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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spader Blog: Trial ends early for the day, will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday

4:30 p.m.: Judge Gillian Abramson cut short the third day of Steven Spader’s first-degree murder trial, ending Wednesday’s proceedings shortly after 2 p.m.

Abramson said the early dismissal was to accommodate a request by a juror. While the specifics of the juror’s request aren’t clear, it is believed to involve his or her need to keep an appointment.

The abbreviated afternoon session got off to an emotional start when David Cates, husband of murder victim Kimberly Cates, was called to the witness stand.

He testified for roughly 20 minutes. Testimony from two police investigators followed before the session was called for the day.

Proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Officer questioned on stop

1:33 p.m.: Nashua police officer Ian Day Lewis, who was a member of the Amherst Police Department a year ago, just left the stand describing the night he stopped a car occupied by Spader and William Marks roughly 24 hours before the home invasion they are accused of participating in took place.

Spader’s defense team cross-examined Lewis, asking him why he didn’t document in more detail the description of the knife he said he found in Spader’s possession. Lewis didn’t arrest Marks or Spader, he said, because carrying a knife isn’t against the law. He said he stopped the car as a routine check because of the late hour.

Another police officer, state trooper John Sonia, took the stand and described how police examined two vehicles believed to be used in the Oct. 4 home invasion as part of the investigation.

Cates on stand eyes Spader

12:05 p.m.: The final testimony of the morning was the day’s most compelling; spectators, who number roughly half of Tuesday’s near-full house, remained church-mouse quiet as David Cates identified a family photo in a shaky voice.

Spader stared expressionless at Cates, occasionally glancing at prosecutor Jeff Strelzin during questioning. At one point near the end of Cates’ testimony, he and Spader locked eyes, neither changing expression or otherwise reacting to the exchange, which lasted probably 10 to 15 seconds.

Alarm system wasn’t used

11:32 a.m.: David Cates was on a business trip to Baltimore on the weekend of the home invasion. He texted his wife and daughter Saturday night before they went to bed, he said on the stand.

On Sunday morning, Cates said, he got a call from a state trooper as he headed for the airport to come home and received more updates on what happened at the airport.

Prosecutors showed Cates photos of Kimberly, whom he identified in a low, raspy voice, occasionally cracking with emotion.

Strelzin, the senior assistant attorney general, asked Cates questions about his home. Cates said he and his family moved there in 2004 and have not changed the inside floor plan or general footprint of the home.

Discussion turned to Trow Road itself, which Cates says was widened because it was too narrow for safe travel and snow removal was difficult in the winter. Strelzin asked Cates to look at a floor plan of the home, where he identified “Kim’s old car” parked in the garage of the single-story, crescent-shaped home.

Strelzin focused on the rear section of the basement, near where the suspects are believed to have broken in on Oct. 4.

Cates said he and his wife used the house’s alarm system for “just a brief time” after they moved in because of a malfunction in the alarm’s wiring system. They later disconnected it, he said.

Scene photos hint at horror

11:20 a.m.: Police crime scene photos are playing on the screen in Courtroom 4, showing the aftermath of the early morning rampage that Spader and other youths are accused of perpetrating last year.

The photos are part of the testimony of state trooper Jeff Ledieu, who was on the stand for close to an hour.

One photo was a close-up on the cordless telephone Jaimie Cates used to make her frantic 911 call as she lay on the kitchen floor.

A folded cellphone lay next to the cordless handset.

Blood trails are everywhere in the photo, including on the counter from which Jaimie apparently grabbed the phone.

Other photos showed the bedroom in which Kimberly Cates was found dead; furniture was in disarray and a glass slider is smashed.

Doctor’s pager goes off

9:30 a.m. Dr. David Mooney, one of the doctors who treated Jaimie Cates’ injuries after the attack, took the stand and described wounds that cut “to the bone,” which he said are difficult to inflict and take a lot of strength to carry out. He answered specific questions about the condition of Jaimie and her injuries when she was being treated at the hospital.

Hopefully, the staff at Children’s Hospital Boston was able to summon another doctor, because Mooney wasn’t able to answer his pager when it beeped in the middle of his morning testimony.