Acommunity gripped by sadness and disbelief held a vigil Friday night for surviving relatives of Tabasha Paige-Criado and her four children, the family slain Monday in the worst homicide in Jackson County history.
"It's hard to understand why someone would do something like that," said Lynnette Dominguez, a 42-year-old Central Point woman. "I just don't think I'll ever understand."
More than 300 people stood in the dark at Hawthorne Park Friday holding candles and glow sticks while four family members spoke about their grief and their gratefulness to a community that has offered them moral and financial support.
"I came here with a very heavy heart," said Evelyn Young, Paige-Criado's 51-year-old great aunt from Bakersfield, Calif. "Thank you for loving our family as if they were your own."
She thanked the first responders who valiantly tried to resuscitate the mother and the children, Elijah, 7, Isaac, 6, Andrew, 5, and Aurora, 2. The father, who remains unresponsive at Rogue Valley Medical Center, is suspected of stabbing some of his family members then setting the 1027 W. 10th St. house on fire.
"It was a heroic effort and you did everything you could do to save our babies, but it was just not meant to be," she said.
Jesse Adams, Paige-Criado's 32-year-old brother, also strongly praised the community.
"You welcomed my family with open arms," he said. "You let me know my sister didn't die in vain."
He pleaded with the audience to look for forgiveness and asked for healing.
"We are here because of a tragedy, but it does not define us," said Adams. "They always say, out of the ashes, great things come."
Adams' two children and his wife, Heidi, also stood with him before the crowd.
"My sister was a wonderful person," Jesse Adams said. "I didn't like her at times, but I always loved her."
Paige-Criado's family went to the West 10th Street house Friday afternoon. Jessie Patton, Paige-Criado's 68-year-old grandmother from Sacramento, and the rest of the family gathered teddy bears and other gifts left by the community and brought them to the vigil. They will also bring the gifts to the memorial service in Bakersfield next Saturday. Some of the other gifts will be given to the Dunn House.
Young children who knew the Criado children also crowded round the family.
After Adams and Young spoke, they released balloons into the air to symbolize the mother and children.
"We know you guys are smiling down on us," said Adams.
Photos of Paige-Criado and her children were on display at the vigil as well-wishers placed flowers and offered comfort to the family.
Barry Phipps, a 57-year-old Medford man, brought a big brown teddy bear.
"I believe children are the most innocent people in the world," he said. "How can you look at them and do that. ... We are supposed to come up with forgiveness, but it's a tough thing to do," he said. "No matter what you get out of this, the mother and children are still together."
Lisa Graham, a Medford woman who knew the Criado family for three years, described Paige-Criado as one of the best friends she ever had.
"She was always there for you," the 48-year-old woman said. "She was very full of life."
Graham said she didn't want to speak about Jordan Criado, other than he once worked at Amy's Kitchen.
Steven King, a 21-year-old Medford man who lived a few blocks from the Criado house, said he knew Paige-Criado well and last saw her two weeks ago.
He said he had no idea the couple's relationship was so rocky. He told the audience, "Keep your friends and your family close."
King later said he knew Paige-Criado wanted a divorce and already considered herself separated from Criado, even though they lived together.
King said Criado appeared to have an alcohol problem, but he never saw anything that would indicate the kind of tragedy that unfolded for the family.
"It's definitely a shocker," he said.
Many community members came to the vigil to see whether they could make any sense out of the grisly deaths.
"You'd never think it would happen here," said Tara Martinez, 29, who lives a few blocks from 10th Street. "You know the truth's never going to come out. I feel sorry for those poor babies. It's unthinkable."
Nicole Hale, a 24-year-old mother who brought her 1-year-old daughter, Jayde, said she was saddened and in shock.
"You hear about it happening somewhere else, but not in your own community," she said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.