NASHUA, N.H. (CBS) – It is one of New Hampshire’s most infamous murders: a mother slain with a machete in her bed; her 11-year-old daughter survived by playing dead.
Monday, jurors heard closing arguments in the case against Steven Spader, one of four men who allegedly broke into a Mont Vernon home last year. The 18-year-old Brookline, N.H. man is charged with first degree murder in the killing of Kimberly Cates and attempted murder for the attack on her daughter Jaime.
David Cates, Kimberly’s husband and Jaime’s father, was in the courtroom for closings, as was Steven Spader’s mother.
Two weeks of testimony featured dozens of prosecution witnesses telling the court about Spader’s alleged obsession with murder and his alleged actions that night. Several of those witnesses cut deals with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony.
On the flip side, defense attorney Jonathan Cohen never called a single witness.
During closing arguments Monday, he spent more than an hour painting many of the prosecution witnesses as liars with something to gain.
“There is a large quantity of evidence in this case, but little quality evidence,” Cohen told jurors. “You are left not knowing what happened in that house.”
He portrayed Spader as a tough-talking teenager who didn’t follow through on claims of violence. “Steven Spader cannot be trusted,” Cohen said in closing.
When prosecutors had their turn, they argued that Spader’s tough talk, particularly in prison letters that described the crime, was not exaggerated. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin said those letters were the confessions of a killer.
With photos of the victims projected in the courtroom, Strelzin called Spader “merciless” as he showed jurors the machete allegedly used to kill Kimberly and maim her daughter. “Does this look like a joke?” he asked, holding the weapon. “This is Stevie being Stevie right here. This is the real Steven Spader. You can trust this. This is the best piece of physical evidence you could get.”
“He enjoyed what he did and he enjoyed telling others about it,” Strelzin said of Spader. “He’s a cold, calculating, remorseless killer.”
Outside court, Steven Spader’s mother told reporters, “We love our son and God loves our son, too.”
The jury of 7 women and 9 men will be instructed by the judge Tuesday morning, when the pool of 16 is whittled to just 12 for deliberations.
If convicted, Steven Spader faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. While New Hampshire has a death penalty, it does not apply to the circumstances of Kimberly Cates’ slaying.
In New Hampshire the death penalty applies only in six specific circumstances: murder of a law enforcer; murder during a kidnapping; contract killings; murder committed by someone already serving a life sentence; murder during an aggravated sexual assault; and murder in conjunction with a federal drug offense.
Bernice Corpuz of WBZ News Radio and Peg Rusconi of WBZ-TV contributed to this report.