Bergen County Record

Thursday, November 11, 1999

Paterson woman attacks rival's family, cops say

By PAULO LIMA
Staff Writer, Bergen County Record

A long-running love triangle erupted into violence inside a Paramus home Tuesday night, nearly claiming the life of a 16-year-old girl who wasn't even involved in the romantic rivalry, police said Wednesday.

Police say the jilted suspect could not find her intended target, so she vented her rage on the woman's younger sister, stabbing her in the back with an 8-inch kitchen knife.

She also slashed the teenager's 56-year-old mother when the older woman intervened, they said.

"She was hell-bent on evil," said John Tambe, 22, the man who police say was the object of the alleged assailant's affections.

The victim, Dania Jassim, suffered a collapsed lung, but was upgraded from critical to good condition Wednesday at Hackensack University Medical Center, a spokesman said. Her mother, Rajaa Malas, was treated for slashes on her wrist and a bite mark on her forehead and released, police said.

Police arrested 22-year-old Paterson resident Judith Castillo on Route 4 in Elmwood Park shortly after the attack. Castillo was waiting there for a ride home from a relative after fleeing the scene, Paramus Deputy Police Chief Tim Sullivan said.

"The doctors said that my sister almost died; she told me she thought she was going to die," Susan Jassim, 20, said Wednesday at her Ehret Street home as she and Tambe recounted the events of the night before.

Around them, splotches of blood and small patches of hair on the floor gave testimony to the brutal life-and-death struggle. The telephone used to call for help remained stained with blood.

"[Castillo] was after me," Susan Jassim said. "When she saw it was taking me a long time to get home, she went after my family."

Tambe said he and Castillo had had an on-again, off-again relationship since January 1997. In the interim, he said, he dated Susan Jassim for about a year.

Tambe said he and Castillo broke up most recently last month. He reunited with Jassim only a few days ago.

Castillo "is a very violent, vengeful person," Tambe said. "When I broke up with her and went back to Sue, Judy decided she wanted to always be in the middle of it, with threats and stalking and harassing phone calls."

Tambe said Castillo also told him she is five months pregnant. He said he is not the father.

Tambe said he had received a temporary restraining order against Castillo on Sunday. A court date aimed at making the order permanent is scheduled for Monday.

Dania Jassim had answered the door to her home about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to find Castillo, who identified herself as "Kelly," a friend of Susan's, police said.

When Dania Jassim said her sister wasn't home, Castillo asked to come inside and wait, Sullivan said.

Susan Jassim had called police several times to complain that Castillo had harassed her, but the younger sister had never met Castillo and had no idea what she looked like, the deputy chief said.

Susan Jassim said she had left the house only a few minutes earlier to pick up Tambe from his job at Costco in Hackensack. She would not return home until about 3 a.m., she said.

For about an hour and a half, Castillo sat at the kitchen table with Dania Jassim as the junior at the Academy of Holy Angels in Demarest did her homework, Sullivan said.

Just before 10 p.m., Castillo rose from her chair, saying she was going to get a glass of water. Instead, Sullivan said, she walked behind Dania Jassim and pulled a knife.

"She plunges the knife right through one of her lungs," he said. "It was a near-fatal wound."

The teen's screams woke her mother, who hurried downstairs and joined Dania in a fierce struggle for the weapon, Sullivan said.

Both mother and daughter suffered cuts on their hands and wrists before they wrested the knife from Castillo, Sullivan said. Castillo also allegedly bit the older woman on the forehead.

"They tried to pin her down after they got the knife away from her, but they couldn't hold her," Susan Jassim said. "My sister passed out before the cops got there."

The first officers to arrive found the bloodied girl lying on the couch, the knife on the floor nearby, and Castillo gone.

When detectives researched previous police calls to the house, they discovered the harassment complaints and immediately focused on Castillo as a suspect, Sullivan said.

Investigators went to Castillo's house and followed a car as it pulled away. Moments later, the car -- driven by her sister -- stopped to pick up Castillo on Route 4 in Elmwood Park, where she was arrested, Sullivan said.

Susan Jassim said she returned home early Wednesday to find all the lights on and everyone gone.

"I got so worried and I went downstairs," she said. "I noticed blood all over the whole first floor of the house, and that's what got me flying out the front door."

A Paramus police officer parked on the street told Jassim what happened. She said she then called Tambe and they went to the hospital together.

Jassim said her sister was breathing with the aid of an oxygen mask Wednesday and that her mother was "in a lot of pain."

Castillo was being held on $100,000 bail Wednesday in the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, charged with two counts of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon. She was on a suicide watch, which is a "normal precaution based on the nature of the charges," Bergen County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Crowley said.

Records show Castillo also was arrested in Garfield last September on charges of harassment and violating a court order of domestic protection. The disposition of those charges was not available Wednesday.

Tambe said that arrest was in connection with an incident in which Castillo vandalized both his car and Susan Jassim's car, which were parked at Tambe's Garfield home.

Copyright © 1999 Bergen Record Corp.