Calif. murder suspect killed after attacking judge in court

March 5, 2009
Accused was on stand, attacked judge during break in proceedings

FRESNO, Calif. -- A man accused of killing his girlfriend was shot to death in a Stockton courtroom Wednesday after he attacked the judge presiding over his murder trial, officials said.

David Paradiso, 28, was shot by a police detective after he left the witness stand and began attacking San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox during a break in proceedings, said Dave Konecny, a spokesman for the sheriff's department.

Paradiso took the stand to testify around 2 p.m. and was quickly asked by prosecutors why he killed his girlfriend Eileen Pelt.

He responded: "Cause she deserved to die."

Paradiso's mother, Debra, stood up and started yelling, leading the judge to call a recess. As jurors filed out, Paradiso left the stand and approached the judge from behind "with an unknown cutting instrument," Konecny said.

Karen McConnell, a county spokeswoman, said witnesses reported seeing Paradiso lift the judge and begin punching and possibly stabbing her when bailiffs ran to her aid and shots rang out. Lodi Police Det. Eric Bradley has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

"He was going after her jugular, just as he did to the victim in this case," his attorney, Chuck Pacheco, told the Lodi News-Sentinel. "He was not stopping stabbing her, going for her neck. Bradley did the right thing."

Fox, who had a bandage on her left arm as she was carried out of the courthouse on a stretcher, told reporters, "I'm OK," before being taken to a hospital. She was released later Wednesday. Calls to her home were not immediately returned.

The courthouse immediately went on lockdown, although people were allowed to leave after the building was secured, McConnell said.

Konecny said he did not know how Paradiso obtained a weapon. He said at least two bailiffs were on duty in the courtroom at the time of the attack.

Paradiso was on trial for allegedly stabbing his girlfriend, Eileen Pelt, in the neck as his mother drove them in her car. Debra Paradiso told police her son forced her to drive to Amador County, where he dumped the body.

Paradiso's attorney, Charles Pacheco, said in opening arguments last week that his client was high on methamphetamine at the time. Pacheco did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

Aaron Paradiso, the suspect's brother, told KCRA-TV of Sacramento that his brother was "crazy" and said he had told authorities and attorneys that he shouldn't be put on the stand. He said his mother had warned deputies that the family believed Paradiso had a cutting weapon from some sort of clipper or scissors.

Concerns about courthouse security have grown since 2005, when an unshackled defendant being escorted into an Atlanta court for a rape trial stole a deputy's gun and went on a shooting rampage. A jury found Brian Nichols, 37, guilty in November of murdering the deputy, a judge and two others.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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