A federal magistrate on Monday ordered that a former Delaware optometrist remain in custody pending a detention hearing on charges that he conspired with his family over several years to torment and stalk his ex-wife following a bitter divorce and custody battle that culminated in her death in a courthouse shooting.
David Matusiewicz, 46, made an initial court appearance Monday on charges that he, his parents and his sister conspired to spread false information about Christine Belford and stalked her with intent to “kill and injure and harass and intimidate...”
Matusiewicz's father, Thomas, 68, shot and killed Belford, 39, and her friend, Laura Mulford, 47, in the lobby of the New Castle County courthouse in February before taking his own life.
The elder Matusiewicz's family members have denied having any knowledge that he intended to kill Belford.
But federal prosecutors last week unsealed a 25-page indictment accusing David Matusiewicz, his mother, Lenore, and sister, Amy Gonzalez of conspiring over the course of more than three years, starting in December 2009, to harass, intimidate and stalk Belford and her family. Prosecutors said the three accused Belford in email communications and Internet postings of abusing and neglecting the three daughters she had with David Matusiewicz.
The four-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, interstate stalking and cyberstalking. They could face life in prison if convicted of stalking charges resulting in Belford's death.
“The fact is that these are very serious charges, and we intend to vigorously defend them on behalf of our client and definitely put the government to its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Edson Bostic, a federal public defender appointed at Monday's hearing to represent Matusiewicz.
David Matusiewicz had been scheduled to be released from federal custody Monday after serving six months for violating probation on federal kidnapping and fraud charges stemming from the 2007 abduction of his three daughters.
But prosecutors filed a motion to detain Matusiewicz on the new charges, and magistrate judge Mary Pat Thynge ordered that he remain in custody pending a detention hearing next Tuesday.
“We believe he's a risk of flight,” assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie McCall said after the hearing.
Prosecutors asked Thynge to apply a “rebuttable presumption” that detaining Matusiewicz was on the only way to ensure his future court appearance and to protect the community.
“I have to assume that there are no conditions I can impose that would ensure your future appearance and the safety of the community,” Thynge told Matusiewicz. “I have operate under that assumption starting off.”
Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to fraud and kidnapping after he and his mother took his daughters to Central America. He was released from prison last year. Lenore Matusiewicz, 68, served more than a year in Delaware state prison for child endangerment for her role in the kidnapping. The Matusiewicz family has said they were trying to protect one of the daughters from being sexually abused by Belford, an assertion a federal judge said had not been proven.
McCall, the federal prosecutor, said detention hearings were scheduled for Wednesday in McAllen, Texas, for Lenore Matusiewicz and Gonzalez, pending their transfer to Delaware.