BAYVILLE, N.J. (AP) – The tearful widow of a one-time New Jersey police officer who killed his former daughter-in-law and another woman at a Delaware courthouse before fatally shooting himself said Thursday that she had no inkling he was planning the violent rampage.
Lenore Matusiewicz told The Associated Press that she told her husband Tom, who often carried a gun in a hip holster around their Texas community, to leave his guns at home before they drove to Delaware last week.
"I asked him not to bring a gun. He said, ‘OK,’" she said.
Lenore Matusiewicz also said her son, David, had no idea that his father brought a gun to Delaware.
"He believes in God, and he believes in God’s retribution," she said of her son. "He doesn’t want to do anything to piss the man off."
Texas authorities said in a search warrant affidavit that investigators suspect both Lenore and David Matusiewicz helped to plot the slaying of David’s ex-wife, Christine Belford. The shooting followed a long custody fight involving the former couple.
Lenore Matusiewicz (muh-TOO’-suh-wits) dismissed the suggestion as "bunc."
"Somebody has an overactive imagination. That’s not who we are," she said.
Delaware State Police said Thomas Matusiewicz, 68, walked into the lobby of the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington on Monday and shot and killed Belford, 39, and her friend Laura Mulford, 47, with a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and exchanged gunfire with police officers before taking his own life.
Monday’s killings followed a bitter, years-long custody battle involving Belford and David Matusiewicz, who were at the courthouse Monday for a child support hearing.
At the heart of the custody battle were the daughters of Belford and David Matusiewicz, now ages 7, 9 and 10.
David Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal fraud and kidnapping charges after fleeing to Nicaragua in a motor home with his mother and the three girls.
David Matusiewicz, who was released from prison last year, kidnapped the girls after telling Belford they were going to Disney World for two weeks. The two were divorced and sharing custody at the time. Prosecutors say he forged his wife’s signature to obtain nearly $250,000 from a Delaware bank, then sent the money to his parents’ bank account and had his father transfer the money to a Bank of New Zealand account.
Lenore Matusiewicz, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on state charges of child endangerment, said she and her son were concerned that the children were being abused by Belford, but she admitted that they never contacted authorities to report the alleged abuse.
Thomas Matusiewicz had previously complained that his family wasn’t getting justice in a lawsuit Belford filed against them over the kidnapping.
"He hated Christine for what she had done to David and the girls. He hated that our family was hurt… and now he’s dead, and he killed an innocent woman, too," Lenore Matusiewicz said, referring to her husband, as she cried. "He wasn’t the kind of person who hurt people. He was always fair."
"I knew he could shoot a deer, he’s a hunter," she added. "But I never thought he could shoot a person, and somebody who gave him three grandchildren."
Lenore Matusiewicz adamantly denied that she or her son had any role in the shooting.
While telling her husband to leave his guns at home, she said she and David took the extra measure of driving to Delaware in a separate car because, as a convicted felon, he is not allowed to be around guns.
"When my husband made up his mind to do something, you didn’t get in his way," she said. "He did it, period."
Neither David Matusiewicz nor his mother has been arrested in connection with the shooting. But Lenore Matusiewicz said Delaware investigators have been parked outside the Bayville home of her brother, keeping track of her movements.
David Matusiewicz is being detained by federal authorities, who say he has violated the terms of his probation. He faces a federal court hearing Friday on allegation by federal authorities that he failed to disclose that he spent the night before the shooting at a home in Elkton, Md., and that he has not paid restitution and child support as ordered.
Lenore Matusiewicz said she, her husband and her son spent Sunday night at the Elkton home of a man who once worked for David Matusiewicz’s optometry business because there was a threat of bad weather and Elkton is a lot closer to the Wilmington courthouse than the Bayville home of Lenore’s brother. She said because it was a Sunday, there was no way to notify David’s probation officers of the change in plans.
Lenore Matusiewicz also said her son has had difficulty finding a job and is unable to pay the $2,200 monthly child support he was ordered to pay based on his income as an optometrist. She said he was trying to work out an agreement to pay about $260 a month.
According to an affidavit filed by Texas authorities to search Thomas Matusiewicz’s home in Edcouch, Texas, he was carrying handwritten death certificates for Belford and for an attorney representing her in the divorce and custody battle, when he entered the Delaware courthouse.
Lenore Matusiewicz said police showed her the death certificates after the shooting and asked if she knew about them. They also showed her photographs of Belford’s Newark home and asked her if the scribbling on them was her son’s handwriting.
"No, it’s Tom’s," she told them. Lenore Matusiewicz described the writing on the photographs as "not very complimentary."
Lenore Matusiewicz said her husband seemed to be in a good mood Monday morning, but that his behavior had changed recently, something she believes may have been caused by a brain tumor called a meningioma that he was diagnosed with years ago.
"It controls memory, decision-making, judgment, all the higher functions," she said.
Lenore Matusiewicz said she was stunned when early reports of the shooting broke and the Elkton homeowner told her David had shot Belford, and that both were dead. Her shock and disbelief took another turn later when she learned that it actually was her husband who had done the shooting.
"I just kept hearing ‘No! No!" she said, recalling her own words echoing in her head.
Law enforcement officials in Texas found eight guns inside the Matusiewicz home and in a recreational vehicle on the property, and five more guns at a storage unit in Donna, Texas. Investigators said record checks on all the weapons came back clear.
Authorities also seized several boxes and jars of ammunition, letters, court documents, Veterans Affairs documents for Thomas Matusiewicz, who served in the Navy, and a book entitled "Kill All the Lawyers."
Lenore Matusiewicz said Delaware investigators told her they found a "cache" of guns in her husband’s car.
"They said there was an assault rifle in there," she said, adding that she had never seen her husband with any such type weapon.