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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

4 facing charges in murder waive right to hearings

MILFORD – All four suspects charged in connection with the home invasion and murder in Mont Vernon have waived their rights to probable cause hearings, in exchange for their lawyers getting a peek at the evidence behind the charges, the lead prosecutor said Monday.

Christopher Gribble, 20, of 23 Oak Hill Road, Brookline, and Steven Spader, 17, of 7 Wallace Brook Road, Brookline, each face charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. Prosecutors have said Gribble used a knife and Spader a machete to murder Kimberly Cates, 42, and attack her 11-year-old daughter.

William Marks, 18, of 464 Boston Post Road, Amherst, and Quinn Glover, 17, of 34 Blueberry Hill Road, Amherst, each are charged with burglary, conspiracy to burglary, and robbery.

All four have been jailed since their arrests two days after the murder, and they had been scheduled to appear today in Milford District Court for probable cause hearings.

All four suspects waived their rights to a hearing in advance and Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker said none of them will be brought to court.

There still will be a hearing Tuesday in the case, as several media outlets, including The Telegraph, The Associated Press and WMUR, have asked the court to consider unsealing records relating to the arrests.

Delker objects, saying he hopes to keep all search warrants and supporting affidavits sealed to keep the information confidential while police continue to investigate the case.

Delker said he does not expect that any new charges will be filed against anyone in the case before prosecutors present their evidence to a grand jury in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

Police and prosecutors never got arrest warrants for the four teens, Delker said, which is the norm in New Hampshire homicide cases. Delker said previously that all four were formally arrested at the State Police barracks in Milford, early in the morning of Oct. 6.

Delker has refused to comment on whether any of the teens agreed to speak with investigators or made any statements at all about the case. As part of their agreements to waive hearings, however, Delker said if any one of the teens made a statement, that teen’s lawyer will get a copy.

Lawyers for all four suspects also will get copies of the “Gerstein affidavit,” a document that police file to support the charges in felony cases, outlining the important evidence in the case at that point.

The lawyers have agreed not to share the information with anyone, not even their own clients, Delker said.

Police have applied for search warrants, Delker said, but he declined to comment on how many, or for what.

It is likely that police got warrants to search the Cates’ property; Spader’s car; each of the defendant’s persons, clothing, residence and computers, phone and Internet records; and any locations where the defendants might have gone after the murder.

Police don’t typically get arrest warrants for homicide suspects in New Hampshire, Delker said, as they would generally want to arrest a person as soon as they have probable cause to suspect them.

“The only time we really get an arrest warrant is if we’re looking for somebody, we don’t know where they are,” Delker said.

Probable cause hearings are a constitutional right, but also something of a formality, and it is common for defendants to waive them. The purpose of the hearing is for a judge to review the evidence and decide whether police have enough evidence to justify holding and prosecuting the defendants.

Prosecutors have said that all four suspects broke into the Cates’ house on Trow Road at about 4 a.m. Oct. 4, having agreed in advance that they would kill anyone they found inside. The four picked the house because it was remote and relatively isolated, prosecutors said.

Though they have not been charged directly with Cates’ murder or the attack on her daughter, Jaimie Cates, Marks and Glover also were armed with deadly weapons, prosecutors said.

Police were dispatched to the Cates’ home by a 911 call from Jaimie Cates, whom they found inside, with severe wounds from a machete and knife, authorities have said. Spader and Gribble each are charged with trying to kill the girl.

Lawyers representing the suspects have declined to comment, or not returned calls. However, Spader’s lawyer said last week that people should remember that they are all presumed innocent of the charges against them.

“My client is a 17-year-old boy facing a serious accusation,” said attorney Jonathan Cohen of Concord. “He is and should be presumed innocent and should be tried in a court of law, and not by the media.”

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or awolfe@nashuatelegraph.com.