The defense continues its case for the trio charged in the aftermath of the 2013 shooting at the New Castle County Courthouse.
Defense attorneys for the relatives of a man who killed his ex-daughter-in-law at a Delaware court house took their second day of arguments at the U.S. District Court in Wilmington Thursday.
Three weeks into the U.S. vs. Matusiewicz trial defense attorneys argued sexual abuse allegations against the victim made by the defendants were repeatedly ignored.
David Matusiewicz, his mother Lenore Matusiewicz, and his sister Amy Gonzalez are all accused of conspiracy and cyber stalking that allegedly led to the 2013 death of David Matusiewicz’s ex-wife, Christine Belford.
Matusiewicz and his mother also are charged with aiding and abetting in the crime, and interstate stalking. All defendants previously pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
All three defendants in the case face a maximum sentence of life in prison, a $250,000 fine for each count or a three-to-five-year term of supervised release.
Belford of Newark was shot and killed by her ex-father-in-law Thomas Matusiewicz of Texas in February 2013 before a child support hearing at the New Castle County Courthouse.
Her friend Laura Mulford also was killed. Thomas Matusiewicz took his own life following a shootout with Capitol Police inside the courthouse.
Prior to Belford’s death, the Matusiewicz family accused her of sexually abusing her daughter Laura—accusations the prosecution say are false.
The defense argued throughout the trial that Matusiewicz was misunderstood and frustrated with not being heard.
On Thursday, defense attorney Edson Bostic told the court there were six reports of sexual abuse filed to the Division of Family Services by the Matusiewicz family and an anonymous filer between 2009 and 2010.
However, these reports in the form of letters and phone calls didn’t lead to an investigation.
Dr. Gillian Blair, a clinical and forensic psychologist, testified for the defense that it seems in violation of DFS policy to fail to inquire an investigation to the allegations.
However, prosecutor Jamie McCall argued that during a 2009 Child Advocacy Center interview with Laura there was no mention of sexual abuse, and that the allegations didn’t evolve until after Matusiewicz lost full parental rights of his children that year.
Belford’s daughter, now 13, testified in court this week that she was not abused by her mother.
Lenore Matusiewicz sent two letters to DFS, one more than 20 pages long, about the alleged sexual abuse. However, these letters were vague in wording and the DFS noted that she had suffered a head injury and was diagnosed with PTSD.
McCall said these are reasons to believe the allegations cannot be taken seriously.
Blair testified that whether the accusations are true or false it would be “prudent” for the DFS to investigate nonetheless.
Throughout the trial the prosecution has used video and audio footage, written documents and witnesses to testify that Belford was afraid of her ex-husband.
The prosecution has said throughout the trial that the Matusiewicz family conducted a campaign over several years to induce fear in Belford in an attempt to receive full custody of her three children. They say when the family failed in their efforts, they planned Belford’s death.
After the couple divorced in 2006, the Matusiewicz children lived with their father and grandparents. Christine later was granted joint custody of the kids, which sparked a long custody battle.
After Matusiewicz was denied his request for full custody of the children, he and his mother kidnapped them and brought them to Nicaragua. They eventually were detained and sent to prison after pleading guilty to the charges. Matusiewicz lost custody and full paternal rights to his children.
The prosecution states that throughout the years, Matusiewicz used mail, the Internet and spying tactics in an attempt to get his children back.
The Matusiewicz family also used websites and a YouTube channel to post the allegations, they said.
The prosecution has used documents proving Matusiewicz had a motive to see his ex-wife dead, as well as letters Christine had written about her fears of her ex-husband.
The defense on the other hand has told the jury to think about the context of the documents. Public Defender Dina Chavar said a letter from her client to his sister only outlines his frustration that his belief Belford was an unfit mother was ignored.
Internet postings by Lenore Matusiewicz, entitled “A Grandmother’s Impossible Choice, weren’t about harassment, but about a grandmother looking for guidance, she argued.