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Staff photo by Don Himsel

Christopher Gribble enters the courtroom for a hearing Monday, Jan. 10, 2011.
Friday, January 28, 2011

Judge to allow graphic terms at Gribble trial

NASHUA – Words such as “horror” and “slaughter” are fair descriptions of the 2009 home-invasion and murder of Kimberly Cates, the judge in Christopher Gribble’s murder trial has ruled.

Gribble, 21, of Brookline, is scheduled to stand trial in March for the murder of Kimberly Cates, and attack on her daughter.

Gribble’s lawyers had argued that prosecutors overstepped the bounds of propriety during last year’s trial of codefendant Steven Spader, by “glaring” at Spader and using words such as “cold-blooded,” “slaughter” and “horror” to describe how Spader and Gribble hacked Cates to death in her bed with a machete and sword.

Gribble has admitted to taking part in the attacks, stabbing Cates and her then-11-year-old daughter Jaimie, but argues he was insane. His trial will focus on his mental state before and during the attacks.

Spader was convicted last year on murder and other charges stemming from the Oct. 9, 2009, killing on Trow Road in Mont Vernon.

Gribble has been jailed since his arrest shortly after the murder. He faces life in prison, without chance of parole, if convicted of first-degree murder. He also is charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, burglary and witness tampering.

Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson heard arguments Jan. 10 on various pre-trial motions, and her rulings were made public Thursday.

While Abramson assured lawyers she would address any improprieties that she sees during the trial, she wrote that the words to which Gribble objects reasonably describe the events for which he is charged.

“The State’s choice of words, while undesirable to the defendant, do not unfairly prejudice him,” Abramson wrote. “Language such as ‘slaughter,’ ‘horror,’ and ‘ambush’ could reasonably be inferred from the facts alleged in the indictments, facts to which the defendant has admitted.”

Similarly, Abramson wrote that prosecutors have an inherent interest in keeping their eyes on Gribble, to see how he behaves during the trial. It is, she notes, an adversarial proceeding.

In other matters, Abramson reiterated her order that Gribble not be given anything more dangerous than a felt-tip pen to use during the trial, and approved some agreements regarding evidence to be presented.

Jury selection for Gribble’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 28, and his trial will start once 16 jurors are seated.

Copies of most documents in Gribble’s case are available on the court’s Website:

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or