- Eldon Spikes looks toward Steven Spader in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. Spikes testified that Spader told him he "hacked the bitch up with a machete" in reference to the murder of Kimberly Cates in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire in October of 2009. Cates' daughter Jaimie was injured in the attack (AP Photo/Don Himsel)
- Autumn Savoy takes the stand in Steven Spader's trial in Nashua, New Hampshire Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. Savoy was friends with Spader in October 2009 when Spader and others are accused of breaking into a home, burglarizing it and attacking two people inside. One person, Kimberly Cates, was killed. Her daughter Jaimie was severely injured. Spader is facing life in prison without parole for his role in the attack and killing. (AP Photo/Don Himsel)
- Prosecutors show a surveillance video in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Friday, Oct. 29, 2010 of Steven Spader, Christopher Gribble and Autumn Savoy at a Hollis, NH convenience store just after the attack on Kimberly and Jaimie Cates in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire in October of 2009. Testimony continues in Spader's trial. (AP Photo/Don Himsel)
- Autumn Savoy testifies against Steven Spader in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. Spader is on trial for his role the murder of Kimberly Cates and attack on her daughter Jaimie in Mont Vernon, NH, in Oct. of 2009. (AP Photo/Don Himsel)
- Steven Spader walks into Courtroom 4 in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. Spader is on trial for his role the murder of Kimberly Cates and attack on her daughter Jaimie in Mont Vernon, NH, in Oct. of 2009. (AP Photo/Don Himsel)
Savoy: Spader on a ‘rush’
NASHUA – In the aftermath of the Mont Vernon home invasion and murder last year, Steven Spader acted “like it was just a game, like he was in the middle of a game,” his friend Autumn Savoy testified Friday.
After ambushing Kimberly and Jaimie Cates in a bedroom and attacking them with a machete and knife, Spader and Christopher Gribble went to Savoy’s home in Hollis, Savoy said.
The three men sorted through jewelry taken during the burglary, he said. They threw a bag of clothes and boots into the Nashua River and then bought soda, cigarettes and breakfast at the Hatch Convenience Store on Runnells Bridge Road near Savoy’s house, he testified.
They spent the morning watching a show about a serial killer and were going to be on their way to Amherst Street in Nashua searching for job applications when State Police found them at Spader’s home in Brookline, Savoy said.
Savoy was testifying during the fifth day of Spader’s first-degree murder trial at Hillsborough County Superior Court. He said he was “almost like brothers” with Spader and gave police a false alibi for the men partially because of that bond and partially because Spader threatened to kill him if he talked to police.
Spader had occasionally spent the night at Savoy’s home since the two met in sixth grade. Spader and Gribble slept there a couple of nights around the time of the murder, Savoy said, including one night when they slept in Gribble’s car in the driveway.
Savoy said he and Spader used to see each other nearly every day and would hang out, listen to music and “do stupid teenage things.”
Savoy said Spader had bragged to him about having killed before the murder, and said he had dropped bodies in quarries in Milford and participated in drive-by shootings in Lowell, Mass., with members of a street gang. Spader said he was a prospective member of the Crips gang, Savoy said.
Savoy said he met Spader and Gribble in Savoy’s driveway around 5:30 a.m. after the murder, and while Gribble was “distant” and “withdrawn,” Spader seemed like he was on “an adrenaline rush.”
Savoy said he held the machete and the knife the men told him they used, and saw only one spot of blood on the sheath of the machete.
“He was bouncing and jumping around between different conversations, but he said he killed two people,” Savoy said of Spader.
Later in the day, the three men looked for news of the killing online and learned that Jaimie Cates, 11, had survived. Spader and Savoy teased Gribble about it, Savoy said.
Savoy told Gribble he wasn’t smarter than a fifth-grader. Savoy fetched a board game of the same name based on the TV game show to put in his face, he testified.
Spader said, “You’re an idiot. You can’t even kill a fifth-grader,” Savoy said.
The men were watching “Dexter,” an HBO show about a serial killer, when Spader told him the details of what happened in the house, Savoy said.
He told Savoy that they broke in, checked most of the rooms and took an iPod to light their way. Inside the bedroom, Spader told the others there were people inside and Kimberly Cates woke up, Savoy said.
Spader said he hacked at Kimberly Cates, and at one point Jaimie jumped away from him but was stopped by Gribble, who stabbed the girl twice in the chest and once in the back before tossing her away, Savoy said.
Spader said he then directed Gribble to check to make sure they were dead, Savoy said. Gribble checked Kimberly Cates’ neck for a pulse, and then slit her throat and Jaimie’s, Savoy said.
“Steven Spader said at one point, ‘I’m bored,’ and hacked the little girl across the face,” Savoy said.
Savoy said he originally told police that Spader and Gribble had stayed at his house Saturday night and into Sunday, as Spader had told him to. He said Spader threatened to kill him if he talked to others after telling him the details of what happened inside the house.
“I love you like a brother, but if you tell anyone, I’ll f------ kill you,” Savoy said Spader told him.
Savoy later told police what he knew, he testified, and showed them where he tossed the bag of clothes into the Nashua River. Police were able to recover the bag.
Savoy has pleaded guilty to two counts of hindering apprehension and one of conspiracy to hindering apprehension and received a prison sentence of 5-12 years, plus a suspended sentence, in exchange for his testimony against Spader and Gribble.
Spader defense attorney Andrew Winters seemed to suggest that Savoy had more involvement in the crimes than he has admitted to.
He asked, and Savoy acknowledged, that it was his idea to throw the clothes in the river and that he did the throwing, and that he looked up recipes for chloroform with Spader and Gribble and again later when he was alone. He said he joked and laughed with Spader later on Sunday.
Savoy also told Winters that his family couldn’t give him an alibi for Saturday night and Sunday morning because he went to bed after them and woke up before them, and that he’d gotten into trouble before for sneaking out of the house.
After the cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Lucy Carrillo asked Savoy to look at the jury and tell them whether he was involved in the home invasion.
“I have never been to the Cates home,” he said. “I have not injured Jaimie Cates or Kimberly Cates in any way.”
It isn’t the first time that the defense lawyers have seemed to suggest others could have been responsible for the attack.
Doctors have testified that some of Jaimie Cates’ wounds would have to have been caused by a heavy, sharp and violently wielded blade.
Prosecutors say Spader had a machete and Gribble had a smaller knife.
But Spader’s defense attorneys, Winters and Jonathan Cohen, have brought up a few times that Quinn Glover owned a samurai sword that he kept on his bed and that William Marks had a hatchet with him in the car on the way to Mont Vernon.
Cohen pressed the day’s first witness, Eldon Spikes, on large stretches of his testimony, which ran over from Thursday into Friday morning.
Spikes said Spader told him he “hacked the bitch up with a machete” and that “there was no remorse.” At Glover’s house later, Spader and Gribble threatened Spikes with knives for telling other people what he had been told, he said.
“He looked pissed,” Spikes said. “He said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ ”
Cohen spent a long time pointing out discrepancies with Spikes’ testimony and what he initially told police, including with whom he went to the mall that day, what mall they went to and on what day he, Spader and others attended a Bishop Guertin High School football game that weekend.
Spikes said he had taken as many as 12 Klonopin pills that day and that the pills affected his memory and ability to understand what was happening around him. He said he went to rehab about a month after the attacks. He told police during an early interview that he didn’t remember the previous weekend.
Four other witnesses testified briefly on Friday, including Gribble’s ex-girlfriend Karen Ashley Martin, 18. The Milford High School graduate said she dated Gribble that summer and fall and saw him outside their house the night before the murder.
She said he asked her earlier that night, by text message, if she had acetone to clean “sticky stuff” left on his knife by a price tag.
Acetone is an ingredient in nail polish remover and chloroform.
Martin said she saw Gribble outside her house around 11 p.m. and that he left around midnight or 12:30 a.m., about 15 minutes after getting a text message from Spader.
Martin told Winters she initially lied to police about seeing Gribble that night because she didn’t want to get in trouble for sneaking out of her house.
Hatch Convenience Store owner Mark Archambault also testified and said he knew Savoy as a regular customer who lived across the street from the store. He said Gribble, who he didn’t know by name, came into the store with Savoy often in the weeks before the murder.
Prosecutors showed surveillance footage from the store during Savoy’s testimony of Spader, Gribble and Savoy buying soda, cigarettes and food there Sunday morning.
Hollis Police officer Kris Thibeault testified about pulling over Gribble’s car on Twiss Lane in Hollis on Sunday for going 55 in a 30 mph zone. He said he and another officer found four pocketknives on Spader and Gribble. Savoy was also a passenger.
Thibeault said he searched the car and saw a blanket and an ax in the trunk, but nothing that aroused his suspicion. He said he gave Gribble a traffic summons and let the men go.
Finally, New London Police detective Chris Currier testified about his forensic inspection of Savoy’s computer a few days after the murder.
He said he found evidence that someone had searched the Internet about chloroform several times on Oct. 3, 2009, and for news articles about a murder in Mont Vernon on Oct. 4, 2009.
Under cross-examination by Winters, Currier said keyword searches of Savoy’s hard drive found the word “knives” 635 times, “torture” 85 times, “Charles Manson” 6,225 times, “murder” 1,454 times and “homicide” 94 times.
Currier said those weren’t all searches for those words on the Internet, but a specific number of times those words appeared inside files on the computer.
Spader is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, witness tampering, and conspiracy to murder and burglary. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
Gribble faces the same charges and might plead not guilty by reason of insanity at his trial in February.
Spader’s trial will continue on Monday morning and could last at least another two weeks.
Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.