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Suspect in family murders appears in court

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge entered not-guilty pleas Tuesday on behalf of Jordan Adam Criado, the Medford man accused of killing his wife and four children in July.

Criado was "unable" to enter a plea in court, his attorney said, so Judge Lorenzo Mejia entered the plea for him.

Criado, 51, has been charged with 24 counts of aggravated murder and four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree arson. He is accused of killing his 30-year-old wife, Tabasha Paige-Criado, and children Elijah, 7, Isaac, 6, Andrew, 5, and Aurora, 2, and lighting multiple fires in their Medford home on July 18.

Appearing Tuesday morning via a video link from the Jackson County Jail, Criado sat hunched over, handcuffed and mute. His long hair and beard were in disarray. Criado kept his head down during the minutes-long hearing, but nodded in the affirmative when Mejia asked whether he could hear the proceedings in the courtroom.

Criado's court-appointed defense team of Duane McCabe and Geoffrey Gokey, both based in Central Oregon, have requested two delays in entering a plea. Following a brief conference in the judge's chambers Tuesday, Gokey told Mejia his client was still unable to enter a plea. Gokey declined to discuss any aspects of the case with media following the hearing.

Mejia set a March 5 deadline for the defense to decide whether it will pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. The state and defense should agree on a trial date before that deadline, Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert said.

Criado, a registered sex offender in California, is accused of stabbing his wife and two of the children, then setting their home on fire.

The incident occurred just hours after police drove Paige-Criado home following Criado's report that she'd gone missing.

Dozens of emergency responders tried desperately to save Paige-Criado and the four children that summer morning. Criado spent almost three weeks in an area hospital after suffering smoke inhalation and lacerations before being released to authorities. He has remained in Jackson County Jail without bail since early August.

Paige-Criado died of stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, according to autopsy results. Sons Andrew, 5, and Isaac, 6, died of stab wounds to the neck and carbon-monoxide poisoning from the arson. Elijah, 7, and Aurora, 2, died from carbon-monoxide poisoning, determined through toxicology tests.

Criado is the sole suspect in the murders. The first four counts of aggravated murder relate to the murder of the Criado children, who were all under the age of 14, an aggravating factor under Oregon murder statutes. The next 20 counts relate to combinations of multiple victims, another aggravating factor. The four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter and arson all relate to the children and the manner in which they died, prosecutors said.

At Criado's first arraignment, he sat with his head lolling to the side, his eyes closed and made a mumbling request for a lawyer and a pastor as a judge explained Criado could be facing the death penalty.

Prosecutors have not yet determined whether to seek the death penalty.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.