The trial tied to the aftermath of the 2013 shooting at the New Castle County Courthouse is now under way.
The relatives of the man who killed his ex-daughter-in-law at a Delaware court house faced the first day of a six-week trial Thursday.
The U.S. vs. Matusiewicz began with opening statements in front of a 16-member jury at the U.S. District Court in Wilmington.
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 and 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.
During opening statements, prosecutor Shawn Weede said 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. He said when the family failed in their efforts, they planned Belford’s death.
“This case is about power,” Weede said. “It is about the defendant using fear, and intimidation and harassment to get something he wanted.”
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. He also made allegations against his ex-wife that she was mentally unstable and sexually abused his daughter Laura, according to the prosecution. The Matusiewicz family also used websites and a YouTube channel to post the allegations, they said.
Weede told the jury there are documents proving Matusiewicz had a motive to see his ex-wife dead, including a letter he sent to his sister that read, “No more playing Mr. Nice Guy.” He said Christine also had written emails to her lawyer and to her pastor about her fears of her ex-husband.
Public Defender Dina Chavar, attorney for David Matusiewicz, argues that her client was misunderstood and frustrated with not being heard, and that he had no part in the death of his ex-wife.
She told the jury the letter from her client to his sister was two pages outlining his frustration that his belief Belford was an unfit mother was ignored. Chavar also said Internet postings by Lenore Matusiewicz weren’t about harassment, but about a grandmother looking for guidance.
“It’s about what was meant by what was said,” she said. “The case is about context and intent.”
Chavar argued that evidence provided in the coming days will prove Christine’s behavior was “erratic.” She also said her client couldn’t afford a private attorney, and felt defenseless.
“David wanted to get custody, wanted to see his children and wanted his allegations investigated,” she said.