Calif. murder suspect killed after attacking judge

March 4, 2009 6:32:12 PM PST
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 Conecny, a spokesman for the sheriff's department.

Paradiso had been testifying around 2 p.m. when his mother, in the audience, left the courtroom upset. Fox called a recess, and as jurors filed out, Paradiso left the stand and approached the judge from behind "with an unknown cutting instrument," Conecny 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.

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. 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.

Conecny 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.

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.

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