Carol Ann Coronado
When it comes to the murder of children there is little sympathy to be had anywhere. Most believe there is no excuse, ever, to be had and you would find me in that line of believers. However, I have often said the line between excuse and reason is very blurry. I am certain this case will dredge up any feelings one has in the Andrea Yates case from Texas. It has been over fifteen years since Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub of her own and yet from time to time I still come across a debate on her culpability. There are those who strongly dismiss her, what I consider, blatant issues with mental illness as being any sort of legitimate reason behind her actions and there are those who are overly sympathetic to her plight. A significant difference in the Coronado case is that there seemed to be little documentation as to any mental illness that may or may not have come into play.
On May 20, 2014 Carol Ann Coronado would slit the throats of her three young daughters and then stab them each in the heart with an ordinary kitchen knife. She would lay two year old Sophia, sixteen month old, Yazmine and two month old Xenia side by side on her bed in her Torrance California home. Carol Ann and her husband, Rudy had been married for five years and according to the prosecutor were having marriage problems. I say “according to the prosecutor” because reading several interviews and actions by Rudy I never saw anything saying, from him, that he had discussed divorce with Carol, as the prosecutor would claim in court. Of course that does not mean that it had not been discussed, and Rudy would admit that in the few weeks leading up to the murders Carol had seemed to have a personality change nothing seemed concrete on what exactly was going on. Prosecutors would go on to claim that Carol had committed this crime to get even with her husband, but would also claim that Carol's plan included killing herself and her husband.
Carol's mother, Julie Piercey, was apparently at or in the home when the murders occurred. She would testify that she walked into the bedroom to find the young girls on the bed and wrestled the knife from her daughter's hand. She would also testify that she saw several other knives laid out in the kitchen. After obtaining the knife from Carol, Julie would run across the street to find Rudy and bring him back to the house. Once they were back inside they would find Carol had obtained another knife and while they stood there she stabbed herself in the chest.
Prosecutors would charge her with three counts of murder in the deaths of her children, as well as charge her for the attempted murder of her mother.
While the prosecutors would claim that the crime was premeditated and deliberate, they would also say that one of the girls had an accident in the bathroom earlier in the day which caused her to snap. The defense would claim that Carol suffered from post partum psychosis. In fact, they had attempted to plead “guilty by reason of insanity” but the judge had ruled that she was sane. Carol's obstetrician testified that he had not seen signs of depression after the birth of Xenia. However, Rudy would testify that she had always been a calm person that never raised her voice until just days before the incident. At this point he said she did become aggressive and “weird.” He would claim that she would turn the main power switch off to the house when he was watching television such as “The Family Guy,” telling him the show was inappropriate for children. He would also say she had attempted to keep him from the children and had even forced him to eat outside. But, he also testified, as most of us would, that he never imagined that she would kill their children.
Carol was convicted on three counts of first degree murder at her bench trial (judge only) in December of 2015. She was found not guilty on the charge of attempted murder against her mother. Two months later she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole despite Rudy, and others asking for leniency. While they argued that she needed placed in a mental facility in which she could receive help, the judge said that help would have to come from behind prison walls, but did stress that she needed treatment.
I cannot tell you that Carol suffered from post partum depression or psychosis or not without more information than what I have been able to obtain. But I can say it is absolutely possible. The problem I think I have with this case is not so much that the prosecution seemed to not know that for sure, despite their arguing against it, but that they did not seem to theorize a motive and stick with it. As is often said, the state does not have to present a motive but a jury wants to know why. Of course this case was not presented in front of a jury but the theory still stands and maybe this is how they were able to throw out a few ideas. I do not know that I think this would have worked for them had the case been decided by a jury instead of a single judge. They would argue that it was premeditated as an act of revenge against her husband who had told her he was “considering” divorce. They would say that it was an “interrupted plot” to take out her family, that included her husband (although I saw little that indicated they proved this plot). But they would also bring up the fact that one of the girls had an accident in the bathroom and indicated that she “snapped.” Adding to this the prosecution apparently often stressed that Rudy was an unhelpful and inattentive husband and father and she was under a lot of pressure to care for these three young girls as if she was doing it alone. I really just felt like the prosecution was all over the board in their theories of what happened and that some of their theories, if explored more could have agreed with what the defense argued.
There is obviously no doubt as to who murdered those little girls, but there is doubt as to why. Her attorney would argue that before the murders she had suffered from delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Now, of course all of the things the defense argued, either themselves or through witnesses could have been made up, we do not know the answer to this. They had their own witnesses at the sentencing who agreed with them, just as the prosecution put on a witness that agreed with their side. If anything is learned in this case I hope that it is when you see odd behaviors from someone that you get them to a doctor. For one, it could obviously save lives, whether you believe the person capable of homicide or suicide or not. For two, it documents things so that if things do happen later a defense does not seem as if they are grasping for straws and making things up as they go, because we all know that does happen.
In my opinion it is unlikely that Carol will get much help for her mental issues in prison but at least she will not be able to harm anyone else.