NASHUA, N.H. — A 21-year-old man who admitted he took part in a machete and knife attack on a New Hampshire woman and her daughter was convicted of murder Friday, after jurors rejected his claim of insanity.
Minutes after the jury returned the verdict against Christopher Gribble, New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson imposed the mandatory sentence of life without parole, telling Gribble, “infinity is not enough jail time.”
For the first time in the proceedings, victim Jaimie Cates, now 12, appeared in the courtroom and witnessed the sentencing. Most of Gribble’s knife blows targeted her. A lead investigator confirmed that even as she lay bloodied and feigning death on the bedroom floor, she opened one eye and watched as Gribble plunged his knife into her mother’s throat.
Jaimie entered the courtroom after her father had delivered an emotional victim impact statement, in which he said he felt it was his “duty as a husband and a father to be here for every moment of this trial.”
“I’ve lived the accounts of Kim’s murder one excruciating blow after another,” Cates said. “Through these accounts I have heard my wife’s last breath, heard my daughter’s screams, seen my daughter’s perfect body mutilated.”
Cates spoke in November at the sentencing of convicted killer Steven Spader, who wielded the machete in the attacks. As he said then of Spader, Cates said the verdict and multiple life sentences Gribble received are not justice.
“I can only hope that justice will find you very soon,” he said to Gribble, who remained as expressionless as he was while the verdicts were returned and when he testified in detail about the attacks.
“I don’t have any illusions this invasion of the sanctity of our home will ever be behind us,” David Cates said. “Jaimie and I won’t live a day without thinking of the horrific things that happened in our home and that Kim will never again be with us.”
Abramson thanked Jaimie for her presence in the courtroom, saying it was nice to finally get the chance to meet her. The judge assured her that the men involved in this “horrible crime” could never hurt her again.
Jaimie left the courtroom through a door to the right of the judge’s bench, dodging the media who tracked her every move.
When he appeared in court for the verdict Gribble wore slacks and a dress shirt. When he reappeared in court for his sentencing he was wearing bright orange prison garb, shackled at the wrists and ankles.
The judge closed by telling Jaimie that she wished her better days.
Defense attorney Matt Hill declined to comment.
The jury deliberated approximately two hours over two days before finding him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit burglary and witness tampering.
Gribble admitted he took part in the Oct. 4, 2009, home invasion and that he and Spader intended to kill anyone they found in the house. Spader is serving a life sentence.
Gribble took the stand in his own defense during the 11-day trial, claiming he had been abused by his mother and that he had fantasized about torturing and killing her. He asked a jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity, but prosecution experts who examined him testified Gribble had an anti-social personality but knew the difference between right and wrong.
Juries in New Hampshire have wide latitude to determine what a mental disease or defect is and whether it was the cause of the crimes committed. It has been more than half a century since a New Hampshire jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.