Autumn Savoy, co-conspirator in the Cates case who testified at both the Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble trials, was sentenced Wednesday, April 27, 2011.
Savoy granted parole on first sentence, will remain jailed for at least 2 1/2 more years
CONCORD – The New Hampshire Parole Board granted Autumn Savoy parole on the first of two sentences stemming from his involvement in covering up the murder of Kimberly Cates.
Savoy, now 22, must serve at least another 21⁄2 years in prison before being eligible for release.
Chairman Pierre Morin said the board didn’t have a choice but to grant parole for the first sentence, given that Savoy has completed all of the programs required of him and served the minimum time of his first 21⁄2- to five-year sentence.
“Even though we may not feel overly happy about it,” Morin added.
Neither was David Cates, who in an emotional statement to the board said Savoy has a long way to go before paying his debt to society and that he will never be able to pay it back to Kimberly Cates or his daughter Jaimie.
Good behavior after the fact shouldn’t count for much, he said.
“The events that took place during those early morning hours in the sanctity of our home could have been prevented,” he said. “Autumn Savoy could have prevented all this from happening.”
David Cates said Savoy simply didn’t have the courage to tell someone.
David Cates said Kimberly Cates’ birthday passed just a few days ago and also read a message his daughter wrote on Facebook to her mom.
“You will always be in my life and will always be in my thoughts,” it read in part.
The hearing comes about two months ahead of the end of Savoy’s minimum for the first sentence. Being granted parole means he can begin serving a second 21⁄2- to six-year sentence in June. He will have to serve at least the minimum of that sentence before being eligible for release.
Morin said if Savoy continues to behave in jail, it’s likely he will be released then.
“If nothing has changed … I don’t see that there’s anything to prevent him from being released at that time,” Morin said.
David Cates declined to speak to reporters following the hearing. A friend, Christopher Lussier, said David and Jaimie Cates have worked hard to put the tragedy behind them, but days like Thursday bring it all back.
After the hearing, Jeff Strelzin, the head of the Attorney General’s homicide unit, said Cates was disappointed in the board’s decision but had prepared for the possibility.
“From David Cates’ perspective, no one involved in this case will ever be punished enough,” Strelzin said.
Strelzin did not speak for or against Savoy being paroled.
Savoy told the board about his time in jail since his arrest more than two years ago. He has spent time at Valley Street jail in Manchester as well as jails in Rockingham, Carroll and now Merrimack counties, he said.
Savoy said he completed a class called “Living Balanced,” as required, and elected to take another class called “Think for Once.” He also has taken a parenting class, attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and plans to take an anger management class starting this month.
Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said “Living Balanced” is multidimensional program covering everything from substance abuse to empathizing with victims. “Think for Once” teaches participants how to make healthy choices, he said.
Savoy pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension and conspiracy to hindering apprehension or prosecution.
Savoy’s mother, Catherine Savoy, spoke on her son’s behalf and extended her condolences to the Cates family.
She said her son should be punished for his actions but that his family has noticed a change in him during his prison term. She said he has accepted responsibility and expressed remorse for what he did.
“He did not know that those boys were going to commit murder,” she said, adding that he was “between a rock and hard place” once he learned the truth.
Savoy recapped his involvement in the hours after the murder to the board. He said he first thought he was giving his friends, Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble, an alibi and destroying evidence related to a burglary. He didn’t believe they had killed a woman because he said Spader is a “compulsive liar.”
Savoy said he read about the murder but was scared to come forward because threats had been made against him and his family. After two hours of questioning by New Hampshire State Police investigators, he decided to cooperate when police told him to picture such an attack happening to his family.
“It struck a chord, because I have three little sisters,” he said.
Strelzin said Savoy’s cooperation and testimony against Spader and Gribble was vital to the prosecution, particularly him leading investigators to the spot along the Nashua River in Hollis where he had thrown a bag of clothes the murderers had been wearing. Police also found a jewelry box from the Cates’ home and one of David Cates’ old wallets.
Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).