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MOM KILLED HER KIDS JURY: CARO SHOT 3 SLEEPING SONS.

Byline: Sabrina Decker Staff Writer

VENTURA - Socorro ``Cora'' Caro slumped in her chair and wept Monday as a jury pronounced her guilty of murdering three of her four young sons in revenge for her failing marriage to a wealthy doctor.

The boys' father and star prosecution witness, Dr. Xavier Caro, held his composure as he sat in the front row of a packed Ventura County courtroom. But the arthritis specialist, who practices in Northridge, sobbed once as jurors were polled, pronouncing his estranged wife guilty of three counts of first-degree murder of their sons.

After the hearing, he shook hands with the prosecutors and thanked them for their efforts.

``We're very pleased,'' Ventura County prosecutor Cheryl Temple said outside court. ``We're just going to prepare for the next phase.''

The jury will resume deliberations Wednesday to determine whether Cora Caro was sane when she shot her sleeping sons at point-blank range the night of Nov. 22, 1999. If jurors find that she was, they will recommend whether she should be executed or spend the rest of her life in prison.

Deputy Public Defender Jean Farley, who has been the lead attorney for Caro, refused to comment on the outcome of the case.

``No, not right now,'' she said. ``I'm still in trial.''

Xavier Caro also refused to comment.

Cora Caro was convicted in the brutal shootings of Christopher, 5, Michael 7, and Xavier Jr., 11. She also was found guilty of the special circumstances of committing multiple slayings with a handgun with the intention of inflicting great bodily harm.

Culminating more than two months of testimony, and a visit to the defendant's 4,800-square-foot hilltop mansion overlooking the Santa Rosa Valley, the jury began deliberating a week ago today.

However, one of the jurors was replaced Monday morning for violating the judge's order not to discuss the case outside the deliberation room. The new panel, including an alternate juror, reached a decision just hours later.

The verdicts were read at 5 p.m., during a hearing scheduled so quickly that the defendant's extended family, which has been in the courtroom for most of the trial, couldn't get to the Ventura County Hall of Justice in time to hear them.

Among those who missed the hearing was Juanita Leon, the defendant's mother, who collapsed, sobbing, in the courthouse hallway when she learned of her daughter's conviction. Leon was helped to her feet by Deputy Public Defender Nick Beeson as Farley tried to shield her from news photographers.

The defendant's uncle, Julian Leon, said he believed the defense argument that Xavier Caro - not Cora - had committed the murders.

``This guy's been guilty right from the start,'' Leon said. ``We had him pegged as a person who wouldn't work with the family, who would split up the family. He's just a cold, cold guy.''

During the trial, the defense portrayed Cora Caro as a loving, generous wife, mother and daughter, who was framed by her domineering husband so he could continue a love affair with an employee unimpeded.

According to the defense, after a heated argument, Xavier Caro donned maternity clothes worn by his wife during her pregnancies, killed his three oldest sons, and manipulated evidence at the scene. He shot Cora in the head in a staged suicide, but she survived, her attorneys argued.

Testifying on her own behalf, Cora Caro said didn't know about her husband's affair and said he had left her once before, but only for a few days. She also said she never would have donned the blood-spattered maternity shorts in which she was found and had never even seen the T-shirt she was wearing.

However, prosecutors maintained that Cora Caro was a selfish and spiteful woman who was angry when her husband fired her as his office manager, cut off her lavish spending, cheated on her with another woman and consulted with a divorce attorney.

Xavier Caro testified that on the night of the murders, he and Cora argued heatedly over disciplining Xavier Jr. - whom everyone called Joey - and the doctor stormed out of the house.

Caro Caro said she thought he had left her for good, but she denied having any memory of what happened next.

But prosecutors said she got her specially fitted .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, with five bullets - intending to shoot her four sons, then herself.

After shooting Joey in the head, Cora went into Michael and Christopher's room, where she found them snuggled together in their lower bunk bed, prosecutors said.

Christopher apparently heard the sound of Michael being shot and sat up in bed, expert witnesses testified. The first bullet intended for the youngest boy merely grazed his skull, and his mother pushed him back in bed and fired the fatal shot, witnesses said.

With just one bullet remaining in the gun, prosecutors said, Cora Caro fired the last shot into her own head, but failed to kill herself. Son Gabriel, who was 13 months old at the time, was unharmed.

Xavier Caro said he returned home about 11:20 that night to find his sons dead in their beds and his wife critically wounded on the floor of their bedroom.

Staff Writer Cecilia Chan contributed to this report.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

(color) Socorro Caro, center, listens with defense attorneys Jean Farley, left, and Nicholas Beeson as a jury convicts Caro of murder.

Pool Photo
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 6, 2001
Words:895
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