Victim Tells Neighbor He Was Shot by 'Contract Killer'

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The ex-husband of a Sparks judge who was fatally shot at his home told a neighbor before he died that the killer was paid to murder him. Police said Tuesday they were investigating that possibility but have no evidence to indicate it was a "contract killing."

Miles Deriso, 44, who died early Monday, recently divorced from Sparks Justice of the Peace Susan Deriso after more than 20 years of marriage.

He knocked on his neighbor's door in the northeast residential neighborhood about 2 a.m. Monday saying he'd been shot in the stomach, Sparks police said. An acquaintance of his also was found outside with a minor stab wound but police have declined to identify him.

The next-door neighbor, Doug Whitten, told the Daily Sparks Tribune that Deriso had a gunshot wound in his abdomen that exited through his back. He died about 90 minutes later at Washoe Medical Center.

Deriso told Whitten while he was bleeding on Whitten's living room floor that the gunman told Deriso "he was hired to kill him," Whitten told the Tribune on Monday.

Sparks police Sgt. Chad Hawkins said Tuesday investigators did not know whether Deriso was the victim of a murder for hire.

"We have heard that comment and we are investigating that comment. At this time it's hard to say," Hawkins said.

"We do not have a motive and we are certainly exploring all avenues," he said.

Hawkins issued a statement later Tuesday to clarify that while "there has been speculation that this is a `contract killing' ... at this time there is no information to corroborate that claim.

"We are conducting interviews on family members and potential witnesses as well as receiving evidence," he said.

Police said there were signs of a struggle inside Deriso's house at 1350 Burnside Court but investigators have not yet established any suspects.

Hawkins said investigators were unsure whether anyone else was in the home at the time of the shooting.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported the couple divorced about two months ago. They have four sons.

In 1989, Deriso survived a near fatal motorcycle crash that left him bedridden and temporarily unable to walk, according to court documents. He also lost his teeth in the accident.

Before his accident, Deriso was a forklift operator, delivery driver and a cook. His wife, in court records, said her husband had not worked since his accident. Deriso did try working maintenance jobs in 2001, but they didn't last, records said.

According to papers his lawyer filed, Deriso was "a house husband" who stayed at home with the children while his wife worked.

Susan Deriso filed for divorce in 2002. She is a Hug High School graduate who has lived in Sparks 40 years and was elected in 2000 to a six-year term on the bench. She is not a lawyer and for 15 years was chief civil clerk for Reno Justice Court before being elected.

Kara Papulias, who lived down the block from Deriso, said his house was a popular hangout for neighborhood children. Her children played there with his sons, she said.

"I just saw Miles last week, and he was happy because he got a truck," she told the Gazette-Journal.

Papulias said Deriso was always friendly and hospitable to children who wanted to spend time at his house with his sons and two dogs.

"I hadn't seen him since before the (Thanksgiving) holiday, and I just heard he's dead," she said. "I have to come up with a way to tell my 9-year-old that his friend's dad is dead."