Justice for dead toddler comes from overseas, more than two decades later
By By BENJAMIN KLEIN and KIMBERLY HOUGHTON Union Leader Correspondents
Steven Kamberdis is shown in this handout photo.
NASHUA — Twenty-two years after fleeing the country on the eve of being sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of his 2-year-old stepson, James Chartier, former Nashua resident Steven Kamberidis has been sentenced to 18 years in a Greek prison for his crime.
At a news conference attended by Chartier's family, members of the FBI, state Attorney General's Office and the Nashua Police Department announced that Kamberidis, who had remarried and was living a new life in Greece thanks to family contacts, has been tried and convicted in a Greek court.
Speaking for the family, Tim Grover, who was Chartier's uncle, said the family was grateful to both Greek and U.S. authorities for having never given up their pursuit of justice. Grover held back tears as he talked about his nephew and said the family is greatly relieved that Kamberidis in prison.
FBI agent Kiernan Ramsey, who has extensive experience working on international cases, said the entire situation was unprecedented.
"Kamberidis is a Greek citizen, and this is the first time ever that a Greek citizen was tried in Greece for an American crime after fleeing prosecution,"' Ramsey said. "I was surprised that they arrested him."
Ramsey said U.S. authorities have known Kamberidis was in Greece since before 2006, but that Greece does not extradite its own citizens. To convict Kamberidis, Ramsey said, the Greek court used Nashua court documents and arrest reports as evidence.
Ramsey said he heard that Kamberidis was surprised when he was arrested in his car. Kamberidis had been working in family businesses, including a carpet store.
State and federal officials said they will continue trying to have Kamberidis extradited to New Hampshire so he can serve time here.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said the family had been informed that, despite knowing where Kamberidis was, the state had little hope of bringing him back. Ramsey, Young and Nashua Police Chief John Seusing all said they were grateful to Greek authorities for taking action.
At the time of his trial in New Hampshire, Kamberidis was out on $50,000 cash or surety bail, Young said. As part of his bail conditions, he had to stay employed and live with his parents in Manchester. However, his passport was not taken away, and on the eve of being sentenced, he fled the country.
Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis was the original judge who set Kamberidis' bail, which Young said was standard for the time. Dalianis is now chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Regarding Kamberidis' capture, Dalianis said she would not comment on any case, whether ongoing or closed.
Seusing said the Kamberidis case has weighed heavily on the department.
"Retired police officers would call me from time to time to check up on the case, to see how it was going," said Seusing, who added that the entire department was happy to see Kamberidis behind bars.
Tracey Kamberidis was a stay-at-home mom for James and another son, Nicholas.
On Nov. 17, 1989, Tracey Kamberidis — who was several months pregnant at the time with Kamberidis' child — asked her husband to watch her two boys while she went to a doctor appointment in Massachusetts and then To visit her mother in Lowell, Mass. According to court records, she left the house about 4:30 p.m., later calling home to ask Steven Kamberidis whether she could stay a little longer.
When she returned home about 10 p.m., James was already asleep, she testified during the trial. She told the jury that she did not check on him when she came home because "Steve said he was fine."
Around midnight, Tracey Kamberidis saw her husband holding James and walking around with him. At the time, Steven Kamberidis told her that James had had a nightmare.
She took the boy, held him and rocked him in a rocking chair. His eyes weren't quite fully open and he had a weak cry, she testified. She also noted that one arm and one leg were swinging on their own, according to court records.
Steven Kamberidis tried using water to wake the boy, but it wasn't successful, she told the court. She said she went to get dressed to take James to the hospital, but her husband told her the boy was fine and they could go to the hospital the following day if he wasn't better.
They then placed James in their bed and went to sleep, according to court documents. When Tracey Kamberidis woke up about 9 a.m., her husband told her he had been trying to waken James for the previous four hours.
"I panicked, and I went and I threw clothes on him, and I brought him St. Joseph's," she testified. James was then flown to Massachusetts General Hospital with a head injury, she testified, adding she eventually learned that the child was brain dead.
"I asked Steve if he had hit him, and he said 'yes,' and I asked him why, and he didn't say anything," testified the mother. The child died later that day at the hospital, which was the last time Tracey Kamberidis spoke with her husband, according to court records.
Court records show doctors who examined James found many bruises on the little boy, including eight fresh bruises on his back, seven fresh bruises along the right side of his head and additional bruises on his right shoulder, right knee and right thigh.
Authorities also found vomit on the floor of the bathroom and on the shirt James was wearing the night of the incident, court records show.
At the trial, former Assistant Attorney General Cynthia White and Ann Rice, now deputy attorney general, prosecuted the case, while the defense team was handled by attorneys Mark Sisti and Nicholas Holmes. Judge William Groff presided over the trial.