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Caro Confessed to Her Sons’ Deaths, Detective Testifies

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

In her hospital bed, Socorro Caro lay wailing, shrieking “Oh, God!” over and over and crying out for her mother.

Hours before, bullet fragments had been removed from her brain.

Just minutes earlier, a detective from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department had told her she was a suspect in the deaths of her three young boys, who had been found shot in their beds.

That much is undisputed.

At issue in court Thursday was whether the Santa Rosa Valley woman had at some point after her surgery plaintively exclaimed: “I killed Mike, Chris and Joey!”

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That was the testimony of Sgt. Cheryl Wade, the investigator who sat at Caro’s bedside for three hours on Nov. 23, 1999--the day after three of the Caros’ four children had been killed.

Wade’s testimony about Caro’s purported confession was delivered outside the presence of the jury, and it is uncertain that the jury will get to hear it.

Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, Caro has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Her attorneys say their client’s physician husband framed his wife both in their sons’ deaths and her apparent attempt at suicide.

On the stand, Wade listened to portions of her tape-recorded interview with Socorro Caro at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She followed along on a transcript, hoping to see if she could fill in areas on the recording that were unintelligible.

On tape, Caro slurred her words, alternating between the occasional lucid sentence--such as “What happened to my head?”--and wordless screams that were pained and prolonged. Some of her comments to Wade were inaudible, and a few made no sense, as when she misidentified a close aunt as Sally instead of Shelley.

In the transcript, she was noted at one point as saying: “I killed my . . . “ The rest of the sentence was unintelligible.

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At the time, Wade said, Caro’s words were so indistinct that she couldn’t make them out. In her testimony, Wade said she thought Caro may have said she killed her cousin.

On Thursday the detective said she was certain the woman had named her dead boys. A fourth son, Gabriel, was unharmed.

Responding to a question from a defense attorney Thursday, Wade was unequivocal about her interpretation. “I’m not ‘more sure’ now,” she said. “I’m sure.”

Wade’s statement appeared to take prosecutors by surprise. Under questioning, she said she had not told them about her new take on the tape when she reviewed it in June. However, she said, she did tell a district attorney’s investigator assigned to the case. Wade did not appear before the jury Thursday. Her testimony came during a hearing requested by the defense on another statement recorded at Caro’s bedside.

Earlier this week, Wade testified that Caro had asked her about the well-being only of 13-month-old Gabriel--the one child who survived. Caro’s attorneys contend that statement shouldn’t have been mentioned to the jury because Caro did not have an attorney with her in the hospital at the time--a request she made after Wade told her she was a suspect.

Prosecutors argue that the statement is admissible because it was a voluntary admission, not a response to a police interrogation.

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