BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Nearly two weeks after the mass murder that shocked Southern Oregon — friends and family celebrated the lives of Tabasha Paige-Criado and her four children Saturday at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.
In the aftermath of one of Medford's worst tragedies and its largest homicide case in modern times, some mourners Saturday had trouble accepting the manner of the Criado family's deaths, decried domestic violence and vowed to stand up and fight against it.
Paige-Criado, 30, and her children, Elijah, 7, Isaac, 6, Andrew, 5, and Aurora, 2, lay side by side in four caskets Saturday, Tabasha's in pink and the others white. A few hundred loved ones wearing purple — hailing from Bakersfield, Southern Oregon, Colorado and Arizona — all places Paige-Criado had lived in — sang, danced and wept.
"Sometimes you have to let go and praise the Lord. I can't make sense of this. I can't solve this," Pastor Tommie Wofford told the mourners. "It's too big. Let God handle it. Just focus on God and let him bless you today."
Family and friends, including Tabasha's half-brother Jesse Adams of Phoenix, Ariz., spoke. Adams called his sister smart, strong and loving. Other family members shared how Tabasha constantly smiled and joked.
Adams read a "letter to God" written by Tabasha, in which she said her soul, once she passes, would be given only to Jesus Christ.
Paige-Criado and her children were pulled from the ruins of a burning house on 10th Street in Medford on July 18. Jordan Criado, 51, a registered sex offender who is suspected of killing his family, remains in intensive care at Rogue Valley Medical Center, where a ventilator is being used to keep his lungs operating. The Jackson County District Attorney's Office is exploring the possibility of taking the case before the grand jury even if Criado doesn't revive.
But details of Criado's struggle for life took a back seat Saturday to an outpouring of emotion for the people he is suspected of killing.
"She loved like nobody else," Adams said. "I've heard stories from Medford to Bakersfield of how she always gave to somebody else in need."
Evelyn Young, her great-aunt and executive assistant to the president at Cal State Bakersfield, said she made a promise to Tabasha to not stay quiet against what she called, "the ultimate act of domestic violence."
Young told The Californian newspaper Saturday that Tabasha had recently talked about getting a divorce. Bill Crowles, Tabasha's stepfather who lives in Bakersfield with Tabasha's mother, Gwen Crowles, said Tabasha would sometimes call in the early morning hours crying.
Tabasha and Jordan Criado met at Bakersfield College in 2003 and started a family in 2004, she said.
When family members learned of Criado's past convictions — molesting three young girls in Sacramento County in the 1980s and serving more than 11 years in prison — they asked Tabasha to leave him, but she stayed with her husband.
Then they moved to Oregon.
"Jordan moved her to get her away from her family. That was a sign," Young told those in attendance. "Marriage is not a prison. Marriage is not a purchase. Don't miss the signs."
When Tabasha finally tried to leave, Young said, Jordan killed her and the kids.
"Break the silence. Speak up, speak out," Young said.
Young later sang a boisterous, uplifting rendition of "I'm comin' home." She held a small, white teddy bear that a young girl had left for Aurora during a Medford vigil. It would be placed with Aurora during the burial at Union Cemetery.
Obituaries for the children were read.
Elijah, the oldest, amazed teachers with his ability to build sophisticated toys, gave toys to other students, and made art projects for his siblings. Isaac was artistic and had an obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine, according to his teacher. He was above his grade level in reading and writing.
Andrew was in Head Start, and liked Iron Man, Spider-Man and Hot Wheels. Aurora, the youngest, was in early Head Start, and loved Barbie dolls.
"This is a time to turn your life," Wofford told loved ones. "Let's put the past behind, and look toward the future."
The family thanked the Oregon Department of Justice, police, court officials, first responders and community members from Medford. Donations by them have helped pay funeral expenses and counseling for family members, Young said.
A fund for the family at Bank of America also has been set up. The account number is 0415572302, the Paige-Criado Memorial Fund. Excess donations will be donated to Dunn House Outreach, for domestic violence victims, in Medford.
Jorge Barrientos is a reporter for The Bakersfield Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7423 or email@example.com.