Defense testimony wraps up in federal cyberstalking trial

AP News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2015 4:43 PM

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Defense attorneys called their final witnesses Monday as the trial winds down in the federal conspiracy and cyberstalking case against the widow and children of a man who killed his ex-daughter-in-law at a Delaware courthouse.

David Matusiewicz, his mother, Lenore, and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, are being tried on charges related to the death of David's ex-wife, Christine Belford. If convicted, they could face life in prison, a punishment Justice Department officials believe would be unprecedented for cyberstalking resulting in death.

Belford and a friend were shot and killed in February 2013 by Thomas Matusiewicz as they arrived for a child support hearing. Matusiewicz then exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.

The shootings stemmed from a long and 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 and Lenore Matusiewicz, who both went to prison, claimed after the kidnapping that it was an attempt to protect the girls from abuse by Belford.

Michael O'Rourke, a private investigator hired by David Matusiewicz in 2006 during his custody dispute with Belford, testified Monday that David Matusiewicz never asked him to do anything improper or illegal. He also said Matusiewicz never alleged at that time that Belford was sexually abusing any of the children, but that he heard of such allegations later after Matusiewicz was arrested following the kidnapping.

O'Rourke also testified that after the shootings, David Matusiewicz allowed him to give the FBI and state police records of the investigative work his firm had conducted on Belford.

Prosecutors allege 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.

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

David Mitchell, at whose Elkton, Maryland, home David Matusiewicz and his parents slept the night before the shooting, testified Monday that Lenore Matusiewicz, who had stayed behind while her husband and son went to the courthouse, was "just stunned" when she learned, through radio news reports relayed by Mitchell's wife, that her family was connected to the courthouse shooting.

Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist and DNA expert, noted Monday that FBI lab tests found no evidence of David Matusiewicz's DNA on various items seized by investigators after the shootings, including a cattle prod, a gun cleaning kit, a knife, and a pair of binoculars. DNA testing by the Delaware medical examiner's office on several guns also was inconclusive.

Attorneys were expected to make closing arguments to jurors on Tuesday.