Court Security

Courthouse shooter had prior run-ins with lawyers over family dispute

  • Print

Thomas Matusiewicz reportedly had anger issues for years before the 68-year-old shot to death his former daughter-in-law, Christine Belford, and a female friend in the lobby of a Wilmington, Del., courthouse earlier this month.

The women were there for a hearing in a long-running child-support case involving the shooter’s adult son, David Matusiewicz, and three daughters now aged 7, 9 and 10. Both David Matusiewicz and the paternal grandmother of the children, Lenore Matusiewicz, had previously served time for kidnapping the children, with whom they lived in Central America during the 18 months the girls were kept from Christine Belford in 2007 and 2008. Before the shootings, David Matusiewicz, who is on parole, reportedly lived with his parents in Texas.

Although the Matusiewiczes have claimed that they were trying to protect the children from abuse by Belford, their abuse allegations were never determined by investigators to have any valid basis. And, a federal judge noted when sentencing David Matusiewicz in the kidnapping case in 2010, the allegations were not raised with authorities until after the kidnapping, nor were police ever called at the time the abuse was alleged to have occurred, the News Journal reported in a lengthy weekend article about the events that led up to the slayings.

Meanwhile, recalls James J. Woods Jr., a lawyer who represented Belford in a civil damages suit she brought against the family over the kidnapping in Delaware Superior Court,, he began receiving correspondence from Thomas and Lenore Matusiewicz that made “nasty” claims against his client.

“There was just a lot of hatred there,” he told the newspaper, explaining that he had thrown the letters away. “Venom. It was sad.”

The lawyer defending the Matusiewicz family in the case quit in February 2011, saying that his clients were ignoring his advice and hadn’t paid him. Thomas and Lenore Matusiewicz filed for bankruptcy in Texas that same month, and she later complained in a letter sent to Delaware Superior Court that the couple had spent $1 million “trying to get our granddaughters to safety,” yet never had seen “justice” done.

Thomas Matusiewicz, a former police officer, had reportedly been found years ago to have a benign brain tumor, which may have affected his thinking. In any event, Belford’s father told the News Journal in a 2008 interview that he himself was fearful of both the Matusiewicz men.

“He said to my daughter, ‘I’m an old man, and I got a problem with my brain. I don’t care who I take out because I’m not going to live that long.’ ” said Belford’s father, Jim, in a 2008 interview with the newspaper. “She said, ‘I got to get out of that house.’ The things that Dave and he said to her: ‘I’ll bury you, and they’ll never find a body.’”

Thomas Matusiewicz is now dead. His widow and son declined to speak with the News Journal. David Matusiewicz was taken into custody after the shootings and is facing a parole violation case for allegedly failing to tell authorities, when he obtained permission to travel to New Jersey from Texas, that he planned to spend a night in Elkton, Md., roughly a 45-minute drive from Wilmington, Del., according to the Associated Press. A day after the shootings, the Delaware attorney general’s office got a court order prohibiting Lenore Matusiewicz from contact with her granddaughters

Another News Journal article provides a timeline of the events that led up to the fatal shootings.

Additional coverage: “Women gunned down at Delaware courthouse were there for child-support hearing” “Courthouse shooter had handwritten death warrant for lawyer who wasn’t there, authorities say”

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Man whose father killed 2 women at Del. court to stay in jail”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.