A man accused of fatally stabbing his new girlfriend through the neck was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on murder charges.
During David Angelo Paradiso's preliminary hearing, which was delayed and interrupted by unrelated fire alarms in the courthouse, four police officers testified about the events surrounding the Dec. 4 death of 20-year-old Eileen Pelt.
Paradiso, now 27, was arrested the morning after her death, but not before allegedly leading officers on a lengthy pursuit that reached speeds of 125 mph on Highway 12 and 135 mph on Eight Mile Road, officers testified.
Lodi police learned of the killing at 8:40 p.m. Dec. 4, when Paradiso's mother arrived at the police station's lobby, reporting that her son had stolen her car and murdered someone inside it, said Officer Robert Rench, who first spoke with the woman.
A tearful and upset Deborah Paradiso, 53, was accompanied by an attorney and told Rench that her son had borrowed her 2005 Chrysler 300 but was tired so he asked his mother to drive him to his father's house in Lodi, then to take his girlfriend home to Auburn.
They were near his father's house in an alley off the 400 block of West Oak Street when Deborah Paradiso heard something.
"She said she heard David say, 'Now what can you do?' and she heard (Pelt) say, 'Why did you do that?' in a very calm voice," Rench testified. "She said she turned around and saw what appeared to be a hole in the female's neck on the right side and saw blood on the female's head and nose."
David Paradiso then allegedly told his mother, "Drive or you will be next," Rench said. She drove to Amador County, where he dumped Pelt's body and then had his mother return to Lodi.
At 12:35 a.m., Rio Vista Police Sgt. James Knapp spotted the car, confirmed the license plate and tried to pull the car over. It slowed to 10 mph, pulled over and then sped off.
The pursuit reached speeds of 125 mph and ran red lights at the Interstate 5 interchange and Lower Sacramento Road, Knapp testified.
They sailed through Lodi, where Detective Eric Bradley estimated the vehicle's speed at 100 mph in a 35 mph zone on Kettleman Lane. The chase headed south on Highway 99 at 100 mph down the shoulder in a one-lane construction zone with workers present, Knapp said.
The car turned east on Eight Mile Road and reached 135 mph on the country road, headed south on Highway 88, and then the vehicle stopped near Alpine Road after a tire blew. Officers ordered Paradiso out of the car, and he did not resist.
From the time Knapp turned on his flashing lights and tried to pull the car over just inside the San Joaquin County line to the stop, the pursuit had lasted 17 minutes.
Bradley took Paradiso to Amador County, where other Lodi detectives were searching for Pelt's body. He led them to an area where Detective Tim Fritz found a 3-foot-wide red stain of what appeared to be blood.
In a ravine off the side of a rural road, Fritz and Bradley found Pelt's body face-down on the ground. As they had through much of the hearing, her family members cried quietly in the courtroom while Fritz briefly described the scene.
An autopsy would later show that Pelt had been stabbed all the way through the neck, leaving a wound of more than two inches wide, Bradley said, basing his testimony on a report by pathologist Robert Lawrence.
In the car, Bradley found a military-style knife with a blade measuring more than six inches long, matching a description Deborah Paradiso had given police.
Judge Stephen Demetras ruled that there was enough evidence to send the case to trial, and David Paradiso will appear in court May 29. No trial date has been set.
Pelt's family members, most of whom traveled from Auburn and Grass Valley for the hearing, said time has yet to help them accept her death. Her brother and sister both said their children still talk about how much they miss "Auntie Eileen," and her grandfather noted that she would have celebrated her 21st birthday next month.
"There's no replacing our girl," said her mother, Jackie Pelt. "Our lives have changed, and we'll never be the same."