Slain murder suspect's mom: son was unstable

March 5, 2009 8:03:02 PM PST
The mother of a man fatally shot after he attacked a judge during his own murder trial said she had warned authorities two weeks earlier that her son was mentally unstable and may have had a weapon.

Debra Paradiso said her son, David, was mentally ill and frustrated, and should never have been allowed to take the witness stand. The 28-year-old was fatally shot by a Lodi police detective Wednesday when he left the stand and began attacking San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox.

"I think he was having a breakdown," Paradiso told The Stockton Record outside the courthouse following the incident. "I could see it in his eyes."

The slain man's mother said she called the sheriff's department two weeks ago to warn them that he had a weapon. After his cell was searched and nothing found, the department dismissed her concerns that her son was acting unstable, Paradiso said.

The sheriff's department declined to comment immediately on Paradiso's claims but said they would issue a statement later Thursday.

On Wednesday David Paradiso took the witness stand around 2 p.m. and was quickly asked by prosecutors why he killed his girlfriend, Eileen Pelt.

He responded: "Cause she deserved to die."

Debra Paradiso stood up and started yelling that her son should not have been on the stand, leading the judge to call a recess. As jurors filed out, David Paradiso left the stand and approached the judge from behind "with an unknown cutting instrument," said Dave Konecny, a spokesman for the sheriff's department.

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.

Konecny 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.

Debra 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 newspaper.

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. She was released later Wednesday. 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.

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.

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

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