Cyberstalkers of Murdered Target Convicted of Conspiracy in Landmark Case
On February 11, 2013, Christine Belford came to Delaware’s New Castle County Courthouse for a child support hearing only to be gunned down by her father-in-law Thomas Mathsiewicz, who then committed suicide.
In June, Mathsiewicz’s wife, son and daughter went on trial for conspiracy to commit Cyberstalking “with the intent to kill and injure and harass, and place under surveillance with intent to kill and injure and harass and intimidate and cause substantial emotional distress” to Belford. It is a precedent setting case because it is the first known cyberstalking case resulting in death and one of the first cases to allege a conspiracy to cyberstalk.
After thirteen hours of deliberation, the defendants were convicted on all counts.
The indictment accuses the conspirators with
waging a multi-pronged campaign designed to surveil and disseminate false and defamatory information about Christine Belford by [using] [v]arious Internet applications including YouTube Facebook other websites and email services which accused Christine Belford of among other things:[i] sexual abuse . . . and physical abuse and parental neglect against [her children] ;[ii] suffering from mental health issues; and[iii] committing other crimes such as poisoning [a defendant] and threatening to sell [her children] for a sum of money.
In opening statements last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Weede stated,
This case is about power. It’s about the defendants using fear, intimidation, harassment to get something they wanted.
In closing,Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCall explained that a guilty verdict doesn’t mean that they believe the three defendants knew Thomas Matusiewicz would kill Belford, but instead, that they could reasonably expect that a natural consequence of the campaign would be her death.
The defendants will be sentenced in October and could get life in prison. Defendants David and Lenore Matusiewicz have prior convictions stemming from their kidnapping Belford’s daughter in 2007.
DelawareOnline has a blog devoted to the trial.