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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    State police det. John Encarnacao displays evidence dug up in Brookline after the Cates murder while he testified in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Christopher Gribble is on trial there for his role in the 2009 murder in Mont Vernon New Hampshire of Kimberly Cates and injury of her young daughter Jaimie. (AP Photo/POOL/Don Himsel)
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    State police det. John Encarnacao displays evidence dug up in Brookline after the Cates murder while he testified in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Christopher Gribble is on trial there for his role in the 2009 murder in Mont Vernon New Hampshire of Kimberly Cates and injury of her young daughter Jaimie. (AP Photo/POOL/Don Himsel)
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    David Cates listens to a recording of a graphic confession by Christiopher Gribble of how he attacked his young daughter with a knife during a break in at the Cates' home during police testimony in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Christopher Gribble is on trial for his role in the 2009 murder in Mont Vernon New Hampshire of Kimberly Cates and injury of her young daughter Jaimie. (AP Photo/POOL/Don Himsel)
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Christopher Gribble in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Christopher Gribble is on trial for his role in the 2009 murder in Mont Vernon New Hampshire of Kimberly Cates and injury of her young daughter Jaimie. (AP Photo/POOL/Don Himsel)
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gribble surprised Jaimie had black belt

NASHUA – Christopher Gribble stood on a wooded path with three New Hampshire state troopers in October 2009, just hours after he confessed to murdering Kimberly Cates and stabbing her daughter, Jaimie.

Gribble directed the troopers from the old barracks in Milford into Brookline and then on a 15-minute walk through the woods to the spot. There, they dug up a shallow trench where he and Steven Spader had buried a machete, a knife and the loot from a couple of burglaries.

Among the things that were said during the seven-hour interrogation by police, one thing stuck in his mind.

“Was the girl really, honestly a black belt?” Gribble asked. “Just surprising me because she didn’t really put up any struggle.”

She was brave, though. He couldn’t believe she had survived.

“I don’t know. I mean she was brave to actually jump up and run. I mean, I think most kids would probably just kind of blubber there for mom, but she did try to run for the door,” Gribble said.

“If I hadn’t been there, she would have gotten away probably,” he said. “It’s kind of cool. Eleven years old and a black belt. I’m impressed.”

Prosecutors played the rest of the seven-hour interview with Gribble for jurors, who followed along in printed transcripts, during the ninth day of his insanity trial. Judge Gillian Abramson told jurors there would be one more witness today followed by closing arguments.

State police Detective John Encarnacao brought Gribble into the barracks around 1 p.m. on Oct. 5, 2009, about 36 hours after the Mont Vernon home invasion and murder that left Kimberly Cates dead. Just before 7 p.m., Gribble decided he wanted to tell Encarnacao what had happened and he spared no details.

Just as he told the jury from the witness stand last week, Gribble told the detective about the group’s activities before, during and after the attack, detailing especially his and Spader’s actions inside the bedroom.

“Steve was just hacking away. He just lost it. I was controlled, but I didn’t really feel much of anything. I thought I would, but I didn’t,” he said. “I was actually kind of scared of him. He just kept hacking at the bed. I was backing off because Steve was losing it. I could tell.”

Gribble told Encarnacao that psychologists had diagnosed him and Spader as sociopaths. He also said he felt bad that he hadn’t killed Jaimie Cates. He talked about that quite a bit.

“I’m kind of surprised that she’s alive. I kind of wish she’d died for her sake just because she’s going to have to live with all that now,” he said. “If I’m going to kill someone, I’m going to actually do it so they don’t have to sit and live with a bunch of trauma. I’ve been through so much trauma I don’t want someone to go through that. So if I can just end it for them then, I would. If I had realized she was still alive, I would have ended it for her. Because there was no way she could recognize us as far as we knew, so we didn’t really care about that part.”

Later, in the woods, Gribble asked about Jaimie again.

“If you don’t mind my asking what, like, what kind of condition is the girl in? Like, is she awake and doing OK or in a coma or what?”

Encarnacao said he didn’t know.

“Okay, I’m just curious to see how she’s doing. I kind of feel like now – I hope she gets better,” Gribble said.

Gribble also talked a lot about how he didn’t feel anything when he was attacking the Jaimie and her mother. Spader thought it was “awesome” when he broke Kimberly Cates’ arm with the machete. Gribble said he found it interesting because he hadn’t seen anything like that before.

“Steve and I are pretty messed up people. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve wanted to kill someone for a long time. It’s like an urge. And it was kind of a time that I could get it out,” he said. “But I thought at least I would feel bad about it. I’m almost sorry to say I don’t. I’m not sure why. But I’ll be honest with you, I can’t say I was sorry about it. I just felt nothing. It was kind of cool because it was different, but I’m not really sure if I have a conscience anymore.”

Widower David Cates remained in the courtroom as the tape was replayed, listening to Gribble describe the brutality that took place in his home while he was away on a business trip.

On the recording, Gribble seemed relieved to be telling the troopers his story. He had spent several hours before that steadfastly denying that he knew anything about the murder, telling them he had driven around that night, stopped on a dirt road somewhere to urinate and then driven off.

Encarnacao and trooper Jeff Ardini kept presenting pieces of evidence they found and what the others were talking about – clothes and jewelry boxes they found in the Nashua River and the use of a machete. Gribble denied everything.

Once he decided to tell them of his role, Gribble did most of the talking. He sighed heavily and loudly several times during the interview, especially in the woods where the machete and knife were buried. Back in the car and on the way back to the old police barracks, he sang a few lines of a song under his breath. He talked almost continuously to the troopers about a wide range of topics, from their training and the weather to the type of handcuffs they were using and the crime itself.

Gribble is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and burglary, and witness tampering, and he faces life in prison without parole.

During the interview, Gribble also talked a lot about Spader. He was convinced Spader was telling the truth about having killed before and that he was a member of the Crips, a street gang. Spader had made a lot of connections in prison, Gribble said, and helped beat to death a member of the Bloods, another street gang, as part of his initiation into the Crips.

Spader was trying to start his own “brotherhood,” the Disciples of Destruction and the Mont Vernon murder was something of a test for Gribble and the other potential members, Quinn Glover and William Marks, Gribble said.

Gribble said he lied to police initially because he was worried about Spader’s gang connections.

“That was part of why I didn’t say anything before. Because I know he has Crip contacts and I wasn’t sure which was worse, going to prison for something, even getting the death penalty, or having someone, some of his friends kill me,” Gribble said. “I think Steve’s legit. I think honestly with all this going up, if he finds out, I will probably get killed for it or tortured.”

He also tried to separate himself from Spader in at least some ways, saying Spader was too brutal, too indiscriminate in his slaughter and was just trying to cause as much damage as he could.

“To be honest, I thought he did a little much. I told you before, I’m not into like overdoing it. If I was going to kill somebody, it would just be kill them. I’m not going to butcher them. I’ll be honest, that’s probably why I didn’t kill her, like do enough to kill the girl because I just didn’t do more than I thought was absolutely necessary,” Gribble said. “I was surprised. I will admit. I just wasn’t trying to do as much damage as possible. I was just trying to do what was necessary to eliminate any possible like witness or chance of us getting caught really.”

Gribble’s lawyers have told the jury he was struggling with anti-social personality disorder and caved in 2009 after his support system – family, church and Boy Scouts – gave way and he fell in with Spader

By pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, Gribble forfeited his criminal trial, and his lawyers must show his actions were the result of a mental disease or defect.

A forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Albert Drukteinis, testified Monday that he found evidence of no such mental disease or defect after interviewing Gribble last month.

If a jury agrees unanimously that Gribble’s actions were the result of a mental disease or defect, Abramson would have to determine whether he is still dangerous.

If she decides he is dangerous, Gribble would be committed to a psychiatric unit in the State Prison and be entitled to another hearing every five years to determine whether he still presents a danger.

The jury would have to rule unanimously that Gribble is guilty for him to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

If neither decision is unanimous, it would be a hung jury and Gribble would be retried.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.