A Medford man accused of the largest multiple homicide in Jackson County's recent history admitted in court Tuesday he killed his wife and conceded he likely would be convicted of her murder and the murders of his four children.
Jordan Adam Criado, 52, entered an Alford plea in Jackson County Circuit Court on five counts of aggravated murder and one of first-degree arson. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Despite the pleas, an emotional Criado insisted he did not kill his children.
Crying and pounding his chest, he repeatedly denied murdering each of the four children. "These are my babies," Criado shouted. "I did not kill my babies."
Nevertheless, Criado entered Alford pleas on each of the murders. In an Alford plea, the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It has the same legal effect as a guilty plea, said Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert.
Criado was facing the death penalty and 24 counts of aggravated murder, and four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter, and first-degree arson for killing his 30-year-old wife, Tabasha Paige-Criado, and children Elijah, 7; Isaac, 6; Andrew, 5; and Aurora, 2; and then lighting multiple fires in their Medford home on July 18, 2011.
Prosecutors will seek a "true" life sentence on the aggravated murder counts, and 90 months of consecutive prison time on the first-degree arson charge, Heckert said.
Criado, who was the sole suspect in the murders, appeared in Judge Lorenzo Mejia's courtroom and admitted to killing his wife. But he denied he had killed his children, saying it was his wife who took their lives.
"I killed my wife because she killed my babies — my life," Criado said. "I know I have killed her. And I am sorry for that."
Heckert said, however, that "overwhelming evidence" will show Criado committed all five murders. She said that evidence will be released at his sentencing, set for 1 p.m. April 15.
He will be sentenced to "life without the possibility of parole," Heckert said.
Criado was noticeably thinner than his last appearance, with a grizzled gray beard and shaggy black hair. Criado told Mejia he was acting on the advice of his court-appointed defense team of Duane McCabe and Geoffrey Gokey.
As Mejia read off the aggravated murder counts, Criado repeatedly denied he had killed the children. But, after each outburst, Criado then offered his Alford guilty pleas to their murders.
Criado said he did not know whether he set fire to their home, before offering another Alford plea to a single count of first-degree arson.
Tabasha Paige-Criado's family had called for forgiveness, as well as for Criado to take responsibility for the deaths. The plea agreement took the death penalty off the table, and was in accordance with wishes of the family of Paige-Criado, Heckert said.
"This is exactly what the family wanted," Heckert said. "The family never wanted the death penalty."
Mejia accepted Criado's guilty pleas, stating the evidence was overwhelming that Criado committed the crimes.
Paige-Criado died of stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, according to autopsy results. Sons Andrew and Isaac died of stab wounds to the neck and carbon-monoxide poisoning from the arson. Elijah also suffered external stab wounds. He and Aurora died from carbon-monoxide poisoning, toxicology tests determined.
"Only one child, Aurora, had no external injuries," Heckert said.
Following the courtroom drama, Medford police Chief Tim George praised the district attorney's office, agreeing the evidence was overwhelming. George, who had been at the helm of the department for just eight days when the murders occurred, discussed the emotional toll the case had taken on the first responders to the scene.
"A lot of people gave superhuman effort to help those victims survive that day. And, sadly, it just didn't happen, except for (Criado)," George said. "You don't ever get over it. You just get on with it."
Gokey said Criado agreed to the plea agreement because he was not allowed to offer "extreme emotional disturbance" as a defense for his actions. Heckert said the aggravated murder charges disallowed that defense argument under Oregon law.
The first four counts of aggravated murder in the case related to the murder of the Criado children, who were all younger than 14, an aggravating factor under Oregon murder statutes. The next 20 counts related to combinations of multiple victims, another aggravating factor. The four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter, and arson all related to the children and the manner in which they died, said Heckert.
Before the plea agreement, the death penalty would have been an option for a jury to consider, Heckert said. All of the other counts have been dismissed per the plea agreement. Criado has waived his rights to any direct appeal as a result of this Alford guilty plea, she said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.