- Milford Police Department Sgt. Kevin Furlong looks at an evidence photo of Kimberly Cates at the scene of her murder during testimony in Steven Spader's homicide trial at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Tuesday, Oct 26, 2010. Furlong was the first police officer to respond to the scene on October 4, 2009, and discovered Cates' body in her bed. Displaying the photo is prosecuting attorney Jeff Strelzin. Spader is facing life in prison without parole for allegedly killing Kimberly Cates of Mont Vernon on Oct. 4, 2009.
Blog: Officer of the year says Jaimie is real hero
By its very nature, the profession of police officer is loaded with unpleasantries, many of which are unplanned, unexpected events that can ramp up in seconds and force officers into instant decision-making.
While the shoulder injury Milford police Sgt. Kevin Furlong sustained on an early-morning mutual aid call to Mont Vernon on the morning of Oct. 4, 2009, has healed, everything else he saw and heard that night are sure to stay with him for a long time.
Out of horror came some good memories as well, like the chance to help a brave, little girl survive her near-fatal wounds and the surprise – this time a pleasant one – of being chosen the New Hampshire Police, Fire and EMS Foundation’s Police Officer of the Year last month.
Furlong was presented the award last month by Gov. John Lynch at the foundation’s annual dinner and recognition program in Manchester.
Furlong, 32, an eight-year veteran of the Milford force, was the first officer to reach the Trow Road home of David and Kimberly Cates and their daughter Jaimie that fateful morning. Just last week, as part of his testimony in the first-degree murder trial of alleged ringleader Steven Spader, Furlong recounted the tense moments and horrific discoveries he made after he arrived – with his backup still on the way – at the Cates home.
Spader, whose trial is now in its ninth day with closing arguments scheduled for Monday, is accused of orchestrating the crime, for which he and three other youths were arrested less than two days later. If convicted, Spader faces life in prison without the chance of parole.
Furlong’s testimony, on Tuesday, Oct. 26, the second day of the trial, riveted the packed, emotionally charged courtroom at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. It was the first glimpse for the jury, and most spectators, into the heinous, brutal crime that rocked the small town were “things like this just don’t happen.”
Drama gripped the courtroom for most of Tuesday’s testimony, and that didn’t change when Furlong took the stand.
Furlong testified he peered through a front window into the only lighted room and spotted Jaimie on the floor, writhing in pain in a pool of her own blood. He tried to kick down the front door, but when that failed, he “shouldered” it twice, eventually gaining entrance. He didn’t realize it then, he later said, but he sustained a shoulder injury that later required surgery and kept him out of work for months.
Furlong described how he ran to Jaimie’s side and tried to console her, then carried her to safety outside the home to await other officers and medical personnel. Jaimie was trying to scream, he said, but no sound was coming out. When he got close to her, he said he noticed her jaw was broken. She managed to whisper that she ‘thought her mommy was dead,’ Furlong testified.
Furlong went back in to search for more victims or possible remaining intruders, he testified. When he got to the end of the hall, to the master bedroom, he found Kimberly Cates dead on her bed, slashed beyond recognition.
Furlong said that while taking part in the awards program filled him with pride for members of his, and similar, professions, he focused on the individual he called “the real hero” of the tragedy.
“There was really only one hero that night…11-year old Jaimie Cates, (for) the strength she showed to get us there to help,” Furlong said.
“She is the one who deserves the credit. She has that spirit to survive.”
Halfway through witnesses
The number of witnesses called to the stand in the Steven Spader trial passed the halfway point of the 68 total potential witnesses listed by the state.
An unofficial count shows that Richard Gribble, father of alleged Spader cohort Christopher Gribble, who took the stand Thursday, was the 38th witness to be called as the ninth day of the trial neared its halfway point.
The last witness of the day was Deputy Medical Examiner Jennie Duval. After that, the defense and prosecution both rested their cases without calling any more witnesses.
Notable names left remaining on the witness list include Spader; his parents Steven W. and Christine Spader; Christopher Gribble and family member Tamara Gribble; and the 12-year-old survivor, Jaimie Cates.
Sign theft may not be related
The apparent theft of a Trow Road road sign was likely part of a rash of similar thefts across town. The green, reflective sign at the intersection of Trow and Old Milford roads was missing earlier this week, leading to some speculation that a souvenir hunter swiped it because of the dubious notoriety gained by the short, gravel road due to the horrific home invasion, assaults and murder 13 months ago.
However, the road sign at the north end of Trow Road, which is adjacent to the Cates home and thus presumably a more notable souvenir, is still in place.
Town officials say a number of road signs were taken from throughout town this week in an apparent vandalism spree.
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100 Ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.