Bent, bowed and still offering denials, a Medford man accused of murdering his wife and four children in July 2011 received five life sentences Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Jordan Adam Criado, 52, admitted to killing his 30-year-old wife, Tabasha Paige-Criado. But he again denied he killed their four children Elijah, 7; Isaac, 6; Andrew, 5; and Aurora, 2; and then set multiple fires in their Medford home on July 18, 2011.
"My life is gone," Criado said.
Criado entered an Alford plea March 20 on five counts of aggravated murder and one of first-degree arson. 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, Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said.
For each aggravated murder charge, Judge Lorenzo Mejia sentenced Criado to five "true life sentences" with no possibility of parole. The sentences will run concurrently. The arson charge carried an additional 71/2; years.
In an emotional plea hearing last month, Criado admitted killing his wife, but denied murdering the children and said he didn't know if he set the 10th Street home on fire.
In a lengthy and often incoherent statement made before Monday's sentencing, Criado said he was the primary caretaker of the couple's four children. Insisting he was outside when Paige-Criado attacked their children after she returned home that morning after being out all night, Criado said he killed his wife, whom he alleged suffered from mental illness.
"She was a broken woman," he said. "I had no right to take her life. But I did not kill my babies."
Criado said he was outside working on his car when they were killed.
"When they needed me the most, I wasn't there," he said. "I knew she was not well. But I never thought she would hurt the babies."
Heckert, however, described Criado as selfish, controlling and jealous, and said that he had killed his entire family and tried to end his own, rather than let his wife go, Heckert said.
Mejia noted that Paige-Criado was leaving Criado for another man, and that he had lied to police about the trouble in their relationship.
"Yes, she was leaving," Mejia said. "Yes, there was another man."
Mejia said he believed Criado may have been a good father to the children. But the evidence does not support Criado's version of the facts regarding who killed Paige-Criado and the children.
"You dishonor the memory of how good a father you were and the memories of your children," Mejia told Criado.
"You surely did kill your wife. She did not kill the children. You killed the children."
The 911 call came in at 9:23 a.m. on July 18, 2011. Smoke was billowing from the residence at 1027 W. 10th St. Dozens of firefighters, police and ambulance crews raced to the scene, unaware they would be dealing with more than a fire. The first victim was carried from the home 16 minutes later, the last at 9:43 a.m.
The front lawn resembled a MASH unit as rescue personnel feverishly searched for pulses, pulled aside bloody clothing, pumped on small chests and poured their own breath into tiny lungs they feared might be filled with toxic smoke. But the damage had been done.
Within hours, Paige-Criado and her four children were pronounced dead at local hospitals. Criado lay unresponsive in the intensive care unit at Rogue Valley Medical Center, suffering from carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning as well as a laceration to his left wrist.
An autopsy showed she had been stabbed twice in the face, twice in the neck and 10 times in the abdomen. She had no defensive wounds, so was likely surprised by the attack, investigators said.
Three of the children — Elijah, Isaac and Andrew — suffered stab wounds, but all four, including 2-year-old Aurora, also were suffocated by Criado, prosecutors said. All the children also had ingested high, but probably nonlethal, levels of the sleep aid melatonin.
Investigators say Criado stabbed and killed Paige-Criado in their bed, then carried each of the children into the bedroom, stabbing the boys. He locked the doors, barricaded the front door with a couch, then lit several fires in the house. Criado doused himself and the interior walls in the house with olive oil, which he believed would act as an accelerant, and turned on the stove and oven. He sliced his wrists and lay on top of the children.
"He was attempting to commit suicide after killing his family," Heckert said.
Family members told police Paige-Criado had been very open about her plans to leave and divorce Criado.
Criado spent the 1990s behind bars as a sex offender in California after he pleaded guilty to eight counts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14, Sacramento County court records show.
Criado was facing 36 charges — 24 counts of aggravated murder and four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree arson. The various charges address the five victims and the different legal theories related to their deaths. He could have received the death penalty, had a jury found him guilty and handed down that sentence.
Paige-Criado's father, Willie Johnson, who goes by the Muslim name Marzuq Ziyad, spoke at Criado's sentencing. The family did not want Criado sentenced to death, Ziyad said.
They want Criado to accept responsibility for what has happened, and spend the remainder of his life atoning for his sins and saving others from this pain, Ziyad said.
"Yes, I would like to see Jordan locked up for life," Ziyad said. "But I would like to see what he can become."
Ziyad urged everyone to do what they can to end domestic violence.
"You may be the next victim," Ziyad said. "And I don't want you to feel what I'm feeling."
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email email@example.com.