Jurors in NH home-invasion trial visit crime scene

AP News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2010 9:22 PM
Jurors in NH home-invasion trial visit crime scene

A murder suspect walked steps behind jurors touring the grounds Monday of a New Hampshire home where prosecutors say he hacked a woman to death with a machete and badly wounded her 11-year-old daughter during a home invasion.

Steven Spader, 18, of Brookline, appeared attentive as Assistant Attorney General Lucy Carrillo called jurors' attention to features of the one-story house where Kimberly Cates was killed. Her husband, David Cates, was traveling on business when the attacks occurred last October.

Jaimie Cates, now 12, suffered 18 slash wounds and was left for dead. She told police she feigned death, then called for help when her assailants left. Jaimie and her father still live in the Mont Vernon home. Jurors were not taken inside and reporters were not allowed on the property.

Earlier in the day, a judge denied defense attorneys' second request to move the trial out of Hillsborough County, where the attacks occurred.

Spader is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and witness tampering, and has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted of murder.

Lawyers will make their opening statements on Tuesday and witness testimony is expected to get under way. Jaimie Cates and her father are on the list of 70 witnesses the state may call.

Spader stood stoically in the courtroom for 20 minutes Monday as a clerk read the detailed allegations against him. Prosecutors say Spader talked about breaking into a random house and killing its occupants a week before the attacks. He and three other teens allegedly gathered knives and a machete, parked at an old barn roughly 100 yards from the Cates' home before dawn and hiked to the house.

Prosecutors say they broke in, cut power to the house and used an iPod taken from Jaimie's room to illuminate their path to the master bedroom, where mother and daughter were asleep. Prosecutors say Spader used the machete and co-defendant Christopher Gribble used a knife to hack at both victims.

On Monday, Carrillo asked jurors to observe the two-story house next to the Cates'. Prosecutors are expected to tell the jury during trial that the attackers targeted that home first. The other two teens in the house, who prosecutors say witnessed but did not participate in the attacks, have agreed to testify for the state and are expected to shed light on why and when the plan changed.

Gribble is being tried separately.

Carrillo also called jurors' attention to the lack of street lights on the dirt road and the massive stumps of old-growth trees David Cates had chopped down after the attacks.

Mont Vernon police Chief Kyle Aspinwall said he removed a makeshift memorial of mums, a cross and an angel statue near the Cates' residence on Monday morning at the request of Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson. The charter bus carrying the jurors passed alongside the site when leaving the area.

Defense attorney Andrew Winters urged jurors to consider the distance between the Cates' house and the barn they viewed.