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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Newly convicted killer checks in at prison

Three hours after his murder conviction, Steven Spader traded his suit coat for a faded green prison uniform.

Spader, convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder, among other charges on his 19th birthday, checked in by 4 p.m. to the State Prison in Concord, where he will spend at least the first part of his life sentence.

“He’s going to be very isolated from other inmates ... under constant lock,” Jeffrey Lyons, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said Tuesday of Spader, who is being held in the prison’s maximum security unit.

“He’ll get his food in the cell. His toilet is in the cell,” Lyons said. “He’ll have almost no interaction with other inmates.”

Soon after arriving Tuesday at the prison, Spader, like any new inmate, was scheduled to sit for a quick processing interview, entering basic health and contact information. Spader likely surrendered any personal items, showered and changed into the prison uniform – one of three he received.

Guards then showed him to his new cell, where he’ll spend 23 hours each day.

Spader was brought directly to the prison from Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua after the judge announced his sentence – life in prison without parole for the murder of Kimberly Cates and the attempted murder of her daughter, Jaimie Cates, in Mont Vernon.

Any possessions Spader held at the Hillsborough County jail, where he stayed before his conviction, will follow in the coming days, according to Superintendent James O’Mara.

But Spader won’t be entitled to his possessions in the small cement cell where he’ll sit alone for the foreseeable future, according to Lyons.

During his one hour of freedom each day, Spader will be permitted to make phone calls, and he’ll eventually be able to host visitors, usually family members or attorneys. But for now, he’ll be restricted largely to walking, escorted by two guards, in established “day rooms,” Lyons said.

Starting today, Spader will likely undergo a series of evaluations – medical, mental health and educational assessments, and others – that will help determine the range of services he requires.

Prison administrators will then use those evaluations, among other factors, to determine what further counseling, education or other services he requires, as well as what job he will be assigned to, as well as other arrangements.

For now, he, like other inmates, will receive a stipend of 85 cents a day, to cover toiletries, and other charges. But he will eventually be assigned to a specified job, Lyons said.

“We really have to get an understanding of what type of inmate we’re going to be working with for X number of years,” he said. “Even though he’s sentenced to life without parole, we will recommend him to a certain type of treatment plan.”

Counselors and administrators will also use the evaluations, as well as Spader’s behavior, to decide if he will remain in the maximum security unit, or whether he will be transferred to another section of the prison, or to another prison elsewhere in the state, or in another jurisdiction.

At times, prison officials have elected to transfer some inmates out of state for their own safety or the security of other inmates.

Several inmates have been transferred over recent years, including Stephen Mann, the Nashua man convicted in 2005 of killing his wife, as well as several people associated with the Pamela Smart case.

Smart, of Derry, was convicted in 1991 of conspiring to kill her husband.

Prison guards treat every maximum security inmate “as somebody who needs to proceed with caution,” but some high-profile cases, like Spader’s, can draw greater attention from the other inmates, putting him at risk, Lyons said.

“When we move people to other states, other jurisdictions, either they’re seen as a threat to the institution or they’re safety has been threatened in some way,” Lyons said.

“I’m not saying that will happen here, but it’s a possibility,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

County Sheriff James Hardy and Laura Kiernan, communications director for the state judicial branch, both declined comment for this story.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or