As authorities continue to investigate the timeline of the courthouse shooting in Wilmington, Del. this morning, a picture is starting to emerge of a family torn by a long and bitter custody battle.
David T. Matusiewicz and his ex-wife, Christine Belford, had been in a custody battle that became an international criminal case when Matusiewicz kidnapped the couple’s three young girls in 2007 and hid out with them in Nicaragua for 19 months, according to court documents. Matusiewicz was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
On Monday morning, Matisiewicz and Belford were both due in court for a custody hearing when witnesses say a gunman walked into the lobby and opened fire, killing the ex-wife, another woman who was with her and injuring two Capitol police officers in a shootout.
Authorities won't confirm Belford as the victim but multiple sources did confirm her death to NBC10. Delaware Online identified the shooter as Thomas Matusiewicz, 68, David's father.
When David Matusiewicz and Belford divorced, they had joint custody of the children who were 5, 4 and 2 years old at that time of the kidnapping. He stayed in the family home and she moved out. In August of 2007, Matusiewicz told Belford he was taking the girls on vacation to Disney World. Instead, traveling in a motor home with his mother, Matusiewicz drove through Mexico and then into Central America, settling in Nicaragua, where he stayed for 19 months.
Matusiewicz was arrested by U.S. Marshals from the District of Delaware in 2009. When they found him, the FBI says Matusiewicz had false IDs for he and his children, including fake Social Security cards and passports, inside the motor home.
The 2007 incident happened eleven days after Matusiewicz committed another crime, according to court documents. He took out an illegal home equity loan on the couple’s home for $249,000 by forging Belford’s signature. He had that money wired to a bank in New Zealand, using the name "Thomas Matusiewicz," according to court papers. With the help of the government, that money was eventually returned to the Wilmington bank that issued the loan.
In September of 2009, Matusiewicz pleaded guilty to bank fraud and international kidnapping.
At the time of his sentencing, U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss said Matusiewicz robbed the bank of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, but the long-lasting harm was to his own children.
"He robbed the children of 19 months of a normal, healthy childhood and exposed them to continuing psychological harm," Weiss said.
Matusiewicz was sentenced to 48 months in prison and freed, under a five-year supervised release in September of 2012.