Jurors hear early testimony in federal cyberstalking case

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Posted: Jun 12, 2015 2:51 PM
Jurors hear early testimony in federal cyberstalking case

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Jurors in the federal cyberstalking trial of relatives of a gunman who killed his former daughter-in-law at a courthouse heard testimony Friday from witnesses and law enforcement officials who responded to the 2013 shooting.

Former optometrist David Matusiewicz; his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz; and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, are charged with conspiracy and cyberstalking of David Matusiewicz's ex-wife, Christine Belford. They could face life in prison if convicted of stalking that resulted in her death.

David Matusiewicz's father, Thomas Matusiewicz, shot Belford as she arrived for a child support hearing in February 2013. Thomas Matusiewicz also killed Belford's friend Laura Mulford and exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.

Jessica Walizer, a witness in the courthouse lobby, testified that she heard a man shout, "Shoot him! He's reloading!"

In a videotaped deposition shown to jurors, Walizer also said she tried to tend to Belford as she lay dying.

"I said, 'Help is on the way. You're not alone,'" recalled Walizer, who said Belford blinked her eyes to acknowledge that she heard her.

Capitol Police Cpl. Steven Rinehart described how he twice exchanged gunfire with Thomas Matusiewicz, first as Matusiewicz headed toward the main entrance of the courthouse and again after he tried to flee through a revolving door at a side entrance, where Matusiewicz shot himself in the head.

Prosecutors say David Matusiewicz, who was inside the courthouse during the shooting, conspired with his parents and sister over several years to harass and stalk Belford with the intent to see her dead.

But Thomas Matusiewicz's relatives have denied knowing that he intended to kill Belford.

Prosecutors have said that the primary goal of the stalking campaign was to reunite David with the three daughters he had with Belford. David Matusiewicz and Belford waged a bitter custody battle for the children that culminated in the termination of his parental rights after he and his mother kidnapped the children in 2007 and took them to Central America.

Prosecutors say a core element of the stalking campaign was an unsubstantiated accusation that Belford had sexually abused the couple's oldest daughter, now 13, who is expected to testify for the prosecution. Prosecutors want to have the courtroom sealed during the girl's testimony, even though they assert she was never sexually or physically abused by Belford.

Defense attorneys have told jurors to focus on the intent of the Matusiewicz family's internal and external communications regarding the custody battle, their attempts to draw attention and legal support to their cause, and David's desire to maintain a relationship with his children.

Jeffrey Shriner, a New Castle County police officer who helped lead the 2007 kidnapping investigation, testified Friday that neither Thomas Matusiewicz nor Amy Gonzalez mentioned child sex abuse when he spoke with them while trying to track down the girls.

He also said the oldest daughter did not disclose any sexual abuse when she was interviewed in 2009, after she and her sisters were found in Nicaragua and reunited with their mother. It's unclear, however, whether the girl was asked whether she had been abused, and Shriner acknowledged under cross-examination that the 2009 interview was not about sexual abuse allegations.

Shriner told jurors he rushed to the courthouse in 2013 after hearing about the shooting over his police radio, not knowing who was involved.

"The first thing that hit me was the smell of gunpowder," said Shriner, who noticed people tending to a body on the floor but did not learn until later that it was Belford.

"My first thought was, 'Where's David?'" he recalled.