Delaware Jury Finds Three People Guilty of Cyber Stalking
In an unprecedented verdict, a Delaware jury has found three defendants guilty on charges of cyber stalking leading to the deaths of Christine Belford and Laura Mulford in a murder-suicide that took place inside a Delaware courtroom in October, 2013. Christine Belford’s ex-husband, former mother-in-law, and former sister-in- law were convicted on charges of cyber stalking and stalking that resulted in Belford’s former father-in-law opening fire during a child support hearing, killing Belford and her friend. The gunman then exchanged shots with police inside the courtroom before turning the gun on himself.
The Justice Department has stated that before these convictions, there had been no other convictions in the United States federal courts for cyber stalking. All three defendants will remain in custody until their sentencing scheduled for October, with all three facing the possibility of life in prison.
The three defendants deny knowing that the gunman planned to kill Christine Belford on the day of the child support hearing in October, 2013. Prosecutors at the trial argued that the defendants didn’t have to know that Belford would be killed on the day of the child support hearing, but only that her death was a “natural consequence” and a “reasonably foreseeable” result of the cyber stalking and stalking tactics they employed. Jurors found the three defendants guilty of criminal intent that caused deliberate harm by way of harassment, emotional suffering, and threats of bodily injury.
Belford and her ex-husband had been in a bitter custody dispute over their three children in the years leading up to the shooting. David Matusiewicz had been convicted of kidnapping in 2007 after he fled the country with his children and his mother. He then had his parental rights terminated in 2009 by a Family Court judge. Allegations of sexual abuse were brought by Matusiewicz and his family against Belford, claiming that she had sexually abused the eldest daughter in the family, forcing them to flee the country for the safety of the children. Investigations into the case found the accusations to be without merit.
After Matusiewicz’s kidnapping conviction, prosecutors say he, his mother and sister launched a cyber stalking campaign that lasted several years and included repeated emails, letters, phone calls, and social media postings accusing Belford of sexual abuse and neglect of the Matusiewicz’s three children. Mutusiewicz and his mother were found guilty on charges of interstate stalking for driving into Delaware to attend child custody and support court dates that they knew Belford would attend. Police also found a notebook in the car driven by Mutusiewicz and his father on the day of the shooting with an alleged “hit list” of all those involved in the child custody and support hearings.
The unprecedented verdict will now provide a precedent in future cyber stalking cases. As technology continues to explode around the world, more and more cyber stalking cases can be expected. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have a big job ahead of them as we venture into this unchartered territory.
Camden County Criminal Defense Lawyers Provide Counsel and Representation to those Charged with Crimes in New Jersey
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in New Jersey, call the experienced Camden County criminal defense law firm of Jill R. Cohen or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.
Our offices are conveniently located in Westmont, New Jersey allowing us to serve clients throughout Philadelphia and South Jersey, including Camden County, Gloucester County, Atlantic County, and Burlington County as well as the towns of Haddonfield, Camden, Cherry Hill, Gloucester City, Collingswood, Bellmawr, Pennsauken, Woodbury, Lindenwold, Pine Hill, Marlton, Berlin, Mt.Ephraim, Hammonton, and Pleasantville.