Prosecutors in a New Hampshire home invasion murder case said Tuesday that a woman who was hacked to death used her own body to shield her 11-year-old daughter and died not knowing if her only child was alive or dead.
Defendant Steven Spader, 18, stared passively as a prosecutor stood before him and called him a ruthless killer during opening statements in his murder trial. Spader is charged with killing Kimberly Cates and attempting to kill her daughter, Jaimie Cates, in their Mont Vernon home a year ago.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley held up a long machete as he described the attacks he said were committed by Spader and co-defendant Christopher Gribble.
"They hacked them, they stabbed them, they cut them apart, and this what this defendant used to hack that mother and daughter in their bed," Hinckley said. "He brought this weapon down on them again and again and again."
In his opening statement, defense attorney Andrew Winters told jurors the state had no forensic evidence linking Spader to the crime and that the key witnesses against him — three co-defendants — cut deals to lessen their own prison sentences.
"Each has told multiple, contradictory stories about what happened that night," Winter said of the three, William Marks, Quinn Glover and Autumn Savoy. Prosecutors say Marks and Glover witnessed the attacks but did not take part. Savoy has pleaded guilty to helping hide evidence and concocting a false alibi. Gribble will be tried separately.
Prosecutors say Spader and Gribble laughed and boasted about what they had done in the days after the attacks. Winters countered that, "Anyone who knew Steven Spader said he constantly bragged and exaggerated or said things that were doubtful or not true."
Prosecutors played for jurors the 911 call that Jaimie Cates made after stumbling, parts of her feet missing, to the kitchen. The girl's wimper filled the courtroom, but the words were indiscernible. The dispatcher said Jaimie reported that her house had been robbed.
Milford police Sgt. Kevin Furlong arrived at the scene first. He looked through a front window and saw Jaimie lying on the floor, covered in blood. Furlong used his shoulder to smash through the door.
"Part of her foot was missing," Furlong testified. "Other parts were barely still attached. She was attempting to scream and yell, however nothing was coming out."