Penalty phase begins for Gilbert officer’s killer

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BY JIM WALSHGSN Staff Writer

The nine year wait for justice in the Jan. 28, 2010 slaying of Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler is finally over.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury last week found Christopher Angel Redondo, 44, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Shuhandler during a traffic stop at a shopping center near Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road.
Jurors immediately started working on their next decision – whether to sentence Redondo to death or another life term in one of the East Valley’s most notorious and cold-blooded crimes this century.
In Arizona, only juries can impose death sentences. Redondo already is serving life without possibility of parole in the unrelated March 2009 slaying of Ernie Singh in Miami in Gila County.
Redondo’s trial in Shuhandler’s slaying was delayed for years over defense claims that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Although Redondo was found competent at least three times, signaling that he understands the charges against him, a series of defense attorneys questioned his ability to assist in his defense.
A long series of legal proceedings left grieving family members and friends without any sense of closure.
“I would not say it’s a burden, but it’s very frustrating,” Meredith Shuhandler, one of the slain officer’s two daughters, told the Gilbert Sun News more than a year ago. “It makes me mad when I think about it. Closure would be nice.’’
“I’m very grateful for the 12 years I spent with him. It shaped my life in so many ways,’’ she said. “When I make a decision, I think about whether it would be something that would make him proud of me.’’
Gilbert Police Chief Mike Soelberg issued a statement after the verdict, stating:
“After nine years of patiently waiting for due process to take place, justice has finally been served for those responsible for this heinous crime.’’
“As we await the sentencing phase of the trial to be completed, we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our public safety servants every day and say thank you to the family, the friends and the community who provide us support each day,’’ Soelberg wrote.
Shuhandler was shot in cold blood in the face as he walked toward the work truck he had stopped at Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road. The truck was driven by Daimen Irizarry, 39, who later received a 107-year sentence for his role in the murder.
Shuhandler had obtained Redondo’s identification, and had walked to his patrol car to check on it.
Following the shooting, a wild, 50-mile chase east on U.S. 60 ensued involving three police agencies. Redondo tossed tools and air conditioning parts into the highway in the path of patrol cars in hot pursuit, disabling them.
Finally, the chase ended in a shootout in Superior after the truck ran out of gas. Redondo was shot in the ankle, but survived to stand trial.
More than nine years later, Redondo’s trial finally began early this year before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Cunanan, with Redondo making only occasional appearances and the rest of the time sequestered in another room.
Dan Raynak and David Lockhart, Redondo’s defense attorneys, submitted a list of 32 witnesses who could be called during the trial, including several mental health experts. The penalty hearing could last as long as a month.