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Murder suspect used hidden shank to stab judge, police say

Jailers were warned in February that suspect David Paradiso had a hidden weapon. On Wednesday, he was killed by police after attacking the judge. The judge was treated and released.

March 06, 2009|Richard C. Paddock

SAN FRANCISCO — An accused killer who stabbed the judge during his murder trial in Stockton used a 6-inch metal shank that he hid from his jailers even though they were warned he had a weapon, investigators said Thursday.

Murder suspect David Paradiso, who was on the witness stand Wednesday, was able to slip behind Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox and stab her as bailiffs were distracted by a courtroom outburst from his mother and brother, said San Joaquin County Sheriff's Det. Dave Konecny.

Paradiso, 29, was killed by the lead investigator in his murder case, Lodi Police Det. Eric Bradley, who quickly approached the judge's bench and shot the defendant in the head and shoulder at point-blank range.

"He saved the judge's life," said defense attorney Chuck Pacheco, who also rushed to the judge's aid. "It was necessary. Otherwise, the judge would have been killed. He was hellbent on killing her."

Pacheco said his client was attempting to cut Fox's neck in the same manner that he had killed his first victim, Eileen Pelt, 20. The judge was treated for her injuries and released.

Pacheco had argued in court that Paradiso suffered serious mental disorders from prolonged methamphetamine use. The defense did not contest that Paradiso killed Pelt, his girlfriend, in 2006.

Paradiso faced the death penalty for cutting Pelt's throat in the back seat while his mother, Debra, was driving. Paradiso was also accused of kidnapping his mother and forcing her to drive to neighboring Amador County, where he dumped Pelt's body.

The Sheriff's Department said that an unnamed female family member called the San Joaquin County Jail on Feb. 17 and reported that Paradiso had a weapon made from a broken hair clipper blade. Two searches a week apart failed to find a weapon.

"It is currently under investigation where and how the suspect received the weapon which was found in the suspect's hand," Konecny said in a statement issued to the media.

Pacheco said he suspects that Paradiso was able to smuggle the weapon into court by hiding it in a security leg brace he wore under his pants. The brace is designed to lock if the defendant tries to run but has metal parts that may have masked the weapon when he went through a metal detector.

"I was always concerned that he was capable of an attack like that if he didn't get his way," said Pacheco, noting that at one point Paradiso tried to fire him. "I figured I would be the object of it."

Shortly after taking the stand Wednesday afternoon, Paradiso said Pelt deserved to die because she had not performed a sex act well, which prompted the outburst from his relatives. As a bailiff tried to handle the disturbance, Paradiso stood up, produced the shank and lunged at the judge, who was only four feet away.

"The judge was nothing but sweet to him," Pacheco said. "There was absolutely no reason for him to go after the judge."

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richard.paddock @latimes.com

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