Trials & Litigation

Federal cyberstalking trial blames courthouse shooter's widow, son and daughter for slaying of woman

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There’s no dispute that former police officer Thomas Matusiewicz shot two women to death at a Delaware courthouse on Feb. 11, 2013, as they were headed to a child-support hearing, and then committed suicide.

But an unusual federal cyberstalking trial now underway in Delaware also seeks to hold his widow, son and daughter responsible for the slaying of his former daughter-in law, Christine Belford. Charged with conspiracy and cyberstalking resulting in the death of Belford, the three could get life in prison, if convicted, according to the Associated Press and the Wilmington News Journal.

For years, Lenore Matusiewicz, David Matusiewicz and Amy Gonzalez participated in an Internet, email and U.S. mail campaign to harass and intimidate David Matusiewicz’ ex-wife that led to her slaying, assistant U.S. attorney Shawn Weede contended in opening statements Thursday. Belford’s friend, Laura Mulford, came to the courthouse with her on Feb. 11, 2013 and also was shot to death by Thomas Matusiewicz.

Motivating the claimed campaign against Belford was the Matusiewicz family’s desire to gain custody of the children David Matusiewicz had with Belford. In 2007, David Matusiewicz and his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz, even took the children to Central America, resulting in an earlier kidnapping case in which both were convicted and served time. The father’s parental rights also were terminated, but he continued to fight to try to get his three daughters back.

In the car in which Thomas and David Matusiewicz traveled to the New Castle County courthouse on Feb. 11, 2013, police found a bulletproof vest, ammunition, a knife, an electric shock device and three sets of plastic handcuffs, among other items, the News Journal reports. Also in the vehicle was what authorities describe as a hit list of individuals who the Matusiewicz family felt they had been wronged by as they fought for custody.

“This case is about power,” Weede told the jury. “It’s about the defendants using fear, intimidation, harassment to get something they wanted.”

However, Dina Chavar, a lawyer for David Matusiewicz, said the former optometrist had learned his lesson after the earlier kidnapping conviction and had no intention of acting outside the law as he sought custody of his children. She also said he did not know his father planned to shoot Belford.

Attorney Jeremy Gonzalez Ibrahim is representing Gonzalez and said her only concern was the best interest of her nieces. He emphasized her work as a nurse and urged jurors to look at her situation separately from other members of the Matusiewicz family, the newspaper reports.

A lawyer for Lenore Matusiewicz did not make an opening statement.

Related coverage: “3 relatives of courthouse shooter indicted, feds say cyberstalking resulted in death of victim”

See also: “Courthouse shooter had prior run-ins with lawyers over family dispute” “Federal judge on courthouse shooter’s ‘hit list’ asked to step aside in cases against family members”

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