Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
On October 4, 2009, 19-year-old Christopher Gribble and three accomplices entered the Mont Vernon, New Hampshire home of Kimberly Cates and used a knife and a machete to kill her and severely maim her daughter Jaime.
Christopher was homeschooled by his mother Tamara and participated in Boy Scouts. His father Richard said that he and his wife “tried to teach their son right from wrong” and aimed “to instill a set of values in him.” During Christopher’s trial, more than one witness “praised the Gribble’s dedication to their sons.” Christopher, however, claimed that he was abused by his mother so extremely that he “wanted to kill her.” Christopher said that, as a child, she would “regularly pin him to the couch and told him not to make any noise while she popped acne and other sores on his back and legs.” His mother admitted in court that she had spanked him so hard when he was 5 that he wet himself and she broke the spoon used during the spanking.
Acquaintances of Christopher said he was “awkward, laughed nervously and just could not pick up on social cues.” His father Richard also stated that, though Christopher was “intelligent and eloquent,” he had “trouble telling when someone wanted to stop talking to him or picking up on other cues.”
Described as a thrill killing, the murder became known widely as “The Mont Vernon Murder.” It was gruesome, with Kimberly hacked to death with 32 blows to her head and torso; Jaime suffered 18 wounds herself. Christopher himself used a knife, while one of his accomplices used a machete. When later interrogated about the murder, Christopher was excited to talk about it. Donna Brown, Christopher’s attorney, said that, “Something rose up from inside him to the surface and could not be controlled.”
Christopher entered a plea for insanity. He personally blamed his homeschooling upbringing for his actions, saying that he “wanted to get out, and have a real social life.” However, on March 25, 2011, a jury rejected that plea and Christopher was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Christopher had three other accomplices, who are all serving prison time as well — one of them, Steven Spader, is also serving a life sentence.
View the case index here.
That sounds like possible low-end Aspergers. Or an isolated kid genius. Or both. If his homeschooling kept him even more isolated, it would have made the situation worse, or at least kept him away from outsiders who might have noticed and intervened before there was a body count. Because as he gradually lost it, his family would have been in such continuous contact they would have missed the signs — “slow boiling frog” syndrome.