CONCORD, N.H. (CBS/AP) Jury selection begins Wednesday in the trial of 18-year-old Steven Spader, the alleged brains behind a disturbing plot to burglarize a random Mont Vernon home and kill its occupants.
Spader and co-defendant Christopher Gribble allegedly wielded a machete and knife in the pre-dawn attacks on Oct. 4, 2009, slashing 42-year-old Kimberly Cates to death and seriously injuring her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, who survived the attack.
Two other men who prosecutors say were present in the Cates' home but did not participate in the violence - William Marks and Quinn Glover - are expected to testify.
Potential jurors will be brought into a Nashua courthouse in groups of 100 or more to be questioned about their knowledge and opinions about the crime. The trial is expected to begin Oct 25.
Lawrence Vogelman, a defense lawyer who does not represent any of the alleged participants, said the massive publicity the case has received will make jury selection particularly challenging. The judge denied Spader's lawyers' request to move the case to another jurisdiction.
The case stirred up some controversy in June when a New Hampshire school district decided to publish pictures of Marks and Glover in their high school yearbook. At the time David Cates, the husband and father of the victims, said he couldn't fathom what the school district was thinking.
The school district later apologized for adding to the Cates family's pain, CBS affiliate WBZ reported at the time.
"The allegations are just so emotionally-laden it might be hard to get jurors to put it aside," Vogelman said. "To a certain extent, it's every citizen's greatest fear - that someone breaks into your home or the home of a loved one. When something like this happens, people really feel vulnerable."
During the trial, jurors will be shown graphic photographs of the injuries to both victims and will hear evidence that Spader started a group he dubbed "Disciples of Destruction." The home invasion has been characterized as a rite of initiation into this group.
According to CBS affiliate WBZ, jurors may also hear testimony from Jaimie Cates, now 12, who is on the state's list of potential witnesses. Jaimie told police she survived being slashed from head to toe by pretending to be dead, then calling for help on a cell phone. Her father, David Cates, who also may testify, was on a business trip at the time of the attacks.
Spader is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and burglary, and witness tampering, and faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted.faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted. Gribble's trial is scheduled to begin in February.