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Socorro CARO

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Angry after a fight with her husband
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 22, 1999
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: March 27, 1957
Victims profile: Xavier Jr., 11, Michael, 8 and Christopher, 5 (three of her four children)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber handgun)
Location: Santa Rosa Valley, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 5, 2002
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mom sentenced for slaying sons

Saturday, April 6, 2002

By Sabrina Decker - Daily News

VENTURA -- The wife of a respected San Fernando Valley doctor was sentenced to death on Friday for the cold-blooded murders of three of the couple's young sons in their Santa Rosa Valley mansion.

In affirming a jury's recommendation that Socorro "Cora" Caro be executed, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Donald Coleman said the fatal shootings had been "willful, premeditated and committed with malice aforethought."

"The brutal murder of these three children occurred in the sanctity of their homes ... (they had become) sacrificial symbolic pawns of a failed marital relationship," he said.

Calling the slayings the "mass murder of innocent children," the judge said, "The weight of this factor is quite simply enormous."

Prosecutors said Caro was seeking revenge against her husband for their failing marriage when she shot Xavier Jr., 11, Michael, 8, and Christopher, 5, in the head at point-blank range Nov. 22, 1999. A fourth son, 13-month-old Gabriel, was unharmed, and now resides with his father.

Caro also tried to kill herself, but survived a gunshot wound to the head. She says the injury caused brain damage that prevents her from remembering what happened the night of the shootings.

Outside court, Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Temple said the sentence was appropriate.

"She murdered three kids -- an 11-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. It was murder of the most callous type by a selfish and vindictive person," Temple said.

Flanked by her attorneys and dressed in jail blues, Caro sat stoically during the sentencing.

Deputy Public Defender Nicholas Beeson supported her as she was later led from the courtroom -- pale, gaunt and visibly shaken.

Caro will be transferred to the prison in San Quentin, while her death sentence is automatically appealed.

Earlier in the hearing, Caro broke down while walking past her husband, Dr. Xavier Caro, who was seated in the courtroom gallery.

"How could you do this to us! How could you do this to us!" she shouted at Caro, a prominent rheumatologist practicing in Northridge. "Look at him! He's smirking at me! He's smirking!"

The defense argued during Caro's four-month trial that Xavier Caro actually killed his sons, then framed his wife for the crime.

Xavier Caro left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, but his spokesman, Howard Bragman, later said the day had been grueling.

"I'm glad to have the day behind me, is what he actually said," Bragman said. "It was a very tough day."

Bragman also read a prepared statement that he and Caro had drafted earlier.

"There can be no joy in this decision, only some measure of resolution," the statement said. "There are only two reasons I have been able to endure this unimaginable nightmare: the first is the remarkable support that I have been shown by my family, my friends and my staff and patients. The second is my son Gabriel."

Cora Caro's relatives and supporters were in the courtroom for the sentencing. They said they still believe she is innocent.

"We love Cora, and we're going to be backing her all the way," said Irene Zavala, a member of the jail ministry who has known Caro for years. "I just visited her last week and she had more faith than I have."

Earlier Friday, Coleman had ruled against a motion for a new trial filed by Deputy Public Defender Jean Farley, who said jurors had talked about the case before deliberations began.

"The real evil that's to be guarded against is whether or not there was any improper influence or bias on the part of the jurors," Farley said.

But Coleman said allegations of improper discussions could not be proved and he doubted they would have influenced members of the 10-woman, two-man jury who found Caro guilty and recommended the death penalty.

"We had a very intelligent jury in this case, and I am satisfied that they were not misled," he said.

 
 

Mom convicted for slaying sons

November 6, 2001

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) A jury convicted a woman Monday on three first-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of three of her four young sons.

Prosecutors had said Socorro Caro, 44, was angry after a fight with her husband and methodically shot the boys ages 11, 8 and 5 with a handgun while they slept at their million-dollar Santa Rosa Valley home on Nov. 22, 1999. A fourth infant son was unharmed.

She then shot herself in the head but survived, authorities said.

Caro's defense originally contended that her husband killed her children, then shot and framed her. She had pleaded innocent to the murder charges, but later changed her plea to innocent by reason of insanity.

Jurors deliberated five days before reaching the verdict. They were to return Wednesday to determine if Caro was sane when the murders were committed, which could take about a week.

If found sane, the jury will then decide whether to recommend the death penalty.

 
 

Socorro Caro Takes the Stand

Courts: Defense begins questioning the woman, who is charged in the fatal shootings of three of her four sons

By Steve Chawkins - Los Angeles Times

October 11, 2001

After six weeks of sitting through often plodding testimony, jurors Wednesday finally heard from Socorro Caro, the physician's wife who is accused of pulling the trigger on three of her four young sons as they slept.

Late in the afternoon, Caro grasped the arm of Deputy Public Defender Nicholas Beeson and slowly made her way to the witness stand. Asked, as all witnesses are, if she swore to tell the whole truth, so help her God, she choked back tears before exclaiming "I do!"

Caro is not legally obligated to testify and prosecutors have not taken her appearance as a witness as a given. Twice during the lengthy trial, Caro has been removed from the courtroom after prolonged, tearful outbursts. The more recent one prompted a warning from the judge.

Caro's testimony Wednesday lasted just 24 minutes before jurors were excused for the night. She is to return to the stand today.

Under gentle questioning from her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jean Farley, Caro described her marriage to Dr. Xavier Caro in 1984 and her job as office manager at his medical practice in Northridge. When asked for the birth dates of her children, she wept.

Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, Caro has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, she faces either a life term in prison or the death penalty.

She told the jury of nine women and three men that she had been studying for a degree in nursing before Xavier Caro asked her to be his office manager. Her job, she said, entailed keeping track of office finances.

Prosecutors contend that she secretly channeled office money to her aging parents. That was one reason, they have suggested, that her husband was thinking about a divorce--a prospect, they say, that sparked a tragic rage on the night of Nov. 22, 1999.

Caro's lawyers argue that her husband framed her, both in the deaths of the children and in her own apparent attempt to kill herself with a bullet to her brain.

Her voice quavered and became very soft as she answered questions about her boys, Joey, 11, Michael, 8, and Christopher, 5.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard from Caro's parents, Greg and Juanita Leon.

A retired brick mason, Greg Leon testified that most of the money he received from his daughter was payment for his labor and supplies. He said he did extensive repairs on the Caros' Santa Rosa Valley home, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Juanita Leon testified of strained relations between her and Xavier Caro after the boys' slayings. She cried as she recalled an angry Xavier Caro ushering her through the bedrooms of his home.

"He said, 'This is the way Cora did it,' " she said. "He showed me every step of the way."

 
 

November 22, 1999: Socorro Caro, 44; Northridge, California; Socorro shot and killed three of her four children as they slept. She was angry after a fight with her husband and methodically shot the boys, Joey, 11, Michael, 8 and Christopher, 5 asleep in their beds with a .38 caliber handgun. Caro then shot herself in the head in an attempted suicide, but survived. A 4th child, an infant, was unharmed. Caro was on Prozac and an anti-anxiety medication.

 
 

California Mother's Triple Murders Show

Cost of Ignoring Female Abusers

By Glenn Sacks

It is a well-known story--a violent husband abuses his wife and others, the wife stays with him out of fear or shame, and in the end the husband kills the wife, or the children, or both. We shake our heads and say "If only we could have protected her."

Such is the scenario of the Socorro Caro triple murders, except that this time the genders are reversed. The Southern California case is an extreme example of the price children, fathers, and our society as a whole sometimes pay for our refusal to acknowledge female domestic violence.

Socorro Caro, according to testimony by several witnesses, including her husband Dr. Xavier Caro, had violently attacked her husband or others on eight occasions prior to the night of November 22, 1999, when she shot and killed three of her four sons. In these previous incidents Ms. Caro had used weapons and the element of surprise to her advantage, and had caused several injuries, including serious eye damage to her husband.

Why didn't Dr. Caro leave her? Why didn't he tell anybody what was being done to him?

"I was ashamed. I was embarrassed," he testified recently during the penalty phase of Socorro Caro's trial. According to other reports, he was also skeptical that authorities would believe him.

Thanks to the noble efforts of women's activists, had Ms. Caro been the victim of abuse at the hands of Dr. Caro, help would have been available. Ms. Caro could have moved with her children to a shelter. Using the legal services of the shelter, she could have filed a restraining order against her violent husband, and filed for divorce. She would have received custody of her four children, their home, half or more of the family's financial assets, and substantial child support. In addition, she probably would have been able to eliminate her abusive husband's visitation rights.

Had Dr. Caro, a male victim of domestic violence, felt that the legal system would give his claims the same credence that an abused woman's claims receive, his three children would probably still be alive today.

Are female child abuse and domestic violence rare? Unfortunately not. According to the US Department of Justice, 70% of confirmed cases of child abuse and 65% of parental murders of children are committed by mothers.

Veteran domestic violence researchers Richard Gelles, Murray Straus, and Susan Steinmetz, who were once hailed by the women's movement for their pioneering work on violence against women, have repeatedly found that women are as likely as men to physically attack their spouses or partners.

California State Long Beach Psychology professor Martin Fiebert has compiled and summarized 117 different studies with over 72,000 respondents that found that most domestic violence is mutual and, in the cases where there was only one abusive partner, that partner was as likely to be female as male.

Crime statistics do not bear out what researchers know because women tend to be seriously injured more often than men, and because men, for various reasons, are far less likely than women to report the abuse against them.

As the Caro case shows, by allowing abusive women to go unacknowledged and unpunished, female abusers are encouraged to believe that they can get away with their abuse indefinitely, which frequently results in escalating violence.

Why didn't Dr. Caro seek help? Besides shame and denial, many men hesitate to report their wives' violence because they fear that once the police are involved, the wife will accuse her husband of being the perpetrator and it is she, not he, who will be believed.

This is, in fact, what Ms. Caro tried to do during her murder trial, claiming that it was her husband, not her, who committed the murders. Draconian mandatory arrest laws often direct police to make an arrest, even when the abuse is mutual (as research shows is generally the case), or when it is unclear who the perpetrator is. While arrests of women account for a third or more of domestic violence arrests in some states, police generally are pressured to arrest the man, even when the evidence is scant.

What could Dr. Caro have done? There are few domestic violence shelters which accept men, though in this case he probably would have had enough money to pay for other accommodations. He would have had difficulty winning a custody battle, particularly with the well-documented willingness of women in danger of losing custody to make false accusations of abuse or child molestation.

Quite possibly these accusations or other legal machinations could have led to Ms. Caro being granted custody of the children, and even to Dr. Caro losing visitation rights. Thus his children could have been in the care of and under the control of an abuser without even the limited protection he could provide by staying with her.

Thus Xavier Caro was trapped--not just by his violent wife, but by a society that refuses to acknowledge what voluminous research and simple common sense shows--domestic violence is not a male affliction but a human one.

 
 


Socorro Caro

 

Socorro Caro

 

Socorro Caro

 

Socorro Caro

 

 

 
 
 
 
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