Criminal Justice

Widow, son and daughter of courthouse shooter get life terms in cyberstalking case

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The widow, son and daughter of a man who fatally shot two women at a Delaware courthouse in 2013 have been sentenced to life terms in a first-of-its-kind federal cyberstalking case.

Lenore Matusiewicz, David Matusiewicz and Amy Gonzalez were convicted by a Wilmington jury last year of cyberstalking causing death.

The two siblings, now 48 and 43, respectively, were sentenced Thursday in a courtroom packed with family and friends of the two slain women, Christine Belford and Laura “Beth” Mulford, the News Journal reports. Belford was the former daughter-in-law of shooter Thomas Matusiewicz, who committed suicide at the New Castle County courthouse in Wilmington after killing the two.

Lenore Matusiewicz, the shooter’s widow, is terminally ill and was sentenced Feb. 12 at her Philadelphia hospital bed. A notice of appeal has already been filed in her case.

The slayings followed a bitter child-custody battle dating back to the 2006 divorce of David Matusiewicz and Belford. He and his mother were earlier convicted of criminal charges concerning the kidnapping of the couple’s daughters, whom they took to Nicaragua for more than a year after what was supposed to be a two-week trip to Disney World in 2007. Although Matusiewicz lost his parental rights after that, a child-support battle continued, and he and his ex were in the Wilmington courthouse for a hearing in that matter in 2013. Mulford, a friend of Belford, had come with her to the hearing.

Meanwhile, in emails and letters to Belford and others, the family accused Belford of child abuse—that the government, the judge and the daughter in question says never occurred—seeking to take the children away from her. They also arranged with others to monitor her whereabouts, with Gonzalez acting as “propaganda director,” according to prosecutors and court testimony.

Although lawyers for all three defendants said their clients knew nothing about the courthouse shooting plan, U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh said David Matusiewicz, who accompanied his father to the courthouse on the morning of the shootings, likely foresaw it, the News Journal reports. While Gonzalez, who tearfully apologized at the sentencing, didn’t intend the murders, she should have anticipated the potential for violence, the judge said. He noted that he had “anguished” over her sentence but decided she was “inextricably interwoven” in the crime and lacked a moral compass.

A family member said the couple’s daughters would never feel safe if the defendants are freed.

“Punishment of these defendants, severe punishment, was absolutely warranted,” said acting U.S. Attorney David Weiss after the sentencing. “This was the only way that the court was able to protect the Matusiewicz children and anyone else who happened to draw the ire of the Matusiewiczes.”

A U.S. Department of Justice news release provides more details.

Related coverage: “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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