A man who admitted hacking a woman to death and nearly killing her daughter was diagnosed as a likely sociopath and felt like he was "broken and couldn't be fixed" two years before the 2009 home invasion, the defense said Thursday at the start of the man's insanity trial.
Defense attorney Matthew Hill told jurors that Christopher Gribble, then 19, expressed no sense of compassion or remorse when he confessed to troopers the day after the crimes. "That's because Chris is not like everyone else," Hill told jurors.
Prosecutor Jeffery Strelzin pounced on Hill's line in his opening statement.
"He's not like everyone else because he chose to be a murderer, not a madman,"Strelzin told the jurors. "This case is about choices."
Strelzin peppered his statement with excerpts from Gribble's confession to investigators. Gribble describes himself as "controlled" throughout the attacks and said he's not using any mental problems he might have "as an excuse," according to the confession.
Gribble told troopers he went along with the planned home invasion because he was "desperate" for money and said, "I'll be perfectly honest: I wanted to kill someone for a long time."
Gribble has admitted killing Kimberly Cates and attempting to kill her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, in their Mont Vernon home on Oct. 4, 2009, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Because he is presumed sane and bears the burden of convincing jurors otherwise, his lawyers are presenting their case first.
This case contrasts sharply with that of co-defendant Steven Spader, who was convicted in November and is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Earlier Thursday, the jury toured the outside of the home where the mother and daughter were hacked with a machete and a knife.
Afterward, in his opening remarks, Hill gave jurors their first glimpse of the murder weapons and showed them photographs of Kimberly Cates' body and Jaimie's injuries.
After holding up those photos to the jurors _ careful not to let Jaimie's father, David Cates, and reporters in the courtroom see them _ Hill said, "When Chris viewed that scene, he felt nothing. He thought he would feel something, but he felt nothing."
Strelzin made it clear that he planned to mine Gribble's confession and composed tone to refute his insanity claim. He told jurors they would hear from the state's forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Gribble for hours and concluded that he was not legally insane and knew right from wrong when he entered the Cates' home.
Strelzin said the defense won't call a forensic psychiatrist and will rely on Gribble's earlier diagnoses.
He told jurors they won't have to guess about Gribble's sanity; they will hear it in his own words.
"He broke into the Cates' home to make money," Strelzin said. "He killed because he always wanted to kill, and he didn't want to leave any witnesses behind."
Looking more boyish than at the time of his arrest, Gribble sat attentive at the defense table as both lawyers made their remarks.
David Cates, who was traveling on business when his wife was killed and only child was maimed, sat in the front row, flanked by supporters who kept their hands on his back during the more graphic details of the attacks.
The first witness, Wanda Martins of Peterborough, met Gribble through the Mormon church they both attend, and she described him as socially awkward.
She testified she wasn't that surprised to learn of his involvement in the crime because he used to tell her he thought he was an "angel of death" because his eyes always come out red in photographs.
Martins, who visits and corresponds with Gribble by letters, said he has expressed no remorse or regret about the attacks.