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Federal Judge Shot At Home

May 22, 1988

PELHAM, N.Y. (AP) _ A federal judge was shot and killed at his home in this wealthy New York City suburb Saturday by an assailant who then committed suicide, police said.

It was believed to be only the second slaying of a federal judge this century.

Richard J. Daronco, 56, was in a garden at the side of his home when a man approached with a handgun about 2:15 p.m., Police Chief Anthony M. Quatroni said.

The judge fled to the back yard, where he was shot several times, he said.

Daronco then ran into the house, followed by the attacker. Inside, another shot was fired - apparently that of the gunman committing suicide, Quatroni said.

Daronco’s wife, a daughter and her boyfriend were in the house when the attack occured and alerted neighbors who called for police, according to a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Quatroni said only that family members were home at some point during the day and that police were investigating whether there were any witnesses.

Police arrived within a few minutes and found a man on the ground floor with a gunshot wound to the head and a .38-caliber revolver near his hand, Quatroni said.

Daronco was found in a study a few feet away, his sweatshirt and sweatpants soaked in blood, he said.

Daronco died of multiple gunshot wounds to various parts of the body, said Dr. Louis Roh, deputy medical examiner for Westchester County, who pronounced both men dead at the scene about 4 p.m.

Roh said the other man, who he described as white and in his late 60s, died of a single gunshot wound to the head, apparently from the same gun.

Quatroni said police were checking the name on a pistol permit found on the attacker’s body but had been unable to identify the assailant.

The attacker arrived at the scene in a car, Quatroni said, but he would not say where the car was. He also said he did not know of any words having been exchanged by the judge and his assailant.

He said police were investigating whether any threats had been made against the judge.

″It was shocking because he (Daronco) was a man respected by the entire community,″ said Quatroni.

Westchester County District Attorney Carl A. Vergari said investigators would try to determine whether the killing was connected with a case Daronco handled.

″Obviously, when you have a judge who sat on courts with criminal jurisdiction that would be the first place to look, would it not, where he’s killed in this manner,″ Vergari said at the scene.

The judge and his wife, Joan O’Rourke, were married in 1957 and have five grown children.

″He was a family man. He was a churchgoer. He was always out working on his house,″ said William Hynes, a neighbor.

Another neighbor, Joseph Kish, who said he had known Daronco for 14 years, called the judge ″a wonderful person, a beautiful neighbor, a great family man. He’s gonna be missed. It’s a terrible tragedy.″

Daronco was appointed in 1987 as a federal judge for the Southern District of New York.

His brother, Paul, is the supervisor in this affluent town of about 5,000 people just north of New York City in Westchester County.

Daronco was born and reared in Pelham and attended Providence College in Rhode Island and the Albany Law School of Union University.

Daronco began his judicial career in 1971 when Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller appointed him to Westchester County Family Court. In 1984, Daronco was elevated from a state judgeship in White Plains to deputy chief administrative judge of the state’s office of court administration.

U.S. District Judge John H. Wood Jr. was shot by a sniper in the driveway of his San Antonio, Texas, townhouse on May 29, 1979. Wood, 63, was nicknamed ″Maximum John″ because he frequently gave the maximum sentence to convicted narcotics traffickers in the Western District of Texas.

Charles V. Harrelson, a convicted hitman, was found guilty in 1982 of shooting Wood and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for murder and murder conspiracy.

Jimmy Chagra, of El Paso, Texas, who had been scheduled to appear in Wood’s court on drug charges, was acquitted of paying Harrelson $250,000 to kill Wood, but was sentenced to 20 years in prison for other crimes, and his wife, Elizabeth, was convicted of conspiracy to murder the judge.

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