Slain Suspect Jumped judge with 6-inch Metal Spike

By: Marcus Wohlsen
By: Marcus Wohlsen
Investigators on Thursday were trying to figure out how a murder suspect sneaked a 6-inch metal spike into the Stockton courtroom where he attacked a judge with the handcrafted weapon before a detective shot him to death.

In this photo released by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, the hand crafted metal spike weapon used by David Paradiso is seen on Thursday, March 5, 2009. Paradiso was on trial for the murder of his girlfriend at the San Joaquin County Courthouse on Wednesday in Stockton, Calif. He was shot to death inside the courtroom after he attacked Judge Cinda Fox with the cutting tool. (AP Photo/San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Investigators on Thursday were trying to figure out how a murder suspect sneaked a 6-inch metal spike into the Stockton courtroom where he attacked a judge with the handcrafted weapon before a detective shot him to death.

Investigators said a family member had warned them last month that David Paradiso had a weapon, but searches of his jail cell had turned up nothing.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's office released photos of the weapon investigators said the 29-year-old Paradiso used Wednesday to attack San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox during a recess in his trial. Fox suffered minor injuries before a Lodi police detective shot Paradiso in the head and shoulder.

The sheriff's office said bailiffs were in the back of the courtroom at the time of the attack, ejecting Paradiso's mother and brother after the two caused a disruption.

That's when the defendant lunged at Fox, grabbing the judge from behind and striking her, witnesses said.

The spike was found in the slain suspect's hand, authorities said.

Paradiso was not shackled during the trial, though he was wearing a leg restraint under his pants to prevent him from running, authorities said. The sheriff's office said in a statement that allowing suspects to remain unshackled is a common practice intended to avoid prejudicing the jury.

Paradiso's attorney, Charles Pacheco, said he believed his client may have hid the weapon in the leg restraint.

"He hid it or taped it to it or somehow stuck it in the leg brace so that if he passed through a metal detector, it would not be detected," Pacheco said.

The sheriff's office did not say if Paradiso was searched before entering the courtroom but said that law enforcement personnel are hampered in searches by court rulings that restrict strip-searching inmates.

Outside the courthouse following the attack, Paradiso's mother, Debra Paradiso, told The Stockton Record she had warned authorities two weeks earlier that her son was mentally unstable and may have had a weapon.

According to investigators, an anonymous female family member called the San Joaquin County Jail on Feb. 17 to say Paradiso had a broken blade that he might use to harm himself.

A search of Paradiso's cell turned up nothing, the sheriff's office said, and no weapons were found during a second search on Feb. 25.

On Wednesday afternoon, Paradiso took the witness stand and was quickly asked by prosecutors why he killed his girlfriend, Eileen Pelt.

He responded: "`Cause she deserved to die."

Witnesses said Paradiso's mother then started yelling that her son should not have been on the stand, leading the judge to call a recess. As jurors filed out, Paradiso left the stand and attacked the judge.

Lodi police Detective Eric Bradley shot Paradiso and has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

Paradiso said she believed her son may have attacked the judge knowing he would be shot.

"I'm pretty sure that's what David wanted," she told the Record.

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

Pacheco, Paradiso's attorney, said in opening statements last week that his client was high on methamphetamine at the time.

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