Jury selection begins Wednesday in the first murder trial stemming from a home invasion and machete attack last year that left a Mont Vernon woman dead and her 11-year-old daughter badly wounded.
The trial of Steven Spader, 18, of Brookline is expected to begin later this month. Prosecutors say Spader, who was 17 at the time, masterminded the plot to burglarize a randomly-selected house and kill its occupants.
Potential jurors will be brought into a Nashua courthouse in groups of 100 or more to be questioned about their knowledge and opinions about the crime. Kimberly Cates, 42, was slashed to death. Her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, was slashed from head to toe but survived the attack.
Spader and co-defendant Christopher Gribble, also of Brookline, allegedly wielded a machete and knife in the pre-dawn attacks on Oct. 4, 2009. Two other men who prosecutors say were present in the Cates' home but did not participate in the violence _ William Marks and Quinn Glover _ are expected to testify.
Lawrence Vogelman, a defense lawyer who does not represent any of the alleged participants, said the massive publicity the case has received will make jury selection particularly challenging. The judge denied Spader's lawyers' request to move the case to another jurisdiction.
"The allegations are just so emotionally-laden it might be hard to get jurors to put it aside," Vogelman said. "To a certain extent, it's every citizen's greatest fear _ that someone breaks into your home or the home of a loved one. When something like this happens, people really feel vulnerable."
During the trial, jurors will be shown graphic photographs of the injuries to both victims and will hear evidence that Spader started a group he dubbed "Disciples of Destruction." The home invasion has been characterized as a rite of initiation into this group.
They may also hear testimony from Jaimie Cates, now 12, who is on the state's list of potential witnesses. Jaimie told police she survived by pretending to be dead, then calling for help on a cell phone. Her father, David Cates, who also may testify, was on a business trip at the time of the attacks.
Spader faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted. Gribble's trial is scheduled to begin in February.