After David Paradiso allegedly killed his new girlfriend in Lodi this week, police only learned of the crime after his mother turned him in to the authorities.
Less than five months earlier, local pizza delivery driver Timon Pool is suspected to have killed his girlfriend. His step-mother, who had raised him since childhood, was also the one who notified law enforcement.
In each case, the mothers found themselves turning in their own sons for crimes that might forever separate them by jail cell bars. There's little debate that both crimes were horrific and both victims' families will never be the same.
Legal and psychological experts say the suspects' mothers also have long emotional roads ahead of them, enhanced by the fact that they'll likely have to testify in public against their own sons. Like those grieving a death, they will move through five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, said Kim Suderman, deputy director of children and youth services at San Joaquin County Behavioral Health.
"This is what someone would go through if their child was in a car accident," said Suderman, a licensed clinical social worker. "So you add to that being the mother and turning in your own child, witnessing your own child that you birthed turn and do this heinous crime."
Even then after time has passed, Suderman said, there will be internal questions: "Did I not raise my child right? Could I have done something to prevent this from happening?"
Like victims' families, Suderman said, parents will have to rely on everyday activities, friends and family to help them move on and resume life.
Suspects' family members often provide police with information needed to solve a crime, said Ruth Jones, a former prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law. When a family member actually turns in a loved one rather than being confronted by investigators, it's often through a sense of responsibility, such as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's brother who turned him in, Jones said.
"In each of these cases where the family has talked to media or has spoken publicly afterward, they've said they went to authorities because they feared for their loved one; they feared they might kill again or they feared they needed help," she said.
That was part of the motivation for Debra Paradiso, who went to Lodi police Monday evening after her son allegedly stabbed 20-year-old Eileen Pelt, of Auburn. The couple were passengers in Debra Paradiso's car and authorities say David Paradiso threatened his mother and made her drive east into Amador County where he dumped the victim's body and finally dropped his mother off in Lodi.
"Her first concern was to make sure that her son did not harm anybody else," said attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, who has represented the family previously, though David Paradiso was appointed a public defender. "I know that her heart goes out to the victim and to her family; it's obviously a great tragedy."
In 37 years of practice that include winning a murder acquittal for actor Robert Blake, Schwartzbach said he's never heard of anything like Monday's events.
Emotional aftermathParents have several issues and feelings to deal with after having to turn their children over to authorities:
1. Mothers have an innate sense that their child is a part of them.
2. Parents teach values, and they are responsible for their children, whether it's a broken window or something more significant.
3. Like any grieving parent, they will go through stages of grief and loss.
4. Each person is unique and will handle grief differently.
Source: Kim Suderman with San Joaquin County Behavioral Health.
After David Paradiso fled the area, his mother's first instinct was to call police, Schwartzbach said.
This was despite the fact that another of her sons, a quadriplegic with a medical marijuana prescription, was charged with marijuana cultivation and gun possession in 2003. Debra Paradiso was also criminally charged because it was on her property. Charges against her were ultimately dropped in September 2004 and her son plea-bargained for a misdemeanor weapons conviction earlier this year.
David Paradiso, the younger of her two sons, has a juvenile record, has been to prison several times and was most recently paroled in February 2006.
After Monday's killing in the back seat of her own car, Debra Paradiso went to police and later talked to her son by cell phone in Vacaville, where he had driven after leaving her in Lodi. She convinced him to turn back and when authorities caught up to him, he was in Rio Vista, about halfway back to Lodi. Police there spotted him and he led them on a lengthy high-speed pursuit that ended early Tuesday morning east of Stockton.
David Paradiso, who was arraigned Thursday on charges of murder, kidnapping and evading police, returns to court Dec. 18.
That same day in a courtroom mere yards down the same hallway, Pool is scheduled to make his next court appearance.
In July, the 28-year-old allegedly strangled his girlfriend, Lillian Brenna Best, in their rural Acampo home east of Lodi. Prosecutors say he then went next door to his step-mother's home on the same property, and she dialed 9-1-1.
Because Best, 20, was pregnant, Pool is charged with two counts of murder and could face a death sentence, though prosecutors have not announced whether they will seek that penalty.
Deputy District Attorney Kristine Reed, one of two prosecutors handling Pool's case, works in her office's domestic violence unit and said mothers often know their children are involved in messy relationships. The parents are closest to the situation - Pool went to his mother and Paradiso's mother witnessed the crime - so when a crime has occurred they must make a decision.
"The choice is obviously to involve yourself by covering it up, or in doing the right thing" by contacting law enforcement, Reed said.
Parents are tasked with teaching their children right from wrong, and in such cases they have to decide whether to live up to those values, Suderman said. Then they'll probably second-guess themselves and at times regret the decision.
"It's one thing when you run for office and become a public figure, it's another thing when it just happens," Suderman said. "Those are unplanned things and she now has no choice."
First published: Saturday, December 9, 2006