Portrait of a 'ghost'

As Medford man suspected of killing his family recovers, details emerge of a dark past
Josh Droullard helps his son Caleb leave a memento for the four Criado children who died from stab wounds and smoke inhalation after being attacked in their West 10th Street home, shown in the background.Bob Pennell

Jordan Criado spent the 1990s behind bars as a sex offender in California but lived the past six years like "a ghost" to authorities in Oregon until Monday, when police suspect he killed his wife and four young children in their west Medford home.

Medford police say they expect any day to arrest Criado, 51, for allegedly killing 30-year-old Tabasha Paige-Criado and their four young children. Police suspect Criado stabbed them before igniting fires in several locations in their home at 1027 W. 10th St. and remaining inside, killing all but himself.

Criado remained in critical condition but was stable Tuesday at Rogue Valley Medical Center, where he was being treated for smoke inhalation under police guard as the lone suspect in the largest single homicide case in Jackson County's modern history.

"He's not walking out of there alone," Medford police Chief Tim George said. "He's walking out with us."

When he does, it will be a rare police escort for Criado since he first turned up to register as a sex offender with the Oregon State Police in September 2005, according to various records and sources.

OSP records show he has fully complied with his sex offender registry, updating it annually near his Dec. 29 birthday as required.

Medford police were called just once to the Criados' West 10th Street residence, for a code-enforcement complaint that was quickly and amicably resolved, Lt. Bob Hansen said.

Criado was never supervised through Jackson County's Community Justice program, nor does he show up on any federal court cases, records show.

State court records show not even a traffic ticket for Criado, with only a January 2011 small claims civil suit for $650 tainting his judicial profile in Oregon.

"That guy here was kind of a ghost," Community Justice Director Shane Hagey said.

The one blemish to that record that offers the link to Criado's past unearthed Tuesday, while Southern Oregon stood in shock over the deaths of Paige-Criado, Elijah, 7, Isaac, 6, Andrew, 5, and Aurora Elizabeth, 2.

Criado was arrested Sept. 29, 2005, in Medford on a California fugitive warrant and extradited to Bakersfield, where he ended up serving three months in jail for failing to register as a sex offender there, court records show.

What put him on that sex-offender registration was a 20-year prison term in 1990 after Criado pleaded guilty to eight counts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14, Sacramento County court records show.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Cindy Besemer remembers the case well.

Criado was originally charged with 36 felony child-molestation counts involving three different young female victims, Besemer said. During the case's infancy, Criado's attorney offered to have Besemer interview Criado directly with the expectation that she would drop the case after that interview, Besemer said.

"It is very rare that a defense attorney will allow you to talk to their client," Besemer said Tuesday from her office in Sacramento.

Besemer declined to discuss facts of the case or details of that interview, which she said she conducted without any up-front commitments.

"I, obviously, was not convinced at the end of the interview that he was innocent," Besemer said.

She even collected some statements she intended to use during a trial that never came, Besemer said. He pleaded guilty to eight counts to begin his prison term. How long he served in prison is unclear, but it was at least 10 years, Besemer said.

Criado has not yet been charged in Monday's deaths.

Indictments containing multiple murder charges typically include at least one charge of aggravated murder, which could lead to the death penalty in Oregon upon conviction.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston said Tuesday that he was evaluating evidence as it came in and there were no decisions made yet over when a grand jury would consider any charges against Criado.

Investigators armed with a search warrant Tuesday morning entered the Criados' house to recover evidence.

Hansen declined Tuesday to say whether police recovered what they believed to be a weapon used in the stabbings.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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