A clearer picture emerges of courthouse shooting in Wilmington

Thomas Matusiewicz went into the lobby of the New Castle County Courthouse at 7:40 a.m. Monday. There, he waited 35 minutes for his former daughter-in-law, Christine Belford, to arrive for a scheduled child-support hearing.

When she got there with her friend Laura Mulford, he opened fired and killed them both.

Delaware State Police released new details on Tuesday about what lead up to the gunfire inside the courthouse on King Street that left three people dead and two wounded.

According to the latest statement, Matusiewicz fired a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun, shooting both women in their upper bodies at close range. The shooting occurred in the courthouse’s public lobby, in an area visitors reach before arriving at the metal detectors in place for security purposes.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Matusiewicz also shot Capitol Police officers Michael Manley, 42, and Steven Rinehart, 50, in the chest, but their Kevlar vests are credited with saving their lives.

The state police said Capitol Police returned fire. One shot hit Matusiewicz as he tried to walk out of the lobby.

Police say the suspect then turned the gun on himself.

The Chief Medical Examiner determined cause of death was suicide by gunshot wound to the head.

State police are still looking at exactly how many rounds were fired.

Spotlight on victim’s ex-husband

The courthouse shooting is the latest twist in a bizarre custody battle.  Belford and the shooter’s son, David, divorced in 2006 and Belford later moved to Newark. In 2007, David Matusiewicz, a prominent optometrist, kidnapped his three daughters with the help of his mother and fled to Nicaragua. He was arrested in 2009 and later sentenced to 48 months in prison. He was released in September.

Lenore Matusiewicz served 18 months in state prison after being convicted of three counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the 2007 kidnapping.  Thomas, her husband and Monday’s gunman, had no criminal record. He had filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

On Tuesday, a few blocks away at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building, David Matusiewicz appeared before Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge. He wore shackles and an orange Department. of Corrections jumpsuit.

The younger Matusiewicz, who was inside the courthouse with his mother when the shooting began Monday, was held for questioning afterward. He was taken into custody for what police say was a violation of his parole.  He was sentenced to federal prison in 2009 on charges of kidnapping his own children.

Police said David Matusiewicz had made his way through the security checkpoint Monday morning while his father waited for Belford.

Also in the courtroom on Tuesday was his mother, Lenore, who was wearing a neck brace.

She did not comment on the charges against her son or her late husband’s connection with the shooting.

No-contact order

The state Attorney General’s office now has secured a court order forbidding Lenore from having any contact with her grandchildren. She is required to stay 1,000 feet away from them at all times and can have no direct or indirect contact with them.

“The children are safe,” State Attorney General Beau Biden said. “We sought this no-contact order because we believe Lenore Matusiewicz is a danger to the children and should not have any contact with them. Her actions over the past five years have given us serious concern that she poses a risk to the children’s safety.”

Hearing details

During Tuesday’s hearing, questions were raised about David Matusiewicz’ Jan. 8 request to travel from Texas to Delaware, stating he would stay with an uncle in New Jersey, when in actuality he spend the night of Feb. 10 in Elkton, Md.

There is also an issue of a $9,674 outstanding balance owed in criminal monetary penalties.

According to Biden’s office, there had been issues between Matusiewicz and Belford over child support and alimony payments over several years.

David was assigned a public defender in the new criminal case.  Another hearing on this matter will be held on Friday afternoon.

Returning to normal along King Street

The roadway has been reopened to traffic on King Street, however, the New Castle County Courthouse will remain closed to the public for another day.

Court employees are asked to return to work.

A limited number of Common Pleas and Chancery court cases will be heard.  The court website promised to have updated details.

Mental-health counselors were provided to anyone who needed them, according to the county website. An area was set up on the University of Delaware-Wilmington campus off Pennsylvania Avenue.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal