Shooter’s Relatives Convicted of Cyberstalking in Landmark Case
On February 11, 2013, Thomas Matusiewicz opened fire inside a New Castle County, Delaware courthouse, where he fatally wounded two women including his estranged daughter-in-law. Matusiewicz had reportedly accompanied his son David Matusiewicz to the courthouse that morning, where David was slated to attend a child support hearing involving his three children. After Thomas Matusiewicz opened fire in the lobby of the courthouse where he also wounded multiple officers, he turned his gun on himself.
An investigation into the shooting led authorities to discover that what drove Thomas Matusiewicz to act out in violence stemmed from a years-long custody battle between David and his ex-wife. Fast forward to July 2015, where details surrounding this tragic shooting have led a jury to conclude that Matusiewicz’s family members – including son David, daughter Amy Gonzalez, and wife Lenore – were all culpable for the deaths of David’s ex-wife Christine Belford and her friend Laura Mulford.
This month, this tragic story took another turn when Thomas Matusiewicz’s family members were convicted of cyberstalking in a landmark case. According to the American Bar Association Journal, a federal jury was asked to deliberate whether or not Matusiewicz’s family was also responsible in part for the deaths of Belford and Mulford.
This Cyberstalking case could pave the way for others in the future
Reports Martha Neil, “Prosecutors say the wife, son, and daughter of Thomas Matusiewicz played a role in his deadly February 11, 2013 attack on Christine Belford and Laura Mulford, by participating in harassing conduct that resulted in Belford’s death.” David Matusiewicz and his mother and sister allegedly stalked Belford, monitoring her whereabouts and accusing her of child abuse through unrelenting Internet posts, emails, and phone calls. The subsequent trial focused heavily on the cyberstalking component of this harassment, making it among the first of its kind to do so.
On July 10, a federal jury in Wilmington, Delaware, convicted the three family members of cyberstalking causing death. The three now face possible life prison terms for cyberstalking, and U.S. Attorney for Delaware Charles Oberly III commented, “We believe it was appropriate charges.” He also called the verdict “unprecedented,” which is certainly true.
As more information about the family’s background surfaced after the deadly shootings in 2013, it became clear that Thomas Matusiewicz might not have acted out so violently had his family not played a part in harassing Belford. Cyberstalking is a serious crime, and one that prosecutors will hopefully be able to bring more easily to trial once they are better equipped with information on how to convict perpetrators. This landmark cyberstalking case could pave the way for others in the future.