Delaware courthouse gunman's son sent back to prison

David Matusiewicz

April 23, 2013 2:45:00 PM PDT
A man whose father killed two people at a Delaware courthouse before taking his own life was sentenced to six months in federal prison Tuesday for violating his probation on fraud and kidnapping charges.

David Matusiewicz, 46, was arrested Feb. 11 after his 68-year-old father, Thomas, killed Matusiewicz's ex-wife, Christine Belford, 39, and a friend, Laura Mulford, 47, before a scheduled child support hearing in a long and bitter custody dispute between Belford and the younger Matusiewicz.

David Matusiewicz, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to fraud and kidnapping after taking his three daughters to Central America in 2007, was released from prison last year.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Sleet ordered that after finishing his new prison sentence, Matusiewicz must spend an additional four years on supervised release, during which he can have no contact with his daughters.

After the Feb. 11 shooting, federal prosecutors alleged that David Matusiewicz had repeatedly failed to abide by the conditions of his probation, including a prohibition against being around firearms. Investigators found several guns in and around the Texas house he shared with his parents. Prosecutors alleged that Matusiewicz knew his father, who probation officers described as "perpetually armed," brought guns with him on the trip from Texas to Delaware for the child support hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf said that besides guns, investigators also found a cattle prod and a bulletproof vest in the car in which Thomas and David Matusiewicz traveled to the New Castle County Courthouse.

The judge told Matusiewicz that instead of complying with his probation conditions, he had deceived his probation officers and knowingly violated the terms of his probation, including associating with his father, who "it was well known to you always carried a firearm."

Sleet also agreed with prosecutors that Matusiewicz has failed to accept responsibility for the underlying fraud and kidnapping charges stemming from the abduction of his daughters.

Last week, attorneys informed the judge that Matusiewicz would neither admit to nor contest the probation violation allegations. Matusiewicz said Tuesday he has undergone therapy for depression since being released from prison.

Public defender Dina Chavar asked Sleet for a sentence of no more than four months, near the bottom of the recommended range of three to nine months. Wolf sought a sentence of eight months.

Federal prosecutors initially alleged that David Matusiewicz violated his probation by not properly disclosing his whereabouts and not paying court-ordered child support and restitution. They said Matusiewicz, in receiving permission to travel to Delaware for a hearing on his request for a reduction in child support obligations, said he would be staying with an uncle in Bayville, N.J., and that he failed to disclose that he spent the night before the shooting at a friend's home in Elkton, Md. Prosecutors also claimed Matusiewicz was behind on child support payments of $2,200 a month and has yet to pay $9,674 in restitution and a $200 court assessment from his 2009 criminal case.

Matusiewicz's mother, Lenore, has said the family left her brother's home in New Jersey and spent the night in Elkton because there was a threat of bad weather and they wanted to be closer to the Wilmington courthouse. Because it was a Sunday, there was no way to notify David's probation officers of the change in plans, said Lenore Matusiewicz, who served more than a year in Delaware state prison for endangering the welfare of her three granddaughters after helping her son take them to Central America.

Prosecutors later revised the probation violation charges, saying David Matusiewicz violated prohibitions against having guns or ammunition. Authorities executing a search warrant at his parents' Texas home the day after the courthouse shooting found ammunition and guns inside the home, in a recreational vehicle parked just outside the home, and in a storage shed.

Wolf said Matusiewicz lied in telling probation officers that all the guns had been removed from his parents' home.

Lenore Matusiewicz said in an email Tuesday that her son was being persecuted for the mistakes of his father and others, including his Texas probation officers and attorneys and judges in Delaware.