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Father Recalls Slain Sons as ‘My Life’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joseph was a creative, starry-eyed 11-year-old who consistently made the honor roll or principal’s list. Michael was the socially adroit one, an 8-year-old budding Casanova who boasted of having several girlfriends. Christopher, 5, was a natural comedian who often had his family clutching their sides in laughter.

On Monday their father, prominent Northridge rheumatologist Xavier J. Caro, occasionally broke into tears during his first news media interview since the boys were fatally shot at their Santa Rosa Valley home last week.

Sitting in the ivy-covered courtyard of Padre Serra Church in Camarillo, their family parish, Caro declined to talk about the suspect in the slayings: his wife.

Socorro “Cora” Caro, 42, who also was shot once in the head, is recovering in a Thousand Oaks hospital.

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“It’s beyond imagination. It’s incomprehensible,” Xavier Caro said. “Family was everything to me. My children were my life. They were my light, my heroes.” They had such a “beautiful life ahead of them.”

The boys’ mother has refused to talk to investigators and demanded to see an attorney. Although the motive for the shootings is unknown, current and former employees at Xavier Caro’s office, which his wife had managed, said she had violent mood swings and talked about being on antidepressant drugs. The results of toxicology tests are expected in several weeks.

Caro, 52, said his 13-month-old son Gabriel, who was spared, gives him strength to go on.

“He is the last flame.”

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The baby is staying with a family member because Caro has moved into a hotel.

“I’ll never move back into that house,” he said. “We’re going to clean it out and sell it.”

Caro told police he found the slain boys in their beds when he returned from work about 11:20 p.m. on Nov. 22.

When Gabriel is old enough to understand, Caro plans to show him family videos and photos of his big brothers and tell him stories about who they were and what they could have been.

“As [Gabriel] becomes more and more aware, I’ll answer his questions gradually,” Caro said.

Caro said his sons not only were good students, but the older two gamely strove to overcome physical difficulties. Joey had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at an early age and had a difficult childhood, Caro said. Despite having learned to read at age 3 1/2, he had been expelled from three preschools.

It was out of concern for Joey’s education that he and Cora decided to leave Granada Hills, where they still own a house. His wife believed that the schools there “weren’t tolerant enough for people who didn’t fit in,” Caro said.

They moved to the Santa Rosa Valley in 1993 because of its excellent elementary school, he said.

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Joey was a highly imaginative child who astonished his father with the unusual and colorful way in which he saw the world. When Joey was 4, the family went to Sea World, Caro said. Eating Cheetos in front of an aquarium filled with yellow coral, little Joey pointed and said: “Look Daddy, a Cheeto tree!” Caro recalled.

“It may not seem like much to you, but I wanted to enroll him in college the next day,” Caro said.

When Joey was 6 or 7, he was looking up at sea gulls swooping through the air one day when he turned and said, “‘Dad, do you think that’s where George Lucas got his idea for the Star Fighter dogfights?”

In the last couple of years, Joey’s hyperactivity had markedly improved through biofeedback therapy, Caro said. He had developed a love for classical music and movies, especially the Star Wars series.

“He wanted to be a movie director. His heroes were George Lucas and Steven Spielberg,” Caro said.

Joey, “the leader of the pack” of brothers, often was referred to as “my hero” by Mikie, Caro said.

Unlike Joey, who was sometimes an “outsider” and had few friends, Mikie was popular. “All the kids liked him,” Caro said.

Although athletically gifted, “Winning to him was not what was important,” Caro said. “It was being a good person.”

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He recalled a basketball game in which Mikie tried to give the ball to a girl on his team who was a weak player, just so she could participate.

Mikie also had an uncanny aptitude for music and easily memorized tunes, although he was born hard of hearing in the right ear, which was a third of normal size.

He talked about becoming a rock star but recently decided to be a scientist.

And he surprised his father by announcing that he was thinking about marrying a girl named Marie. Caro was flabbergasted when Mikie then mentioned at least two other girlfriends.

“I was going to have ‘the talk’ with him much earlier,” Caro said with a chuckle.

Little Christopher loved trains and Pokemon. Already developing a dry wit, the 5-year-old recently startled his soccer coach and bystanders when, just before kicking a ball, he deadpanned: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

“That was just Christopher,” Caro said. “He was always cracking us up.”

Christopher loved school so much that he would be disappointed when he didn’t have homework, Caro said. And he liked to tag along with his brothers, whether to sporting events or just around the house.

“The three of them were like monkeys,” Caro said. Wherever one went, the other two followed. “They did everything together.”

Caro, an orphan who was adopted at age 4, said he always told the boys to stick together because, “After Mom and Dad are gone, you’re only going to have each other.”

The brothers will be buried together Wednesday. Joey will be buried with his First Communion Bible and the Harry Potter book he had been reading. Mikie will be buried with a coin collection, symbolic of the boy’s almost preternatural ability to find money wherever he went. Christopher will be buried with his toy trains, Caro said.

An empty plot next to the boys has been reserved for himself, Caro said.

A public rosary vigil is scheduled at 7 p.m. today at Padre Serra Church at 5205 Upland Road in Camarillo. The funeral Mass will be at the church at 10 a.m. Wednesday, followed by burial at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park in Camarillo.

A memorial fund benefiting the library of Santa Rosa Elementary School, where all three boys attended, has been set up.

The address is: Caro Memorial Fund, c/o Santa Rosa Elementary School, 13282 Santa Rosa Road, Camarillo, CA 93012.


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