MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A Southern Oregon man sobbed and beat his chest in court Tuesday, admitting that he killed his wife in July 2011, but blaming her for the deaths of their four children.
However, Jordan Adam Criado entered what's known as an Alford guilty plea to four counts of aggravated murder and one of arson.
That means that while he does not admit guilt, he acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him. In return, prosecutors will not pursue a death sentence, and will recommend life in prison without parole.
"For my wife, Tabasha, I know I have killed her, and I am sorry for that," said Criado, dressed in an orange jail smock and pants, his shoulder-length dark hair hanging in his face. "My son, Elijah, I did not kill him."
"I kill my wife, because she kill my babies. My Elijah, my Isaac, my Andrew, my babies," he sobbed in heavily accented English, thumping his chest with the points of stiff fingers on the name of each child. Turning to District Attorney Beth Heckert, he went on, "My babies. My babies. My babies."
Judge Lorenzo Mejia accepted the pleas, telling Criado that the evidence against him was overwhelming.
Sentencing was set for April 15. Heckert said the evidence against Criado will come out then.
Tabasha Paige-Criado, 30, was out all night, and appeared completely at ease in a security video from a convenience store, where police picked her up and gave her a ride home after Criado reported her missing. She had been posting on her Facebook page that while she loved her children — Elijah, 7; Isaac, 6; Andrew, 5, and Aurora, 2 — she could not stand "my hubby."
Hours later, firefighters pulled all five members of the family from their burning house and tried to revive them on the front lawn as bystanders watched, but Criado was the only one to survive. He lay unconscious for nearly three weeks from smoke inhalation and was arrested when hospital staffed discharged him in a wheelchair. Authorities said Paige-Criado and three of the children were stabbed. Autopsies list the probable cause of death for all four children as smoke inhalation. Authorities said they found multiple knives, and fires had been started throughout the house, which has since been torn down.
Wally Johnson, Paige-Criado's biological father, sat silently in court, dressed all in black, but had nothing to say after the pleas were entered.
The case marked the highest number of murder victims in a single case in Jackson County history, said Police Chief Tim George.
"People did a superhuman effort to revive people," he said. "Unfortunately, the only survivor was the suspect. You never get over it. People who worked that case put their heart and soul into it. It scarred a community."
Friends and family said Paige-Criado met her husband at a community college in Bakersfield, Calif., after getting out of the Navy. She married him despite knowing he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting three girls under the age of 14 in Sacramento County. Criado moved his family to Oregon to get away from his wife's family. She went to another local community college, and he worked out of his home fixing cars, neighbors said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press