STOCKTON - A day after a San Joaquin County judge was attacked by a murder defendant wielding a six-inch metal shank, court activities resumed as normal and investigators are trying to figure out how the weapon was smuggled into the courtroom.
On Thursday, the Stockton courthouse was notably quiet, and Judge Cinda Fox's courtroom was sealed off as the investigation continues.
The incident was the talk of the courthouse, with many employees wondering how David Paradiso, 29, was able to bring a long metal shank into the courtroom where he was on trial for a Lodi murder.
"I knew he was going to do something a couple weeks ago," said juror Bruce Cunningham. "I mentioned it to the (bailiffs) and said I wanted him to be handcuffed. They said they couldn't respond to that."
Around 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, minutes after Paradiso resumed his testimony, he used a derogatory remark about the victim, Eileen Pelt. Then, during a subsequent commotion created by his sobbing mother, he stood up and moved toward the judge.
Lodi Police Detective Eric Bradley, the investigating officer in the case, shot and killed Paradiso.
David Paradiso's lifeJan. 30, 1980: David Angelo Paradiso is born in Hayward to Gene and Debra Paradiso. He is the middle of three boys, all born about two years apart.
Nov. 12, 1991: At age 11, Paradiso is convicted of felony residential burglary.
1995: At age 15, the family moves to Stockton. He did not attend high school in Stockton, but later received a high school diploma while in a correctional institution in Ione.
1996: He has three felony convictions: possessing stolen property on Sept. 3, vehicle theft on Sept. 15, and vehicle theft and burglary.
1996: He has a host of legal run-ins, including:
- A Yosemite National Park ranger finds him breaking into a motor
home. He had arrived at the park in a Cadillac stolen from Fremont.
He runs from park rangers, breaks windows on a Ford Mustang and is
found inside, trying to steal the car.
- He breaks into a home through the rear sliding door, stealing a
VCR and audio equipment.
- He breaks into a car and steals a stereo.
- He and another male are caught on video breaking into a car at
Sherwood Mall in Stockton.
- He is driving a stolen 10-year-old Pontiac Firebird with
someone else in the car. He flees from police at 90 mph, hits a
curb and flees on foot.
- He escapes from a detention center.
- His mother calls police to report that he is drunk.
Feb. 26, 1996: He calls police because he thinks he sees blood all over his brother's house, an apparent methamphetamine-induced hallucination.
March 10, 1997: He is convicted of assault. That same day he is convicted of first-degree residential burglary in another case.
1998: While in the California Youth Authority, methamphetamine is found in his possession and authorities learn he is selling drugs to other wards.
2001: He has several more encounters with police, including:
- He is arrested for driving under the influence after losing
control of the pick-up truck he is driving.
- He is stopped for speeding and having no insurance or driver's
- His quadriplegic brother calls police to say Paradiso
vandalized his room and is carrying a handgun.
2002: Police are called to a fight, where his brother says Paradiso pulled a knife on them. In the presence of officers, he threatens his brother.
Feb. 11, 2003: He is convicted of felony evading police in connection with an incident the previous year, when he led officers on an 80 mph chase. When he was caught, officers found a loaded handgun in his possession.
May 27, 2004: Police are called to a hospital, where Paradiso had gone for treatment for a hernia. He testified that he was on methamphetamine and thought people were out to get him, and his behavior scared employees. Once in a police car, he broke the vehicle's windows.
Nov. 4, 2004: He is convicted of aggravated battery.
Dec. 9, 2004: He is again convicted of aggravated battery.
February 2006: Paradiso is released from Folsom prison.
October 2006: He smashes out the windows in a Nissan Sentra. He testified that he had a stomach problem, couldn't get the car's unidentified owner to take him to a hospital so he acted out of frustration.
Dec. 4, 2006: Eileen Pelt is fatally stabbed in the back seat of his mother's car in Lodi, and he is arrested hours later.
Aug. 1, 2007: He is charged with possessing a weapon in jail, a felony.
March 4, 2009: While testifying at trial, he attacks the judge with a shank and is then shot to death by a Lodi police detective.
Investigators found him clutching the weapon, which looks like it may have been fashioned from a scissors blade. It is about six inches long, with a four-inch blade that appears to have been sharpened.
San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department spokesman Dave Konecny said the department is still trying to determine how Paradiso got the crude weapon into the courtroom.
"The investigation is ongoing for these answers, including cell searches and interviews," he said.
Konecny said in a statement that the jail received a call on Feb. 17, a day before jury selection, from an anonymous woman who said she was related to Paradiso and that he had fashioned himself a weapon from a broken hair clipper blade and planned to harm himself with it.
He said deputies then searched Paradiso's cell and found nothing. Paradiso also told jail staff that he had no intention of harming himself.
A second search of Paradiso's cell on Feb. 25, a week into the murder trial, turned up some "contraband" but no weapon.
Paradiso's attorney, Charles Pacheco, told the Associated Press that he believed his client may have hid the weapon in the leg restraint, one of the rumors floating around the courthouse Thursday.
"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 leg restraint is designed to keep defendants from being able to run. Konecny said Paradiso was not shackled during the trial as part of a common practice not to restrain defendants "so as not to prejudice the jury."
Handcuffs don't always work, apparently: In 2003, two shackled inmates managed to lunge at prosecutors on consecutive days. Neither attorney suffered serious injuries, but one inmate scratched a prosecutor with a handmade shank, requiring more medical precautions.
Konecny added that current laws make it much harder for jail staff to stripsearch inmates.
"Based on current case law, the practice of strip-searching inmates has become much more restrictive, hampering law enforcement efforts for officer and civilian safety," he said.
A Bay Area attorney has won millions of dollars after filing class action strip-search lawsuits in a number of counties, including Sacramento, and more cases are pending.
As for citizens at the courthouse during lunch Thursday, opinions varied about security.
Stockton resident George Piperis said his fellow jurors, who were not there on Wednesday, have all been discussing how something like the attack could happen.
"There is testimony he killed someone," he said. "Yet he was unrestrained next to a judge, and the judge was a female, and he has issues with females. It's unbelievable."
He said "scumbags" on trial for murder should always be restrained regardless of whether it implies guilt.
Yet Piperis said he was not worried about being a juror at the courthouse, because he is on a grand jury where defendants are not present.
Lodi resident Jeanne Kysar said she did not know anything had happened until one of her fellow jurors told her. She said she thought the courthouse was secure.
"These things have happened at courts before, and it will happen again," she said.
Those entering the courthouse are subject to security checks that include a metal detector and a bag screener. The entrance line sometimes stretches down the sidewalk in the morning as people wait, which Hector Hernandez can't help but notice as he sets up his hot dog stand.
He left for the day before the Paradiso shooting, but often hears about security from his customers.
"Here so many people complain about security. 'Why do they check everything?' 'I'm going to be late,'" he said. "But if they don't check everything, I hear them complain security isn't good enough."
As for those in the courtroom at the time of the mayhem, many of them arrived Thursday to pick up personal items that had been left behind in the mad rush to leave the courtroom the previous day.
Fox, who was treated and released from a Stockton hospital the previous evening, was said to be in good physical condition.
Nobody entered her courtroom, and all court employees had received an e-mail with strict orders not to enter it. The oval windows were covered, and a white sticker was placed across the door, reading "These premises have been sealed by the Sheriff-Coroner" and dated Thursday, 12:30 a.m.
News-Sentinel staff writer Maggie Creamer contributed to this report.
Chronology of the caseNovember 2006: David Paradiso, 26, visits a cousin who lives in Grass Valley and meets Eileen Pelt.
Friday, Dec. 1, 2006: Paradiso borrows his mother's car to travel to Grass Valley. He picks up Pelt and the two travel to the Bay Area where they visit several of his friends.
Monday, Dec. 4, 2006: Paradiso and Pelt, 20, return to Lodi and then drive to Stockton to pick up Paradiso's mother, Debra, at her home. The three return to Lodi and stop at David Paradiso's father's home on West Oak Street, where David Paradiso had been staying.
Around 2 p.m., Monday Dec. 4, 2006: David Paradiso stabs Eileen Pelt through the neck in the back seat of his mother's car as his mother sits behind the wheel of the vehicle. David Paradiso and his mother say a prayer for Pelt, fill the car with gas and then drive to a remote stretch of Amador County, where they dump Pelt's body.
Around 6 p.m. Monday Dec. 4, 2006: David Paradiso takes his mother back to Lodi.
7:57 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, 2006: Debra Paradiso calls 9-1-1 to report her car had been stolen and that she had information on a homicide. She later testifies in court that she felt if she didn't cooperate with her son, he would harm her.
12:45 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006: Rio Vista police spotted Paradiso's mother's black Chrysler 300 on Highway 12. Paradiso heads east on the highway with several officers in pursuit. After driving back through Lodi, Paradiso stops on Highway 88 near Alpine Road after his car gets a flat tire. Surrounded by 19 officers from multiple agencies, Paradiso surrenders.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006: Paradiso and Lodi detectives Eric Bradley and Tim Fritz go to Amador County. He shows the officers where he dumped the body. Pelt is found in a ravine off a rural road. Fritz would later testify in court that he found Pelt lying face down on the ground, stained with her blood.
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006: Paradiso makes his first appearance in court. He does not make a plea and is appointed a public defender. A deputy district attorney says during the proceedings, before she died, Pelt asked Paradiso, "Why did you do that?"
Monday, Feb. 5, 2007: Paradiso, who is now 27 and has been in custody at the San Joaquin County jail since his arrest, enters a plea of not guilty to the murder charges.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007: A San Joaquin County superior court judge orders Paradiso to stand trial for murder at a preliminary hearing. The hearing is delayed and interrupted by fire alarms going off in the courthouse.
Thursday, Feb. 19: After a series of delays, Paradiso's trial begins. His attorney, Chuck Pacheco, does not deny that Paradiso, now 29, killed Pelt, but argues that his client was suffering from a case of methamphetamine induced psychosis.
Tuesday, Feb. 24: Paradiso's mother takes the stand during the trial. She recounts that after he killed Pelt, Paradiso told her she would be next if she didn't start driving.
Tuesday, March 3: Paradiso testifies in his own defense, saying on the day he killed Pelt he was "pretty paranoid" and thought Eileen was going to kill him. He said he and Pelt had taken some methamphetamine earlier in the day.
2:10 p.m. Wednesday, March 4: During a break in his trial, Paradiso lunges at Judge Cinda Fox, stabs her with a metal shank and tries to cut her throat. Detective Bradley, who was attending the trial, shoots and kills Paradiso.