U.S. News

Family members sentenced to life in prison in U.S. cyberstalking case

(Reuters) - A U.S. man and his sister were sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for cyberstalking that led to the shooting death of the man’s former wife and her friend in a Delaware courthouse lobby ahead of a contentious child custody hearing.

David Matusiewicz, his sister Amy Gonzalez and his mother Lenore were convicted in U.S. District Court in Delaware last July of cyberstalking resulting in death, the first successful application of federal law on the offense, prosecutors said. They were also found guilty of conspiracy.

Matusiewicz and Gonzalez were sentenced to life by U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware said. Matusiewicz’s mother was sentenced to life at her bedside last week at Jefferson Medical Center in Philadelphia, federal prosecutors said.

“This ground-breaking prosecution and investigation shows people who actively take part in planning crimes, even though they don’t pull the trigger, will be held accountable,” said Kevin Perkins, special agent in charge of the FBI in Delaware.

On Feb. 11, 2013, David Matusiewicz and his father Thomas went to confront David’s ex-wife Christine Belford at New Castle County Courthouse when she arrived for a child support hearing in their custody case.

Thomas Matusiewicz then shot dead Belford and her friend Laura Mulford in the courthouse lobby and took his own life after exchanging gunfire with police.

The shooting was the culmination of a four-year campaign of letters, websites and Internet postings to “stalk, harass, and intimidate” Belford, the mother of David Matusiewicz’s three children, according to U.S. prosecutors.

They said David Matusiewicz orchestrated the plan and recruited his parents and sister while serving a 48-month jail term for abducting his children and hiding out with them for 19 months in Nicaragua and other countries.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Mark Heinrich