After weeks of quizzing blood-spatter experts, reviewing 911 transcripts and interviewing an expert on grandfather clocks, the defense in the Socorro Caro triple-murder trial rested Monday, hoping to have successfully shifted blame for the killings to Caro's husband.
Since the trial began, the defense has tried to convince the jury that Caro's husband, Dr. Xavier Caro, a rheumatologist, had killed three of his four sons and framed his wife for the 1999 crime.
The children, ages 3, 8 and 11, were shot at point-blank range with a .38-caliber handgun while sleeping in their beds at the family home in the Santa Rosa Valley near Camarillo.
Prosecutors said 44-year-old Socorro Caro, distraught over her husband's plans to divorce her and his admitted affair with another woman, killed her children to punish him. She also shot herself in the head but recovered, they maintain.
Caro was charged with murder. She has pleaded not guilty, later switching the plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. If found guilty, she could face the death penalty. Her husband has not been charged with any crime.
On its final day, the defense tried to bring in the caretaker of the Caro vacation ranch in Waterford as a witness. William Fedick was clearing out a barn and a house on the Stanislaus County property earlier this year, when he found some books and gun targets that raised his suspicions.
Fedick told the court, with the jury out of the room, that he found a roll of silhouette targets in a closet. There were large ones, but it was the smaller ones that caught his eye. "All of the dimensions were small," he said. "The torso was real narrow, maybe a foot wide. The head was real small, and it had a bull's-eye on the chest."
Assistant Public Defender Jean Farley said the targets were about the size of a child, hinting that Xavier Caro was conducting shooting practice on child-sized targets before the deaths of his children.
Fedick also said he found books on assault rifles, artillery, the Vietnam War, law books and a book about women who kill their children.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple scoffed at the notion that Xavier Caro was shooting at child-shaped targets. She even doubted such targets were made, and she noted that both Socorro and Xavier did target shooting at the ranch.
Judge Donald Coleman had similar doubts, refusing to let the witness testify before the jury. "One doesn't have to have target practice to go up to a person's head and pull the trigger," he said. "It's not relevant to anything."
Farley also called 911 dispatchers back to the stand Monday to discuss minor points on how the calls from the Caro home were handled the night of the shootings.
Throughout the trial, Farley has meticulously questioned each witness, looking for any inconsistency to exploit.
A few weeks ago, Farley brought in an expert on grandfather clocks to advance a theory that Xavier Caro stopped the living room clock in an attempt to frame his wife. According to testimony, Xavier called police a week after the slayings to say his wife, as a symbolic gesture, had stopped the clock at 10:59 p.m.--the time the boys were killed.
The clock expert said only a sharp jolt or manipulation would have stopped the clock. But on cross-examination, he was informed that the clock had been repaired several times because it would stop between its weekly windings.
Farley attacked a blood-spatter expert who testified that blood on Socorro Caro's shorts came from high-velocity gunshot wounds to the heads of her sons. Farley accused the expert of using inaccurately sized mannequins to re-create the scene and then said he lacked credibility, because he consulted psychics.
With the exception of one outburst of sobbing that caused the judge to clear the courtroom, Socorro Caro has sat quietly throughout the trial, testifying calmly when her time came.
Her husband was also controlled and methodical when he took the stand, but jurors heard testimony of his anguish the night of the slayings.
Sheriff's deputies who arrived at the scene testified that Xavier Caro came running from the back of the house screaming, "She killed them all! She killed them all!"
The prosecution will present rebuttal witnesses today and closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday.