Victim's fiancee leads police to Superior homicide suspectSuperior police say the suspect in a fatal shooting Thursday had been involved with the victim’s fiancee and once told the woman he couldn’t live without her and wanted to kill the man she was with.
By: Shelley Nelson, Duluth News Tribune
Superior police say the suspect in a fatal shooting Thursday had been involved with the victim’s fiancee and once told the woman he couldn’t live without her and wanted to kill the man she was with.
Juan Leonardo Padilla, 41, of Fort Mohave, Ariz., is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the death of Terence Rodney Luukkonen, 46, of Duluth.
Luukkonen was found about 12:20 p.m. Thursday shot in his car in the parking lot of Genesis Attachments in Superior, where he worked as a purchasing director.
Luukkonen was pronounced dead at a Duluth hospital.
Luukkonen’s fiancee identified Padilla as a possible suspect, according to a statement released Friday afternoon by the Superior Police Department.
She told police she met Padilla in Arizona two years ago and the two had been acquaintances since then.
“It was reported that Padilla was upset that Terrance and his fiancee were continuing their relationship and Padilla made threatening statements such as ‘I want to kill him’ and ‘I can’t live without you,’” the police statement said. “At this time nothing suggests that Terrance and Padilla personally knew each other; however it is believed that they knew about each other.”
Padilla had made contact with the woman since coming to Duluth and was told at least once that his presence was unwelcome.
It’s possible that Padilla had been stalking Luukkonen. Someone recently cut the brake lines on Luukkonen’s vehicle and punctured a tire. The woman told police she confronted Padilla about the vandalism but he denied doing it. And Padilla might have been in the Genesis parking lot the day before the shooting.
Superior police say Padilla arrived in the Duluth area in an older, gold Cadillac, and “a gold-colored Cadillac had been observed by multiple witnesses in the Genesis Attachments parking lot on the day prior to the shooting, as well as the morning of the shooting and at the time of the shooting. The driver was reported to likely be a male wearing a dark hoodie style sweatshirt. Video surveillance has been recovered and corroborates these reports.”
The woman also corroborated those descriptions and that led to Padilla’s arrest at a West Duluth motel.
Padilla was taken into custody about 6 p.m. Thursday by the Duluth Police Department’s tactical response team at the Allyndale Motel.
The complaint states that the woman said Padilla visited unannounced at her home Monday. She told him “he could not do that and she would visit him at the motel the next day,” the complaint reads. The woman went to the motel and apparently confronted Padilla about the damages to Luukkonen’s car. She said Padilla denied any wrongdoing.
According to the woman, she met Padilla in 2011 in Arizona and a relationship developed. She said she made occasional visits there to be with him. She knew he had a military and police background and owned a handgun, the complaint states.
Luukkonen sustained a gunshot wound to the head. He was found in the driver’s seat of his vehicle and taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.
The initial report to 911 was of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, but emergency responders found no gun and the window glass was shattered into the car, suggesting that Luukkonen “was shot from the outside of his vehicle, while he was sitting inside,” according to the Superior Police Department statement.
Police say Luukkonen apparently died of a single gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy was to be performed Friday.
Superior police said Padilla has two harassment convictions from New York from 1998. They said he’s believed to be a 20-year veteran of the armed forces and was employed as a police officer in Fort Mohave. The Mohave Valley Daily News reported Friday that Padilla was terminated as an officer with the Fort Mojave Tribal Police in 2009 for “failure to meet standards.”
Padilla’s apparent Facebook page is under a name similar to Padilla’s and lists Luukkonen’s fiancee and Padilla’s ex-wife as friends. The page has 18 postings from the day before Luukkonen’s shooting, many of them shared images from New York sports sites, others bearing inspirational messages.
One is troubling: “Share this if you know someone who is alive today simply because you don’t want to go to prison…”
The last few posts that day are religious, including one declaring, “God is stronger than my circumstances.”
There were no posts on Thursday.
An initial appearance in Douglas County Court is likely next week.