WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A girl whose mother was shot to death by the child's grandfather at a Delaware courthouse testified Monday that she had never been sexually abused by her mother, had an "awesome" relationship with her — and was not surprised when she was killed.
The 13-year-old testified for about 40 minutes behind closed doors in federal court against her father, former optometrist David Matusiewicz; her grandmother, Lenore Matusiewicz; and her aunt, Amy Gonzalez.
The defendants are accused of conspiracy and cyberstalking of the girl's mother, David's ex-wife, Christine Belford. If convicted, they could face life in prison, a punishment that Justice Department officials believe would be unprecedented for a conviction of cyberstalking resulting in death.
David's father, Thomas Matusiewicz, killed Belford and a friend in 2013 as they arrived for a child support hearing, then exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.
The shooting followed a bitter custody battle during which David Matusiewicz lost his parental rights after he and his mother kidnapped his three daughters and took them to Central America in 2007. David Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal fraud and kidnapping charges. Lenore Matusiewicz served more than a year in Delaware state prison for child endangerment for her role in the kidnapping.
Following the shooting, federal prosecutors alleged that David Matusiewicz conspired with his parents and sister over several years to torment and stalk his ex-wife with the intent to injure, harass, intimidate and kill her, repeatedly accusing Belford in email communications, letters and Internet postings of abusing and neglecting the couple's daughters.
Thomas Matusiewicz's family members have denied knowing that he intended to kill Belford.
Prosecutors say the family's stalking of Belford was aimed at reuniting David Matusiewicz with his daughters, and that it centered on unsubstantiated accusations that Belford had sexually abused the oldest girl.
According to a transcript of the private testimony released by the court, the girl denied that she had been abused by Belford after her parents were separated, or after she and her sisters were reunited with Belford after the kidnapping.
"Personally, I don't forget traumatic experiences," she said. "I mean, I was there, so I would know."
The girl also recalled being shocked when she Googled her name a few years ago and came across a website with accounts of her alleged sexual abuse by Belford.
"None of it was true ... and it didn't make any sense because, like, I never did any of those things or she didn't do any of those things," said the girl, who described her relationship with Belford as "awesome."
Under questioning from prosecutor Jamie McCall, the girl also recalled the day when her grandfather killed her mother.
"We went downstairs to see my mother and wished her good luck in the courthouse," said the girl, who was pulled out of her classroom shortly after arriving at school that day.
She said she and her sisters were gathered together at a police station, where they were told that their mother had been killed. McCall asked what she was feeling as she was being driven from the police station to a foster care facility.
"Pretty much like, wow, not surprising," the girl responded. "I knew it would happen at some point."
Defense attorneys chose not to cross-examine the girl after agreeing with prosecutors to seal the courtroom during her testimony to protect her from the risk of further psychological trauma.
The Associated Press and News Journal of Wilmington argued unsuccessfully that the courtroom should be open to the public during the girl's testimony. The AP has not named the girl during its coverage of the trial or shown any images of her.
In other testimony Monday, the director of the Delaware Division of Family Services said her agency never investigated the Matusiewicz family's allegations that the oldest girl was being sexually abused.
DFS director Laura Miles also said under cross-examination that she did not know whether the allegations were ever investigated by New Castle County Police or Children's Advocacy Center officials, even though she told David Matusiewicz in a December 2009 letter that his allegations of sexual abuse occurring in 2007 "have been addressed by the appropriate authorities."
Miles said the letter, which also stated that DFS had no role to play because there were no current allegations of abuse, was based on what her staff had told her.
"This letter was correct at the time ... what my staff advised me at the time," she said.
Also testifying Monday was Jason Hann-Deschaine, a pediatrician who treated the Matusiewicz girls before and after the kidnapping. He testified that the Matusiewicz family never told him of any child sexual abuse concerns, and that he found no genital abnormalities when he examined the oldest girl in April 2009, after authorities found the girls in Nicaragua and reunited them with Belford.