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Three receive life sentences for cyberstalking

After survive a difficult divorce and custody dispute back in 2007, Christie Belford wanted to settle back into a peaceful life with her three young daughters in her Delaware home.

Her ex husband, David T. Matusiewicz, and sever other members of his family, however, stalked, harasses and intimidated Christie for several years leading up to her murder at a federal courthouse in Wilmington on February 11, 2013. The investigation that following, conducted by the FBI and the Delaware State Police, resulted in the first-ever convictions on charges of cyberstalking resulting in death, a violation contained in the federal Violence Against Women Act.

During the investigations, agents and detectives found out that Matusiewicz hatched the plot that meant cyberstalking and harassing his ex-wife while in prison for kidnapping Belford’s children in 2007, when the couple was going through divorce proceedings. The Delaware optometrist got his mother, father, and sister to help him wage an elaborate, years-long online campaign against Christine Belford alleging she endangered the lives of the daughters she had with Matusiewicz.

“Through our investigation, we discovered that the Matusiewicz family had a network of supporters helping them uncover information about Christine’s life,” said Special Agent Joseph Gordon, who investigated Belford’s case out of the Baltimore Field Office’s Wilmington Resident Agency. “They were convinced by the family’s claims that she was a child abuser, but they didn’t know the family’s real intent.”

The Matusiewicz famila posted several rumors and allegations on websites and YouTube, enlisting their friends in the campaign, which counts as cyberstalking. A private investigator was even hired to spy on Belford at her home. In exchanges with her family, friends and lawyer, Christine said she feared for her life.

In August 2011, the Family Court of the State of Delaware terminated the Matusiewicz’s parental rights and called his allegations of abuse “baseless.” In 2012, Matusiewicz petitioned the court to reduce the amount of child support he had to pay. In 2013, he received permission to travel from Texas to Delaware for a hearing on this matter.

In February 2013, David Matusiewicz, along with his mother Lenore Matusiewicz and father THomas Matusiewicz, drove to Delaware in vehicles later found to contain weapons, ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, restraints, an electric shock device, gas cans, and a shovel.

On February 11, 2013 David and his father entered the courthouse lobby shortly after 8 a.m. After his son cleared security, Thosmas Matusiewicz shot and killed Christine Belford and a friend, Laura Mulford, in the loby. He then ended his own life after a shootout with police.

The three surviving family members – David, Lenore, and sister Amy Gonzales – were convicted last July on conspiracy and interstate stalking resulting in death charges. In February, they were each sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.

“Even from their homes in Texas, the Matusiewiczes had the ability to frighten her through electronic and physical means,” said Special Agent Gordon. “They were all responsible for her murder.”

Kevin Perkins, special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office, called the conspiracy and stalking prosecution groundbreaking. “People who actively take part in planning crimes, even though they don’t pull the trigger, will be held accountable,” he said.