July 29. 2013 9:36PM

In released court records, Spader's past offers few clues to Cates murder

New Hampshire Union Leader


MANCHESTER — Court records made public Monday show Steven A. Spader had a fairly unremarkable early childhood, growing up in a three-bedroom colonial in suburban Brookline with two loving and helpful parents; his only behavior problems stemmed from being a "class clown" who loved attention.

"We hugged and kissed each other and fooled around. He was kind of like a teddy bear kind of kid. You know he would tease you and laugh and fool around," Spader's mother, Christine Spader, 60, told prosecutors in a January deposition of her only son, whom she and her husband Steven adopted at five days old.

There were few early childhood clues in the hundreds of pages of documents made public Monday that would indicate Spader, 21, would mastermind the Oct. 4, 2009, home invasion in which he hacked Mont Vernon mother Kimberly L. Cates, 42, to death with a machete and maimed her then 11-year old daughter, Jaimie, in a pre-dawn bedside ambush.

Problems emerged only as Spader grew older and struggled to keep pace with the academic and social demands of a competitive school system. By the time he was a freshman at Hollis-Brookline High School, tensions mounted between Spader and his parents as they pressed him to keep up with his school work. His attempts to fit in with peers increasingly failed, according to hundreds of pages of court files.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian L. Abramson granted the motion by the New Hampshire Union Leader and another newspaper that Spader's file be made public.

The file contains transcribed depositions of Spader's parents, forensic psychiatrists and mental health history that were filed earlier this year when the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama decision voided Spader's 2010 automatic life sentence without possibility of parole.

The court ruled mandatory life without parole sentencing unconstitutional for those who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. Spader was a month shy of his 18th birthday when the home invasion and murder took place.

The documents were prepared for a new sentencing hearing in April when Spader's attorneys hoped to win a lesser sentence. Spader did not appear at the hearing. Abramson later sentenced Spader to the same term, saying there was nothing in his youthful background, home life, maturity level or prospect for rehabilitation that would warrant a lesser sentence.

Spader's defense team hired psychologist Robert Kinscherff to conduct a psychological evaluation last December. Kinscherff found Spader had no major mental illness, but did find evidence of narcissistic personality traits, borderline personality and antisocial traits.

Adopted from an Arizona mother with substance abuse problems, Steven tested positive for marijuana and cocaine when he was born.

Spader's mother had her son psychologically tested when he was a sophomore at Hollis-Brookline High School in 2007, where the report showed Spader exhibited "unstable sense of self, deepening isolation, and a disinclination to restrain his impulses," the report showed.

Spader underwent at least two psychiatric inpatient hospitalizations since January 2008, often as a result of physical fights with his parents, one in which he threatened his father with a knife.

The hospitalizations occurred as Spader increasingly used energy drinks, smoked marijuana, used cocaine and other street drugs; his conflicts with his parents intensified; he began adopting a "gang persona" that was out of step with the predominantly "preppy" school culture, according to the documents.

He attended school less and ultimately dropped out in spring 2009.

His relationship with a student at Souhegan High School in Amherst, enabled Spader to emerge as the "cool" new arrival on that social scene, including his efforts to present himself as an outlaw and as the leader of his peer group.