MEDFORD, Ore. – Investigators were trying to determine what happened in the hours before an Oregon mother and her four children were pulled from a burning home and rescuers discovered they each had been stabbed.
Police believe the 51-year-old father, Jordan Adam Criado, stabbed them and set fire to the house, staying inside as it filled with smoke, said Medford police Chief Tim George. Criado, who was not charged Monday, was sedated in stable condition and under police watch after surviving the fire.
His 30-year-old wife and children — ages 2, 5, 6 and 7 — also were rushed to the hospital, but died.
"The front yard looked like it was a plane crash or something, the people working on those folks," George said. "There were some heroic efforts on the part of police and fire personnel. My understanding is they were actually able to get a pulse on two of those children at the scene, but they eventually succumbed."
George said the number of victims was the highest of any slaying in the history of Medford, a city of about 75,000 in Oregon timber country. Police planned to search the house for more evidence Tuesday.
They said that hours before the fire, Tabasha Paige-Criado was reported missing by her husband. It was just before dawn Monday when he called authorities, and officers found her a couple hours later in the parking lot of a convenience store a few blocks away. They gave her a ride home.
A few hours after, she was dead, along with her children.
"They both met and conversed," George said of Criado and his wife after police brought her home. "What happened between 7:30 and 9:30 in roughly a two-hour time span is what we are trying to figure out right now."
At around 9 a.m., Calvin Kennedy said he and other neighbors saw smoke coming out of the house and contacted police. He pounded on the door as smoke came out of the eaves and windows and around the chimney.
Police who were first on the scene could not get in the front door with all the smoke. Firefighters, equipped with breathing devices, were able to get in and pull all six out and lay them on the front lawn, where teams of medics worked desperately to revive them. The fire was extinguished in minutes.
Jennifer Backes told the Medford Mail Tribune that all she could do was cry as she watched the rescue efforts.
The family was not well known on the street, located in a working class neighborhood of older homes, some undergoing renovation, a few blocks from downtown. Neighbors said they had moved in about a year ago.
A public records database shows that Criado has had addresses in Medford and the nearby cities of White City and Central Point since 2007. The records also show addresses in California — Sacramento, Bakersfield and Salinas — before 2000, but nothing in the intervening years.
One neighbor thought Criado, who spoke with an accent, was a single father. Others saw the mother walking with the children — three boys aged 7, 6 and 5, and a little girl aged 2. The children's names were not released pending positive identification.
Oregon National Guard infantryman Chris Bennett said he met Criado about a year ago. Bennett was driving his Firebird down the street and it broke down in front of Criado's house. Criado suggested Bennett check the fuses. One was burned out. Criado gave Bennett a replacement fuse and refused payment.
Bennett said he was walking by the house late at night a couple weeks ago and he heard the couple arguing loudly.
"He just bluntly told her, 'Hey, you need to calm down, the kids are asleep,'" Bennett said.
"It was always her yelling," said Bennett's fiance, Shilo Croswell, 22. "Anytime we saw him it was just him and the kids. Then we saw this woman. She kept asking him who we were, and he was not responding because he was talking to us."
Kennedy said he never saw any trouble at the family's house.
"It's just sad," he said.
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