Sexual assault suspect shoots victim, husband

The Associated Press
Saturday October 21, 2000

YREKA – A man accused of luring two girls into his home with gifts and ice cream and then sexually assaulting them a decade ago pulled a gun in the courthouse during his trial Friday and shot one of his victims and her husband. He then killed himself. 

The court was recessed for jury deliberations in the Siskiyou County case against Edward Lansdale, 68, of Mount Shasta, when he fired two shots into Amber Pearce, a Sacramento woman who testified against Lansdale. He also shot her husband once, police Lt. Rick Riggins said. 

Lansdale ran down to a landing between the first and second floors, then shot himself in the head as deputies rushed toward him. 

Lansdale didn’t know it, but the jurors had just voted to convict him in the sexual assault case. 

Lansdale and the Pearces were taken to Fairchild Medical Center, where Lansdale died at about 1 p.m., Riggins said. 

Amber and Jeffrey Pearce, both 26, were in stable condition. Amber had a gunshot wound to the abdomen and Jeffrey was shot in the right leg, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Shelvock said. 

Lansdale had been on trial all week, charged with taking Amber Pearce, then 14, into his home in Big Springs and having sexual intercourse with her between September 1986 and late January 1990. 

Lansdale was charged with 24 felony counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child and 10 felony counts of oral copulation with a child, all related to Amber Pearce. The other alleged victim also testified. Charges could not be filed in her case due to a statute of limitations. 

Lansdale pleaded innocent to all charges. However, he didn’t testify at his trial, and the defense did not call any other witnesses or offer any evidence. His attorney, Allen King of Mount Shasta, did not immediately respond to messages left at his office Friday afternoon by The Associated Press seeking comment on the case. 

Assistant District Attorney Bill Davis said Lansdale ingratiated himself to the two girls’ families. 

“He would buy things for them. Literally, he brought ice cream when he was first trying to work his way into Amber’s family,” he said, adding that both girls lived for a time in Lansdale’s home with their parents’ permission. 

The charges carried a maximum penalty of nearly 60 years in prison. 

He said the jury had heard the shooting and knew something had happened, but did not know details. 

“The foreperson made a point of saying they had all agreed and reached guilty verdicts on all the counts before the shots were fired,” Davis said. 

The judge reconvened the court and read the verdict. 

“It was unusual,” Davis said. “It was really more of a closure sort of thing than it was a legal operation.” 

About 15 people were standing around outside the second-floor courtroom about 11 a.m. when Lansdale pulled out a 22-caliber “derringer-type revolver” and fired three rounds at the Pearces, Riggins said. 

Police were investigating how Lansdale got the gun into the building. 

However, Lansdale “went into the bathroom right after he left the courtroom and then he came out with the gun,” Davis said. 

After he shot them, the Pearces began fleeing down the nearby stairs, Riggins said. Lansdale followed, but stopped at the landing, “put the gun to his head and fired a round.” 

Lansdale was free on bail during the trial, Davis said. 

Siskiyou County Undersheriff Mike Lyon said there are airport-like metal detectors outside two of the courthouse’s three courtrooms. Officers use portable metal detectors at the third courtroom. 

But there are no detectors at the entrance, Lyon said. 

He said officials decided it would be too costly and an “inconvenience to the general public” to put detectors at the entrance. 

Riggins said the courthouse would reopen Monday. He said he didn’t know if there would be new security then, but said he was sure it would be looked into. 

“I have a strong suspicision that we will have stronger security in the very near future,” added prosecutor Davis. 

Lynn Holton, a spokeswoman for the state Judicial Council, the administrative agency for California courts, said the state allocated more than $240 million this year for court security measures. 

It’s up to each court how that money is spent. There’s no requirement for metal detectors at courthouse doors, she said.