Family Rejects N.H. Killer’s Apology
Jamie Cates, center, walks with family and friends from the courtroom in Manchester after Steven Spader's sentencing hearing yesterday. Nashua Telegraph - Don Himsel
FILE- In this Tuesday Oct. 6, 2009 file photo, seventeen-year-old Steven Spader arrives for his arraignment in District Court in Milford, N.H. Spader is one of four teenagers charged in an attack that left 42-year-old Kimberly Cates dead and seriously injuring her daughter in 2009. On Monday April 22, 2013 Spader's lawyers argued for a reduced sentence, a necessary hearing in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. The ruling said mandatory life sentences for those under age 18 when the crime was committed amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.(AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Manchester — David Cates and his daughter, Jaimie, were ready and waiting in the front row, along with a handful of family and friends who have been with them at every turn.
The same four lawyers from the 2010 trial presented at two tables in front of the same judge who had presided over two weeks of devastating testimony.
The only missing piece was the killer.
Steven Spader was absent yesterday morning when Judge Gillian Abramson held a sentencing hearing on the Oct. 4, 2009, home invasion murder of Kimberly Cates in Mont Vernon and attack on Jaimie Cates.
Spader, 21, formerly of Brookline, and now incarcerated at the New Hampshire State Prison’s Special Housing Unit, refused transport, declining his right to appear at the hearing. He also instructed his attorneys — Jonathan Cohen and Andrew Winters — to not present any evidence they gathered or give arguments they had prepared in an attempt to reduce the life sentence without the possibility of parole that Spader received.
A new sentencing hearing was required because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are illegal. Spader was 17 at the time of the murder.
Abramson still can sentence Spader to the life without parole plus an extra 76 years that Strelzin again asked yesterday, however, the court had to allow Spader to present evidence that could mitigate the circumstances of the crime. Abramson said she will issue a new sentencing order Friday.
Instead, Cohen read a statement Spader had prepared in prison — an apology that David Cates said was “insulting.”
“I choose not to slip by on any technicality,” he wrote. “No amount of words can fix the damage I have caused.”
He apologized directly to the Cates family, as well as his adoptive parents and the families of his co-defendants — William Marks, Quinn Glover, Christopher Gribble and Autumn Savoy.
“I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you,” he wrote. “I do not expect forgiveness nor do I deserve any, but my apologies are true.”
That apology came after Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin, the man who led the prosecution against Spader and co-conspirator Christopher Gribble, detailed all of the ways Spader has shown he doesn’t feel remorse for his crimes and is incapable of rehabilitation.
“He is a psychopath. It’s who he is. It’s not a phase or an act,” Strelzin said. “That’s why he has no remorse.”
Strelzin called Spader’s apology “clearly disingenuous” and said David Cates told him he “found it insulting.”
Strelzin told Abramson just a few months ago Spader told a psychiatric expert he felt no remorse and that he thinks remorse is “weak. Not so much weak. Unnecessary. Not useful.”
“It’s not something he’s going to grow out of. It’s fixed in him,” Strelzin said. “He’s not sorry for what he did. He’s never going to be sorry for what he did.”
Strelzin said some of those diagnostic tests show Spader scored high on measures for psychopathic and anti-social traits.
Cohen and Winters largely declined to comment following the hearing, citing attorney client confidentiality. Cohen said he learned yesterday morning when Spader wasn’t in the courthouse that he would not be arguing on his behalf.
A few new details were revealed yesterday for the first time.
Strelzin said Spader did try to negotiate a deal through his lawyers before his trial in October and November 2010. He agreed to a life without parole sentence but refused to plead to any crimes against Jaimie and wanted to serve his sentence as far north as possible.
Strelzin said he believes the refusal to admit to harming Jaimie had to do with Spader’s knowledge of how inmates accused of crimes against children are viewed in prison.
Letters Spader wrote in prison — some of which glorified and bragged about the attack — also shed light on his desire to move north, Strelzin said.
Some of those letters, written while he was held at Valley Street jail in Manchester before his trial, detailed his wishes to found a “criminal enterprise” of fellow inmates and those outside the prison walls to generate money and facilitate his escape. He thought being farther north would make it easier to flee into Canada, Strelzin said.