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Spader records deepen darkness

The more that is learned about convicted murderer Steven Spader, the less sense his life seems to make.

Many people would prefer not to think at all about the 21-year-old Spader, who orchestrated the savage October 2009 murder of 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and attacked her then-11-year-old daughter, Jaimie. That’s understandable.

What’s beyond comprehension, still, is how the then-17-year-old Spader led three friends into the Cates’ Mont Vernon home to commit one of the most repulsive crimes imaginable.

Court documents released this week in Hillsborough County Superior Court do little to illuminate that question. If anything, they only darken it.

It’s hard to think how his adoptive parents, Steven W. and Christine Spader, could have done more for their son than they did. They tried to provide a warm, loving environment in their Brookline home for the child whose biological mother was a drug user who put him up for adoption. Court records show a boy who did well in school, participated in extracurricular activities and went on vacations with his family.

And when it all started to go wrong in middle school and high school, the Spaders sought the help of professionals, just like the experts say you’re supposed to. They hired psychologists, psychiatrists and an advocate to make sure his school wrote him an Individualized Educational Plan. They borrowed money against their home and spent tens of thousands of dollars on programs in leadership and residential treatment programs in New York and Utah.

Nothing helped.

According to the court records, Spader’s father was asked, in a deposition after his son was convicted, what information he would like the judge to consider: “You know, certainly the crime is just beyond the scope of my imagination. I mean, I feel for the families. But obviously we’ve tried to do a lot of stuff in the mental health area here in New Hampshire, and it’s been a serious letdown,” he said. “It’s just appalling how poor it is here in this state, just absolutely appalling.”

He’s right in his assessment that the state mental health system is lacking, but it’s hard to hang this tragedy on the state or other social institutions, or see how an improved state mental health system would have made a difference for the son who rebuffed his parents best efforts to help him.

As discomforting as it is to consider, sometimes it just seems that the die is cast, and court documents show a kid who seemed hell-bent on playing the role of gangsta wannabe despite interventions from attentive parents and a veritable platoon of mental-health professionals. What other conclusion can be drawn when parents seem to do everything right, but it all still goes wrong to the nth degree?

So now Spader can play the role of unremarkable prison inmate for the rest of his life. “He said that prison was good for him and that he probably would have ended up there for something no matter what we did.” wrote his mother, Christine Spader, in a letter on file at the court, where records also show that Steven Spader talks to his parents daily and sees them weekly.

Unfortunately, Jaimie Cates doesn’t have that same opportunity to interact with her mother Kimberly, making it completely understandable why some believe even a lifetime in prison is too good for Steven Spader.