Paragraph 15 reads: "As part of an attempt to save the marriage, he began
seeing a counselor and had his wife start taking Prozac, Thompson
The Prozac was not mentioned during the trial but, during the
penalty phase, it was used as possible mitigating circumstances
although only in the most cursory manner
Socorro Caro received the death penalty.
Mother must stand trial in children's deaths
Socorro Caro: Testimony at preliminary hearing describes failing marriage.
B y Br uce McL ean
Ventur a County S tar wr iter
T hursday March 23, 2000
By Bruce McLean
S taff writer
Xavier and S ocorro "Cora" Caro's crumbling marriage descended into a final,
savage argument only hours before the mother allegedly shot three of her
four boys to death and tried to kill herself, Cora Caro's sobbing mother said
in court Wednesday.
"Cora said, 'He doesn't want us any more,'" Juanita Leon said during Caro's
preliminary hearing Wednesday. "S he said, 'He's gone, mom. I don't have
any money now. I don't know what I 'm going to do.'"
A few hours later, after physician Xavier Caro had left his S anta Rosa Valley
home to cool off at his Northridge office, he returned and found his wife shot
in the head, and his three children dead in their beds.
He later told a detective he took his anger out on his bleeding wife, who lay
on the floor in their bedroom.
"He said he had kicked her in the buttocks," said Dan T hompson, a sheriff's
homicide detective at the time of the killings. "He said he kicked her after he
found his children murdered."
T hompson and Leon were among five witnesses at Caro's preliminary
hearing. After hearing their testimony, Judge Charles McGrath determined
there was enough evidence to support charges that Caro murdered her three
children -- Joey, 11, Mikey, 8, and Christopher, 5. T heir fourth child, 1-year-
old Gabriel, was not attacked.
T he charges make Caro, 42, eligible for the death penalty, though
prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek that punishment.
S he is scheduled to appear for S uperior Court arraignment April 25. S he
remains jailed without bail.
Caro, wearing a blue jail uniform, shackles on her ankles, her hair still
shortened from brain surgery and a scar visible on the side of her head,
wept numerous times during the hearing.
T he mention of her children's names, their death certificates entered as
evidence, descriptions of her boys' fatal wounds, each brought anguished
cries from the defendant.
According to testimony, the couple's 13-year marriage began a serious
decline in August.
Xavier Caro told T hompson that it was that month the doctor discovered he
was in "grave financial straits."
"He told me Cora was spending too much money, including supporting her
parents financially," T hompson said, adding that she had her parents "on
T he doctor took steps to rectify the situation. He halted payments to her
parents. He took away her credit cards and checks and dismissed her as
manager of his office, having her pick up her boxed belongings "like any
other employee," Leon said.
Xavier Caro also admitted to T hompson that he'd had a brief affair that same
month and had begun discussing the possibility of separating from his wife.
As par t of an attempt to save the marr iage, he began seeing a
counselor and had his w ife star t taking Pr ozac, T hompson said.
But he consulted a divorce attorney. S he discovered notes from that meeting
in her husband's day planner and confronted her husband.
Xavier Caro told T hompson his wife feared she and the children would be left
penniless and destitute. He explained to her if there was a divorce, he legally
had to support his children, that she would get half of their assets.
"He indicated to me that she did not believe that," T hompson said.
T hompson also interviewed the woman who took over Cora Caro's office
manager job when she was fired by her husband.
S he reported that the wife called her in late August or early S eptember and
"told her she was depressed and she was looking at the gun and thinking
about doing it," T hompson said.
I n the months that followed there were numerous arguments between the
two, some of which descended into violence, witnesses testified.
But who became violent became a point of contention.
Leon indicated Xavier Caro physically and verbally abused his wife and that
she'd seen him hit her.
T he day after the killings, he told T hompson that it was his wife who would
"He said she had a very bad temper and had been physical with him in the
past and had thrown things at him and injured him in the past," T hompson
Again, on Nov. 22, an argument that started when he disciplined their eldest
child, Joey, turned physical.
According to Leon's testimony and Xavier Caro's statements to Thompson,
the following took place that night:
T he family had planned to take off the next day for a T hanksgiving
celebration at the couple's vacation home near Modesto.
Xavier Caro came home from work, and the family ate a light dinner. Both
Caros also had a margarita or two each.
During dinner, Joey apparently angered his father with a comment.
Later that night, Xavier Caro removed a television and video games from his
son's room as punishment.
S he thought the punishment too harsh and an argument began.
T he argument moved from the punishment to the couple's problems and
escalated to shouting.
Leon, who was in her room in the house preparing to sleep, said she heard
the husband yelling "at the top of his lungs."
"He was cussing at Cora," Leon said.
Leon ran upstairs toward the couple's bedroom, where she saw Cora Caro on
the floor, crying at his feet.
Leon said in court that Xavier Caro had his foot on his wife's legs, but
prosecutors reminded her of an earlier interview in which she said Cora Caro
was wrapped around his legs, trying to prevent him from leaving.
T he doctor ended up leaving the home and went to his office. Leon went to
Joey's room and found him frightened by his parents' argument.
"He said, 'Grandma, I 'm so afraid,'" Leon said.
S he checked on the other two boys, Michael and Christopher, and found
Leon decided to leave -- "I thought, 'he's coming back and I don't want to be
here'" -- and went to Joey's room to say goodbye.
"He said, 'Why don't you stay, grandma? I 'm so afraid.'"
When she left, Leon said, her daughter was crying but appeared OK. But
Cora Caro said her husband no longer wanted her or the children around
Xavier Caro told T hompson he got one phone call from his wife while at his
"S he was incoherent, dreadful, tearful, pleading with him to come home,"
T hompson said.
He said the conversation ended with what he took to be a rare compliment
from his wife.
He said Cora told him, "You always know what to do, you know what's
When he returned home about 11:30, he found his wife on the floor of their
bedroom. He called 911, unaware that his wife had shot herself, but
discovered her head wound and a gun underneath her while talking with the
Wondering about his children, he dropped the phone and went to check on
T hompson said that on the 911 tape there is silence followed by a distant
"agonizing, guttural, gut-wrenching scream" as he discovered his children.
He returned to the phone and told the dispatcher what he'd found.
"His babies were dead," T hompson said.