in the Spader case, including depositions by his parents, Steven and Christine Spader, who adopted Steven when he was 5 days old.

The Spaders said they had tried to get help for their son when he started having troubles in his teens.

Asked whether the system failed the Spader family, Strelzin said, "No. Because this is a case of someone who made a conscious decision to go out and randomly attack and kill innocent people.

"He was not unintelligent; he was not abused. He had many opportunities and many of the luxuries of life that other people don't have.

"So he was well-equipped to make rational and certainly logical and legal decisions. And he chose not to."

Strelzin doesn't blame the parents either, noting they "did the best they could."

He understands the public's need to "give order to disorder," Strelzin said.

"Nobody wants to accept that often the simple answer is that somebody chose to do a terrible thing," he said. "They came from a good family and nobody saw it coming. Because that thought is very uncomfortable."

But, he said, "in the end, people have free will, and people can choose to go off the rails. They can choose to commit horrible crimes.

"And even though you treat them very well and you equip them with what you hope are the right skills they need to make the right decisions, they can still choose not to."

He described "a terrible synergy" between Spader and Gribble, who are both serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

"They don't care about other people, and unfortunately they took great satisfaction in inflicting pain and mayhem on innocent people. It gave them a sense of power and pleasure. That's who they are."

Had Spader and Gribble not bragged to friends about what they had done - friends who ultimately told police - is it possible they would have killed again?

"Yes," Strelzin said at once. It's why the killers chose their victims at random, making it less likely they would be caught, he said. And it's why, while they disposed of their bloody clothing in a river after the murder, they buried their weapons "so they could use them again."

"They absolutely wanted to do this again," Strelzin said. "It was part of the plan."

There were echoes in the Mont Vernon case of another horrific crime committed by a pair of teenage boys: the murder of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop in 2001.

In each case, Strelzin said, "You had two people who committed the murders ... you had young males in each case. You had completely random attacks.

"Similar weapons were used, cutting instruments. ... Knives in the Hanover case, and here (in Mont Vernon), you had a knife and a machete."

And, strangely, in both, the victims were not the killers' first choice of targets. "In Hanover, they had actually targeted other homes, and here, they had actually targeted the house next door to the Cates family."

Strelzin said there were no indications that the Mont Vernon killers were imitating the Dartmouth murders. Instead, he said, "the discussions that went on amongst them concerned more notorious killers," notably the so-called Zodiac serial killer.

Lt. James Geraghty, commander of New Hampshire State Police's Major Crimes Unit, was the lead investigator in the Cates case.

His impression of Spader? "He's just bad right to the core."

Geraghty said it was in part the randomness of the crime that shook so many across the state.

"I think random crimes are so few and far between in New Hampshire, and this was so random, it scared people," he said.

"People went and got dogs. People went and got guns. People put bars on their windows. It just struck home."

What also shocked many local residents, Geraghty said, was that the teens came from families who were respected in their communities. "I think that's what gets people, is that they knew these kids," he said.

Of all the cases he has worked in his five years in major crimes, Geraghty said, this one stands out. "You know why it was different? Because we had a live victim. And we don't get a lot of live victims."

Watching Jaimie Cates grow up has been impressive, Geraghty said. "Because I saw the strength in that little girl."

Each year, David Cates holds a golf tournament on the anniversary of the attack, for a scholarship in his wife's name. "To take back the date," Geraghty said.

He and other troopers who worked on the case play in the tournament. "It's nice to see that family and the strength that they showed," he said.

To this day, Strelzin keeps a photo of Kim, David and Jaimie Cates on his desk. It's a measure of how deeply this case touched him.

"You can't meet David and Jaimie Cates and not walk away affected," he said.

As a prosecutor, he said, "you can never make it right in a murder case, because the victim's gone forever and there's nothing you can do.''

"But you can give people a small measure of justice and maybe the chance to get a little bit of peace in their lives."

For the families of murder victims, he said, the case will never really be over. "Because every birthday, every holiday, every significant event, is just a reminder that your ... loved ones are gone.

"And it's not because they got sick, not because they got old, not because they had an accident. It's because somebody ... decided to take them away from you.

"That's not something everyday life equips you to deal with," he said. "And when you meet these families, you see what the lasting effects are."


'I am the most sick and twisted person you will ever meet': Murderer gives 'insulting' apology after killing a mother with a machete during a home invasion as the daughter who survived the attack looks on

By Associated Press and Daily Mail

April 23, 2013

A man convicted of hacking a woman to death with a machete and maiming her daughter during a home invasion said he doesn’t deserve forgiveness and told his lawyers not to argue for a reduced sentence.

Steven Spader was a month shy of his 18th birthday when he orchestrated the home invasion in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire on October 4, 2009, in which Kimberly Cates was killed and her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, was hacked and stabbed to near death.

Spader, who bragged about the attacks vocally and in letters from jail, apologized to the Cates family through his lawyer on Monday, but the victim’s husband and father found the move ‘insulting’.

'Through my impulsive actions, I have torn apart families and ruined lives,' said the statement by Steven Spader, which was read by his lawyer.

'I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you. I do not expect forgiveness, nor do I deserve any.'

He waived his right to be in court Monday. Spader received a mandatory life sentence with no chance for parole.

Some of the strongest evidence against Spader at his trial were his own words - his bragging to friends about the attacks and detailed notes he wrote to his cellmates while awaiting trial.

Spader wrote that he whacked the mother 36 times and could see brains, lots of blood and her eyeball hanging out of its socket.

'I am probably the most sick and twisted person you will ever meet,' Spader wrote as the prelude to one of his notes to a fellow inmate.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for those under age 18 when the crime was committed amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. In the 5-4 ruling, the justices said the trial judge must weigh the convict's age, maturity and any mitigating factors before sentencing.

Spader was convicted and sentenced on his 19th birthday in November 2010.

Spader's lawyers said he has forbidden them from submitting any evidence in a bid for a reduced sentence.

'I choose not to slip by on some technicality,' Spader's statement said.

'Instead I choose to accept responsibility for my actions.'

David Cates, the victim’s husband, accompanied his daughter Jaimie- who just barely survived the attack- were in court Monday, accompanied by about a dozen family members and friends.

They declined to address the court or comment as they left court.

'David and Jaime wish only to heal and move forward,' said Christopher Lussier, family friend and chairman of the Kimberly Cates Memorial Scholarship board.

Prosecutor Jeffery Strelzin argued to keep intact the life sentence and an additional sentence of 76 years for the attempted murder of Jaime and other crimes.

'He's a psychopath,' Strelzin said, referring to psychiatric examinations of Spader in preparation for the hearing.

'It's not a phase. It's not something he's going to grow out of. It's who he is.'

Strelzin revealed for the first time Monday that Spader had been willing to plead guilty and accept a sentence of life without possibility of parole but would not plead to any crimes involving Jaimie.

In sentencing Spader in 2010, Abramson said she could go on for days about the depths of his depravity.

She said her sentence ensures 'you will stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.'

Spader was the first person to go on trial in the attacks.

Co-defendant Christopher Gribble also is serving a life sentence. Three others in prison accepted a plea deal and testified against Spader.

On Monday, the judge recognized Jaimie, now 14, in court.

'I'm sorry you are having to go through this again. Jaimie, it's nice to see you. I almost didn't recognize you. You are so grown up,' the judge said.

Abramson is expected to sentence Spader for a second time Friday.


Spader won't contest life sentence for brutal Mont Vernon killing

By Kathryn Marchocki - New Hampshire Union Leader

April 22, 2013

MANCHESTER - The state portrayed Steven Spader Monday as the psychopathic ringleader of the 2009 Mont Vernon home invasion murder who regards remorse as "weak" and "unnecessary" and likely would commit more crimes if freed.

Spader did not appear at his resentencing hearing and waived his right to argue for a lesser sentence. Yet, he said he accepts "responsibility for his actions" and - for the first time - apologized to his victims in a statement he instructed his attorneys to read to the court.

"Through my impulsive actions, I have harmed numerous individuals, both physically and mentally. I have torn apart families and ruined lives," defense attorney Jonathan Cohen read the statement aloud in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

"But still, I must beg forgiveness from everyone I have harmed. To the Cates family, I know my words hold no meaning. But I am truly sorry for the pain that I have caused you," Cohen continued reading from the hand-written letter as David Cates and his daughter, Jaimie, 14, listened from their seat in the front row of the gallery, surrounded by friends.

A jury convicted Spader, 21, in 2010 of first-degree murder and related charges for hacking Cates' wife, Kimberly, 42, to death and maiming then 11-year-old Jaimie in an early morning bedside ambush. He later bragged that he "broke up a family" and vowed to commit more crimes, the state argued.

"This isn't someone who is going to grow out of his problems. His problem is he is a psychopath. That is what he is. It isn't a phase," Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery A. Strelzin told Judge Gillian L. Abramson.

Abramson said she will issue a new sentencing order Friday.

Strelzin dismissed the letter as "clearly disingenuous," noting Spader in December told mental health experts he felt no remorse for his crimes.

"It was hard for David and Jaimie and his friends to listen to it. David actually said it was insulting," Strelzin said afterward.

Monday's resentencing hearing was triggered by a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially voided Spader's initial sentence.

"We were prepared to come in and put evidence before the court and make an argument on behalf of our client. We have been instructed to do neither," Cohen said.

In Miller v. Alabama, the court ruled mandatory life sentences without chance of parole unconstitutional for those who were under 18 years when they committed their crimes. The court said such sentencing schemes violate constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.

Spader was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison without chance of parole for the first-degree murder of Kimberly Cates, plus 76 years for the attempted murder of her daughter and other charges. His case is still pending direct appeal before the state Supreme Court.

The new ruling requires the court to hold a sentencing hearing to consider aggravating and mitigating factors related to Spader's maturity, recklessness, ability to appreciate consequences and risks, home life, susceptibility to peer pressure and capacity for rehabilitation.

The court can still impose a mandatory life sentence without chance of parole.

Strelzin said Spader tested "very high" in psychopathic tendencies and told the state's forensic psychiatrist: "I never felt remorse. I think it is weak -- not so much weak, as unnecessary."

A month shy of his 18th birthday when the Oct. 4, 2009, home invasion occurred, Spader showed a high level of sophistication and competency, Strelzin said.

Spader not only recruited a crew of four young male accomplices, he methodically planned the break-in and cover-up, targeted a house at random to throw off police, and participated in his own plea discussions.

He ultimately broke down because of what the state speculated was Spader's fear of prison payback if he pleaded guilty to hacking an 11-year-old girl and leaving her for dead.

Strelzin claimed Spader was not amenable to rehabilitation, citing as examples his "reveling" in the Mont Vernon killing and attempts to create a "criminal enterprise" in prison whereby he would enlist people who could help him escape prison.


Kimberly Cates Murder: Guilty Verdict for Steven Spader in N.H. Home Invasion Death

By Kevin Hayes - CBS News

November 9, 2010

NASHUA, N.H. (CBS/AP) Steven Spader, the teenager accused of killing New Hampshire mother Kimberly Cates and wounding her daughter with a machete during a home invasion, was convicted Tuesday of murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison.

Judge Gillian Abramson handed down the maximum sentence against 19-year-old Steven Spader, saying she could go on for days about the depths of his depravity.

The sentence ensures "you will stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life," he told Spader.

Spader was the first person to go on trial in the October 2009 attacks that left Kimberly Cates dead and her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, gravely wounded.

Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning their verdicts against Spader, of Brookline.

Under New Hampshire law, the first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life without parole. Spader also was convicted of attempted murder and other felonies.

Spader, whose birthday is Tuesday, showed no reaction to the verdicts. As the jurors were being polled individually on each of their six guilty verdicts, several glared at Spader and responded emphatically.

Spader's mother, Christine Spader, wept briefly; his father was stoic.

Prosecutors say Spader wielded a machete and co-defendant Christopher Gribble used a knife during the attacks in the Cates' Mont Vernon home.

Jaimie, now 12, survived by pretending to be dead, then staggered, covered in blood, to a kitchen phone to call police. A doctor testified she would have died of a punctured lung if she had lost consciousness before summoning help.

Blows that cut off portions of Jaimie's left foot, split open her head and struck her face with enough force to break her jaw had to have come from a heavy and sharp weapon such as a machete, several doctors testified.

During the trial, defense attorney Jonathan Cohen assailed the credibility of three co-defendants who brokered plea deals and testified against Spader. He suggested they, not Spader, were involved in the attacks.

The jury found Spader guilty of both premeditated murder and intentional murder during the commission of a burglary. It also found him guilty of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit both murder and burglary, and tampering with a witness.

Mont Vernon police Chief Kyle Aspinwall, who was present for much of the 11-day trial, said he was satisfied with the verdicts.

"It's been extraordinarily difficult for the town," Aspinwall said.


NH Prosecutor: Woman's Burglary Killing Was Random

By CBS News - AP

October 6, 2009

Four teenagers _ one armed with a machete and another with a knife _ picked an isolated home at random and entered it intending to kill in a middle-of-the-night attack that left a woman dead and her daughter seriously injured, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Kimberly Cates, 42, was killed in her bed early Sunday morning while her husband was away on a business trip. A neighbor said their 11-year-old daughter, Jaime, is in a Boston hospital and expected to live.

The killing stunned Mont Vernon, a rural town of about 2,000 residents near the Massachusetts border where Cates worked as a nurse.

The teens were arrested Monday and made brief court appearances late Tuesday morning in nearby Milford. They entered no pleas, and spoke only briefly to say either that they had no questions or planned to request court-appointed lawyers.

Steven Spader, 17, and Christopher Gribble, 19, both of Brookline, were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder and were ordered held without bail. William Marks, 18, and Quinn Glover, 17, both of Amherst, were charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery and were ordered held on $500,000 cash bail.

Authorities released few details and sealed the affidavits supporting the charges.

Spader is accused of driving the teens to Cates' neighborhood sometime before 4 a.m. Sunday and cutting her with a machete in the head, torso, arms and legs. Gribble is accused of stabbing her with a knife. Both are accused of attacking Cates' daughter.

The teens picked the home at random and because it was on an isolated road, but all four knew of the plan to kill whoever was home, Assistant Attorney General William Delker said in court.

"Mr. Glover entered this home knowing that the participants intended to kill the occupants of the home if anyone was present. He entered the home armed with a deadly weapon, the homeowner was killed in her bed, and a young child was seriously injured," Delker said.

Kimberly Cates' husband, David, was out of town at time of the attack and flew back to be with his daughter, said next-door neighbor Yuki Chorney. Chorney said the two families moved to the neighborhood at about the same time in 2003, and Jaime Cates' frequently played with her daughter.

"We moved here because we wanted to live in a quiet, rural town where everybody knows everybody," Chorney said, holding back tears.

She said Kimberly Cates was meticulous about safety and locking doors, though she left windows open for air in the summer.

"The entire town is in shock," she said.

Deputy House Speaker Linda Foster has lived in Mont Vernon for 40 years and raised three sons there. She called it "a picture-perfect town."

Foster said she started locking her doors when a home on Main Street was robbed two decades ago. She attended Tuesday's arraignment.

"I had to see the faces of the people who ripped out the heart and soul of this community," she said. "These are not kids that came up from the big bad city. These are kids who grew up beside you. It's evil."

Glover's attorney described his client as a B student with no criminal record.

John David, 67, of Amherst, belongs to the same church as Glover's family and has known them for about five years.

He said Glover was a talented singer and guitar player who often performed at church functions, but said "he's always been a little bit withdrawn, maybe moody. Somewhat rebellious."

"We're totally astonished and in disbelief that this could be the boy we know," he said.

Two of the teens also were arraigned Tuesday on earlier charges. Marks pleaded not guilty to having marijuana in his car last month; Spader pleaded not guilty to pot possession on the same date.

Associated Press Writer Norma Love in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.



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