Mom sentenced for slaying sons
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,"
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.