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John Eleuthère DuPONT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: American billionaire and member of the prominent du Pont family - Paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 26, 1996
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: November 22, 1938
Victim profile: David Schultz (Olympic gold medalist wrestler)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Found guilty of murder but mentally ill. Sentenced to 13 to 30 years in prison on February 26, 1997. Died in prison on December 9, 2010
 
 

 
 

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John Eleuthère duPont (November 22, 1938 – December 9, 2010) was an American billionaire and member of the prominent du Pont family who was convicted of murder in the third degree (of Freestyle wrestler Dave Schultz). He was also known as an amateur ornithologist and conchologist, philatelist, philanthropist, coach, and sports enthusiast.

Personal background

He is the son of William du Pont, Jr. and Jean Liseter Austin. Prior to his arrest and conviction, he was an American ornithologist, a former coach and financial sponsor of sport wrestling, and a philanthropist.

John du Pont graduated from the University of Miami in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology. A philatelist, he anonymously paid $935,000 during a 1980 auction for one of the rarest stamps in the world, the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta.

In 1983, he married occupational therapist Gale Wenk but emotional instability was already evident and the difficult marriage ended in a 1985 divorce.

Murder conviction

On 26 January 1996 he shot dead Olympic gold medalist wrestler David Schultz at the wrestling facility of du Pont's Team Foxcatcher on du Pont's estate in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia, without apparent provocation and with Schultz's wife among several witnesses.

After the shooting, the multimillionaire locked himself in his mansion for two days, while he negotiated with police on the telephone. Police turned off his power, and were able to capture him when he went outside to fix his heater.

Expert psychiatric testimony described du Pont as a paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him. On February 26, 1997, a jury found him guilty of murder but mentally ill.

Trivia

One of the people who trained at Team Foxcatcher was 1996 Olympic gold medalist and current TNA wrestler Kurt Angle, who was good friends with Schultz before the murder.

Du Pont largely funded a new basketball arena at Villanova University which opened in 1986. Originally, the venue was called du Pont Pavilion, but his name was removed from the facility after his conviction. Today, it is called simply The Pavilion.

Director Bennett Miller has an in-development film about du Pont.

References

Rachlin, Harvey (1996). Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Great Artifacts of History, From Antiquity to the Modern Era. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0805064060.


John Eleuthère duPont (November 22, 1938 – December 9, 2010) was an American billionaire and member of the prominent du Pont family who was convicted of murder in the third degree (of Freestyle wrestler Dave Schultz). He was also known as an amateur ornithologist and conchologist, philatelist, philanthropist, coach, and sports enthusiast.

Biography

John duPont was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William duPont, Jr. and Jean Liseter Austin (1897–1988). His parents' nuptials -- on January 1, 1919, in Rosemont, Pennsylvania -- were billed as the "Wedding of the Century" in media accounts. Jean's father, William Liseter Austin, an executive of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, gave the couple more than 242 acres of land as a wedding gift. William duPont Sr. built Liseter Hall, a sumptuous, three-story Georgian mansion, for the couple on the land in 1922

Both of his parents' families immigrated to the United States in the early 1800s. John is the youngest of four children; he has two older sisters, Jean duPont McConnell and Evelyn duPont Donaldson, and an older brother, Henry E. I. duPont.

John duPont graduated from Haverford School in 1957. He attended college in Miami, Florida, where he studied under and was mentored by Oscar T. Owre, Ph.D. He graduated from the University of Miami in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. He also holds a doctorate in natural science from Villanova University, which he received in 1973.

On September 3, 1983, he married therapist Gale Wenk, but the marriage was annulled 90 days later.

David Schultz murder

In 1997, John duPont was convicted of murdering Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz the year before and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Experts at the trial testified that duPont suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

On January 26, 1996, duPont shot Schultz dead at a wrestling facility on his estate without apparent provocation while Schultz's wife and several others witnessed the crime. Police did not establish about a motive. Schultz was a longtime friend of duPont who had repeatedly tried to help him

Those who knew duPont well said the shooting was uncharacteristic behavior for him. For example, Joy Hansen Leutner, a triathlete from Hermosa Beach, California, lived for two years on the estate.

Dupont helped Leutner through a stressful period in the mid 1980s. She later said, "with my family and friends, John gave me a new lease on life. He gave more than money; he gave himself emotionally." She expressed incredulity about the killing. "There's no way John in his right mind would have killed Dave."

Newtown Township supervisor John S. Custer Jr. said, “at the time of the murder, John didn’t know what he was doing." Charles King, Sr., a duPont stable hand and manager for 30 years, knew duPont well throughout his life. King's son Charles “Chuckie” King Jr. considered duPont his friend during his childhood. Charles King Sr. still blames Patrick Goodale, an ex-Marine and duPont security consultant, for influencing what happened. “I don’t think John could shoot someone unless he was pushed to or was on drugs,” he says. “After that guy [Goodale] starting hanging around him, my son always said Johnny changed. He was scared of everything. He was always a little off. But I never had problems with him, and my son never had problems."

After the shooting, the multimillionaire locked himself in his mansion for two days while he negotiated with police on the telephone. Police turned off his power and were able to capture him when he went outside to fix his heater. Expert psychiatric testimony described duPont as a paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him. He also believed people would break into his house and kill him, the reason he put razor wires in his attic. On February 25, 1997, a jury found him guilty of third degree murder but mentally ill. In Pennsylvania, third degree murder is a lesser charge than first degree (intentional) or second degree (during the perpetration of a felony) and indicates a lack of intent to kill. In Pennsylvania criminal code, "mentally ill" applies to someone whose "disease or defect" leaves him unable either to understand that his conduct is wrong or to conform it to the law.

DuPont was sentenced to 13 to 30 years incarceration and is currently housed at the State Correctional Institute-Mercer, a minimum-security institution in the Pennsylvania prison system.

He was first eligible for parole January 29, 2009; however, it was denied. DuPont's maximum sentence would have ended on January 29, 2026, when DuPont would have been 87. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2000. In 2010 the 3rd Circuit U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia rejected all but one issue raised on appeal (involving his use of a Bulgarian prescription drug, scopolamine, before he fatally shot Schultz in 1996), and requested written briefs. However, DuPont died in prison on December 9, 2010.

Interests

Ornithology

As an ornithologist, duPont is credited with the discovery of two dozen species of birds. He has written a number of books on the subject of birds, including: South Pacific Birds, South Sulu Archipelago Birds; an Expedition Report, Birds of Dinagat and Siargao, Philippines; an Expedition Report, and Philippine Birds. He was the second author of Living Volutes: a Monograph of the Recent Volutidae of the World, which he co-wrote with Clifton Stokes Weaver.

Philately

He is also a philatelist. In a 1980 auction, while bidding anonymously, he paid $935,000 for one of the rarest stamps in the world, the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta.

Athletics

John duPont was an accomplished athlete before his arrest and also a coach in wrestling, swimming, triathlon, track, and modern pentathlon. In 1966, he brought triathlon competition to the United States, which now enjoys more than a million participants.

duPont has also been a competitive wrestler. He wrestled in the 1992 world championships in Cali, Colombia; in 1993 in Toronto, Canada; in 1994 in Rome, Italy; and in 1995 in Sophia, Bulgaria. DuPont never placed lower than fourth place in any of the championships. He is a two-time wrestling world champion.

Supported institutions

DuPont founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1957 which opened to the public in 1972. He was the institution's director for many years.

He largely funded a new basketball arena at Villanova University which opened in 1986. Originally, the venue was called duPont Pavilion, but his name was removed from the facility after his conviction. Today, the building simply is called The Pavilion.

After his mother's death, du Pont turned his 440-acre estate in Newtown Square into a wrestling facility for amateur wrestlers. Du Pont's wrestling team was called "Team Foxcatcher."

Foxcatcher Farm

William Sr. built Liseter Hall for Willie and Jean in 1925 on more than 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land given to the couple as a wedding gift in 1919 by Jean’s father, William Liseter Austin, an executive of Baldwin Loco­motive Works. The DuPonts divorced in 1940, but Jean Austin du Pont maintained Liseter Hall Farm until her death in 1988, at which point Willie and Jean’s son John Eleuthere duPont assumed stewardship and renamed it Foxcatcher Farm after his father's famed Thoroughbred racing stable.

The operations under Willie and Jean were among the envy of horse racing operations. In the 1920s and ’30s, Liseter Hall was considered the ne plus ultra of Mid-Atlantic horse facilities. In addition to the indoor galloping track, the farm featured a large barn for race horses; a 40-foot (12 m)-wide by 120-foot (37 m)-long indoor riding ring, still used by King for breaking and schooling; the half-mile training track and its adjacent combination viewing stand/water tower; a breeding shed, which continues to host matings for Two Davids and Tricky Mister; a hunter barn; a show horse barn; a loading barn with ramps for transporting horses to competition; and a grassy, half-mile chute that connected the training track with the race horse, hunter and show horse barns.

Before, during and after the legal issues following John (cited above) significant changes occurred to the DuPont property. First to go: John's mother’s dairy herd, nearly 70 Guernseys, in the fall of 1996. Next, the dairy farm itself, sold by the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which he formerly headed, in January 1998. Since then, the land, where Jean Austin du Pont’s cows grazed contentedly for the better part of the 20th century, changed hands again, and now is slated to become the campus for a relocated prep school, as well as a community of new million-dollar-plus homes. That left only the 400-plus acres of Foxcatcher Farm.

Wikipedia.org


Du Pont guilty but mentally ill in Olympic wrestler's murder

Widow to file civil suit against du Pont estate

February 25, 1997

MEDIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Jurors found millionaire and chemical fortune heir John E. du Pont guilty but mentally ill Tuesday in the 1996 slaying of Olympic wrestler David Schultz.

Jurors deliberated since February 18, after hearing 13 days of testimony in the case. The six men and six women had to choose among eight distinct verdicts on the charges against du Pont, although even his lawyers acknowledge he killed Schultz on January 26, 1996.

Under the guilty but mentally ill verdict, du Pont faces a maximum of 20 to 40 years in prison, and a fine of up to $50,000. Judge Patricia Jenkins will determine whether he should spend time in a state mental institution first.

Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom said he was pleased with the verdict. "It could have been a lot worse. Obviously, it could have been better, but I think the jury worked very, very hard..." he said.

"I think they came to a result that we can live with," Bergstrom continued. He said du Pont thanked him after the verdict was announced.

Prosecution, widow thank jury for verdict

Schultz, 36, was shot to death on du Pont's suburban Philadelphia estate where the wrestler trained and lived with his family. The 1984 Olympic gold medalist was attempting a comeback with du Pont's wrestling team, Team Foxcatcher.

Nancy Schultz, who witnessed the shooting of her husband, thanked the jury for "not finding du Pont above the law. He must be held accountable for David's murder." She is filing a civil suit against the du Pont estate.

After the verdict, District Attorney Patrick Meehan called the jury's decision a "shallow victory" -- a victory in that it held du Pont accountable for his actions, but a shallow one in that it was done "at the loss of a great person."

"I think, cynically, some people thought that John du Pont, who is the wealthiest murder defendant in the United States, would use his financial resources to ensure that he never stood trial at all," Meehan said.

He called it "tragic" that the vast du Pont resources were not used to help the millionaire before he shot Schultz.

Mental illness or insanity?

Psychiatric experts for both sides testified that du Pont, 58, is mentally ill, but only those for the defense said he was insane. The defense experts said du Pont was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him.

Jurors had no immediate comment on their verdict. During deliberations last Wednesday, jurors had asked Judge Jenkins to repeat part of her instructions with definitions of each of the three degrees of homicide.

They also had asked for a rereading of testimony from Patrick Goodale, a du Pont security consultant who saw the killing, and from prosecution psychiatrist Park Dietz.

Both went to the heart of the insanity defense

Goodale described the final moments before the shooting, saying du Pont acted with uncharacteristic spontaneity when he shot Schultz. The defense has cited this statement in arguing du Pont did not plan the killing but acted as his paranoia reached a climax.

But Goodale also told police du Pont had taken a gun with him to Schultz' home, violating an agreement he had made with his security firm, and asked Schultz, "You got a problem with me?" after he fired the first shot. Prosecutors say these actions indicated du Pont planned to kill Schultz out of anger over a deteriorating relationship with the wrestler.

In portions of Dietz's testimony reread to the jury, the psychiatrist concluded du Pont was mentally ill but his killing of Schultz was unrelated to the illness.

After the shooting, the multimillionaire holed up in his mansion for two days, negotiating with police on the telephone. He was captured when he walked outside to fix his heater. Police had turned off the power.


In Memory of a Murder

When the trees are bare, you can just make out some of the once-thriving Du Pont family farm. Ten years after the conviction of its murderous owner, the blood-tainted estate is overgrown with weeds—and worries.

By J. F. Pirro

In one last eccentric brush stroke before he sold his stately three-story Georgian mansion, training track and 30-some barns, sheds and outbuildings, millionaire John Eleuthere du Pont ordered much of his Newtown Square estate painted black. Maybe he figured he’d never return following his conviction 10 years ago this month for the 1996 murder of Dave Schultz, head coach of the estate’s world-class Foxcatcher wrestling team and facility. Whatever the case, he ordered workers to spray paint some two-dozen structures matte black. One of them was Schultz’s former home on Goshen Road, the scene of the crime.

In du Pont’s mind, the paint would make it all “disappear”—or so said Charles “Chuckie” King Jr., who began renting stables from du Pont in 1980. And while former Foxcatcher wrestler Jack Cuvo maintains du Pont hated the color black, these days he may hate his former home even more.

“He figures no one supported him, so he’s not going to support this area,” says the Newtown Square Historical Preservation Society’s Sid Elston, a resident of the Echo Valley neighborhood bordering the estate, who has visited du Pont in jail. “He never told me that, but I surmised it.”

If Rouse Group Development Company has its way, the Du Pont estate will be gone for good. The Havertown-based developer purchased Foxcatcher Farm’s 416 acres from du Pont in February 2005 for an undisclosed sum. By this month, they hope to begin building Ashford, a 45-plus community, after spending the last year and a half wrangling with local officials.

Until Schultz’s murder, the farm had remained largely as it was in 1681, when the acreage was William Penn’s reference point in laying out Newtown Square. Following her death at 91 in August 1988, John rechristened mother Jean Austin du Pont’s Liseter Hall Farm, naming it Foxcatcher after father William “Willie” du Pont Jr.’s first thoroughbred. Most figured the land would not—and could not—ever disappear, and that the area’s rural character would remain.

“We’d love to drag it out for 10 years, but that’s not possible,”Newtown Square Supervisor John S. Custer Jr. says of the approval process for the Ashford development. “The Du Pont property was always one we could count on [for open space]. We thought it would always be there because it was owned by the Du Ponts.”

Willed to the Delaware Museum of Natural History (formerly headed by John), Jean Austin du Pont’s 230-acre dairy farm was sold in January 1998 to G&W Land Company for $15.3 million to help fund operations. Part of the original estate, the land is now the site of Episcopal Academy’s new campus.

“She left it to be open country,” says Malvern’s Charles King Sr., who was a Du Pont stable hand and manager for 30 years before passing the reins to Chuckie. “It’s hard to see it go away.”

JOHN E. DU PONT remains a fixture at his fourth institution, the State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer, a minimum-security prison north of Pittsburgh. His earliest release date, January 2009, is fast approaching on a 13- to 30-year third-degree “guilty but mentally insane” murder conviction. Longtime lawyer and friend, Paoli’s Taras M. Wochok, and newly hired Philadelphia attorneys David Rudovsky and Alan Davis want him out even sooner. They’re waiting for a ruling on a federal habeas corpus petition they’ve filed that’s initiated du Pont’s federal appeals process. His state-level and post-conviction relief appeals are exhausted. The petition sits in Philadelphia federal court with U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Caracappa, who could deny the petition, conduct a hearing or remand the matter to the initial trial judge, Patricia Jenkins. Her decision isn’t subject to a time line. “It’s likely to be turned down like all the others, but in my heart of hearts, I can’t say that,” says Wochok, who remains the only original defense attorney du Pont has retained. “The issues we’re raising are meaty.”ç

Bill Toal, the assistant district attorney now handling the case for Delaware County, says du Pont is challenging the constitutionality of the state’s mental health statutes and his sentence of “guilty but mentally insane.” Also at issue are the claim of prosecutor misconduct, and that Jenkins allowed evidence regarding du Pont’s questionable behavior, in the closing arguments.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan, who was the Delaware County DA for less than three weeks when du Pont shot Schultz, calls the recent legal challenges “revisionist perspectives” in an already “long and tortuous process for the county.” He maintains the jury’s verdict wasn’t a concession, but rather a “just, fair resolution that stands for the premise that a wealthy defendant is not going to garner resources and implement them in a way to avoid justice. It was a triumph for the integrity and validity of the system. The jury still called him a murderer.”

Before Toal, Laurie Magid (now Meehan’s first assistant) was the county’s assistant DA who defeated du Pont’s direct appeal. The Villanova Law School professor’s “secret weapon” was “a small army” of law school interns who did the research. Meehan recalls vividly that spring of 1999, when du Pont’s attorneys—led by national appellate magnet Alan Dershowitz—took up the entire defendant’s desk plus two rows of spectator seating in Superior Court in Philadelphia. “On my side, there was me,” she says. “I didn’t even have a paralegal. My husband carried my box of documents up the courthouse steps.”

For his part, Wochok continues to maintain that du Pont has been treated “more harshly because of his name.” He’s made weekly full-day trips to see du Pont for a decade but wouldn’t describe his curious client’s physical or mental health. A year ago, Wochok told the Baltimore Sun’s Bill Ordine that du Pont’s mental state had improved a great deal, that he continues his interest in ornithology and has worked in a prison chapel and taught prisoners civics. He also told of du Pont’s typical day-to-day struggles with the terms of his confinement, prison officials and other inmates.

In 2009, du Pont will be 70. Upon re-lease—whenever that may be—sources say he will remain in the Pittsburgh area. If he left the state, he’d violate his parole.

“I don’t think he’ll ever get out,” says King Sr., who hasn’t seen the man he calls Johnny in prison. “I don’t know if he’d want to see me.”

Like at the mansion, du Pont has maintained a strict guest list in prison. At the inmate’s request, Custer says he met with du Pont three times. Prior to the murder, Custer, whose son wrestled for a year at Foxcatcher, had never met du Pont.

As president of the Echo Valley Asso-ciation, Custer was asked by du Pont to speak on his behalf during the civil trial filed by Schultz’s widow, Nancy, who won an estimated $35 million, then considered the largest such settlement paid by one individual. According to Custer, he was to detail “all the good” du Pont had done for the community. The preservation society’s Sid Elston also went along. He says du Pont wanted locals “to carry back a message of his normalcy.”

They were accompanied by Bev Collier, a 17-year property manager for du Pont (who failed to inform her when he sold the estate). Custer says du Pont told them that if he won his state-level appeals, he’d turn the estate into a perpetual nature preserve. If not, he’d sell. Each visit, Elston says, the trio had a “general conversation” about food, softball games he’d umpired, a hip operation he’d had. Other inmates asked him lots of questions, du Pont told them.

“He’d say, ‘They think I know a lot,’” Elston recalls. “He was quite normal. He snacked quite a bit. Bev used to go to the vending machines for him.”

They claim du Pont never spoke about the murder or his wealth, and only sparingly about the estate. “We wanted to keep it from being developed,” Elston admits. “We were on a mission, too, and we hoped he’d get an early parole so he’d care for the property. But he didn’t want us to talk about his property. He’d shut us down right away.”

In its plans for Ashford, Rouse has gradually reduced its plan for 650 housing units to 460 single-family homes, carriage homes and attached “low-impact” townhouses ranging in price from $800,000 to $2 million. Not surprisingly, dialogue at Newtown Planning Commission and township supervisors’ meetings has centered on open space. Of the 416 acres, Rouse attorney David Gifford says about 67 percent will remain open. “Some” of the 33 existing structures will be preserved and incorporated—but not the mansion, which would be replaced with a clubhouse/recreation facility. Schultz’s home is scheduled for demolition, too.

Rouse first proposed 225 detached homes, a number that now stands at 198, Gifford says. If Rouse trades more of those for housing clusters, the plan should get township approval, Custer says.

The plan also calls for a walking-biking trail along Route 252 and the dedication of a 40-acre parcel of “buildable land” as a “passive nature park” on the estate’s northerly side. Gifford says it would be Newtown Square’s largest dedicated public park.

Gifford joins Custer and Elston in debunking the notion that the estate is a stigmatized property. “Gossip? Yes. But I haven’t heard anyone say it’s where that happened,” says Gifford. “That is just part of its history.”

Conceding the obvious, Custer says the tragedy didn’t do anyone any good, “including the people of this township. [But] at the time [of the murder], John didn’t know what he was doing.”

ON JAN. 26, 1996, John du Pont shot and killed 36-year-old Dave Schultz, a gold medal winner for the United States at the 1984 Olympics and an international wrestling folk hero. At the time, he was training for one last comeback at that Summer Olympics in Atlanta. His wife witnessed the shooting, then raised their two children, Alexander and Danielle, now 20 and 17, alone. Repeated attempts to reach her through her friends and attorneys failed.

The Baltimore Sun’s Ordine was one of two reporters who generated 200-some clips covering the murder and prosecution for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also co-authored the 1998 book Fatal Match, and last January he wrote a 10-year retrospective on the Main Line murder whose “backstory of [du Pont’s] bizarre behavior” remains “haunting.”

The most bizarre? Ordine says du Pont owned the world’s most rare stamp—the 1-cent, 1856 British Guiana—and sought to have his own picture on a postage stamp. When an acquisitions adviser told him a subject must be dead to appear on a U.S. stamp, he struck a deal with Antigua-controlled Rotonda and soon was featured in a series of stamps in athletic poses. “We were stumbling on this kind of stuff every other day,” Ordine says.

Cuvo, the onetime Foxcatcher wrestler, says he observed plenty of quirks. One time du Pont asked him if he saw the ghosts he was seeing in the wall. “The next time I was there,” he says, “scaffolding was up, and he was having that section cut out of the wall. I’m no doctor, but I truly thought the guy was delusional.”

The litany of eccentricities attributed to du Pont was well-publicized. The master of the manor ordered digs in search of bodies. At various times, he professed he was the Dalai Lama, president of Bulgaria and the Holy Child. He thought intruders could enter the house through tunnels and that aliens were spying on him. He raced his Lincoln Continental around the estate, twice landing in a pond.

Andy Trautmann saw du Pont’s behavior first-hand. Then a detective with the Springfield Police Department in Delaware County, he was team leader for the multi-jurisdictional tactical response team that nabbed du Pont after an intense 50 1/2-hour standoff. Now a patrolman with the Downingtown Police Department, Trautmann was the first to surround du Pont in the infamous siege. Officials freed two potential female hostages, then installed bright lights directly on the house to blind du Pont. “He wanted the lights moved off his ‘holy ground,’” Trautmann remembers. “I thought, ‘No. we’re in charge.’” Then they restricted his phone access to negotiators only and turned off his heat.

A sniper was the first to see du Pont exit the back door. “He took 10 to 15 steps north, then turned and walked the other way to the garden house,” Trautmann recalls. “I said, ‘Police! Don’t move,’ and he threw his hands up in the air. Then he started running back to the house. I ran, then repeated, ‘Police. Stop. Don’t move!’ Again, he stopped and put his hands in the air. Then he looked through me, saw six or seven guys behind me and started running [back to the house] with his hands up. I ran after him, grabbed his shoulder with my left hand, then six or seven SWAT guys brought him down.”

Ironically, several months prior, the tactical response team had run an eight-hour training siege at an abandoned Newtown Square mansion four miles away. Once or twice a year, training scenarios were held “at banks and malls—but never a mansion,” Trautmann says. “Go figure.”

An Olympic-caliber marksman, du Pont had a firing range on the estate. He also had a Vietnam-era tank and a helicopter. With caution, officials secured the house, uncertain if there’d be booby traps. “Again, what’s Du pont known for?” Trautmann asks. “Gunpowder.”

They found 15 long rifles with scopes; night vision equipment; a cache of handguns; a street sweeper (a multi-shot, drum-driven gun) loaded with 12-gauge rounds; protective vests; and more.

Trautmann now conducts training for the Western Chester County Emergency Response Team. He spoke about the du Pont siege as recently as the end of January, at the OpTac International symposium in Maryland. “It was all resolved without one shot being fired,” he says.

So why did du Pont shoot Schultz? The motives are “braided,” the Baltimore Sun’s Ordine says. But the overriding reason, he believes, is that Schultz announced his intention to leave—without du Pont’s permission—after the Atlanta Olympics to coach at Stanford University.

Others close to the du Pont case have said that he gave Schultz a $15,000-$20,000 Christmas bonus weeks prior. Was it a bribe? Was he that desperate to keep Schultz at Foxcatcher?

Another betrayal may have come in the form of Schultz’s cooperation with police in regards to a skirmish with another wrestler. As Ordine points out, “it was part of the stew.”

There’s also the flat-out envy theory. “He wanted to be regarded more highly in the wrestling world,” Ordine says, “and in some respects, attain what David Schultz already had. But even with all his money, he couldn’t.”

Another rumor is that Schultz and du Pont had a rocky romantic relationship. There was a 1988 sexual harassment suit filed against du Pont by Andre Metzger, a former assistant coach he’d fired as the head wrestling coach at Villanova University. The school renamed its John E. du Pont Pavilion in 1997 after the millionaire’s conviction.

But former Foxcatcher wrestler Cuvo won’t lend any credence to the homosexuality hoax. “[Du Pont] just liked the company,” he says.

Maybe du Pont was mentally ill, as psychiatric experts for both sides testified and the jury ruled. Only the defense said he was insane. At one point, Ordine recalls a distinctive “duality”: While du Pont was fending off prosecutors by asserting his incompetence and insanity, family members had filed a civil suit to gain control of his assets, a case that required he prove his competence and sanity.

Then there’s the involvement of Patrick Goodale, an ex-Marine, du Pont security consultant and prosecution eyewitness, who stood armed beside du Pont as he fired three shots. The defense said he fueled du Pont’s paranoia. (Now living in Virginia, Goodale declined comment.) Former estate employee Charles King Sr. still blames Goodale.

“I don’t think John could shoot someone unless he was pushed to or was on drugs,” he says. “After that guy [Goodale] starting hanging around him, my son always said Johnny changed. He was scared of everything. He was always a little off. But I never had problems with him, and my son never had problems.”

Cuvo’s final face-to-face with du Pont three weeks before the murder remains eerie. Du Pont wasn’t only carrying a gun—he was loading bullets. Cuvo made a quick exit for the wrestling room, where he saw Schultz for the last time.

“He’d used to be playful, but now he was paranoid, and his clowning became more violent,” Cuvo says of his former boss. “If he’d pulled that trigger on me, I don’t think he’d have known it.”

He asked Schultz if he felt threatened by du Pont. “His words said, ‘I know how to handle John,’ but his face said something different,” Cuvo says. “I told him to get his wrestling in, then distance himself from John.”

It was hardly this weird when du Pont recruited Cuvo and others out of competing clubs after college. Contracts depended on advancement and loyalty, says Cuvo, who admits, “He bought me out.” Still, he consistently declined offers to live rent-free at the farm, choosing to commute three or four times a week from Easton.

Full-time or not, Cuvo says, “anything went” for du Pont’s “boys.” One time, Cuvo was wrestling in Kalamazoo, Mich. He lost, took it hard, then called du Pont, who flew him home on a Learjet. Cuvo wasn’t even affiliated with Foxcatcher at the time. As he continued to financially feed USA Wrestling, the sport’s sanctioning body, du Pont wrestled, too—but there was an unwritten rule: “You had to take it easy on John,” Cuvo says.

In his research, Ordine learned of overseas tournaments “arranged for du Pont to be successful in matches.” Another wrestling insider recalls the finals of a masters-level match that pitted du Pont against Schultz. “[Schultz] let him win,” the source says. “It was so phony it embarrassed my 13 year-old son (an eventual three-time NCAA qualifier).”

“He hurt the sport,” concludes Cuvo. “I hope he’s getting the help he needs, but I also hope that when he gets out, he’ll have nothing to do with wrestling.”

USA Wrestling is “regrouping,” according to University of Pennsylvania coach Larry “Zeke” Jones, the 2004 U.S. Olympic freestyle coach and two-time U.S. Pan American Games coach. He never committed to du Pont but still worked out at Foxcatcher when, at 114.5 pounds, he was ranked No. 1 in the nation (1989-’95). Jones actually called Schultz the night before the murder looking for a place to stay but slept elsewhere when Schultz didn’t return the call.

“It’s taken 10 years [for the sport] to recover [from Schultz’s murder], and it might take another 10 years to get back on our feet,” Jones says.

These days, Jones is working with the Sunkist Kids National Training Program and USA Wrestling to formulate a Foxcatcher-like epicenter at the University of Pennsylvania just as Philadelphia is poised to host its first NCAA Wrestling Championships in March 2011.

When Foxcatcher was dismantled, Nancy Schultz founded the Dave Schultz Wrestling Foundation in 1996 to provide support and opportunity for many of her husband’s kindred spirits. But she discontinued the foundation at the end of the 2004-’05 international wrestling season for “personal reasons.”

COLOR IS ALSO a matter of personal choice. After her 1940 divorce from Willie du Pont Jr., Jean Austin du Pont re-did the farm in white with green trim. When she died, John restored the barns to his father’s distinctive sapphire blue and gold of the 1920s and ’30s, when his vast thoroughbred operation was easily one of the Mid-Atlantic’s finest.

Black, it seems, was a later whim.

The soon-to-be-leveled mansion, which sources say remains as John left it, was a righteous replica—down to its four-columned portico—of Montpelier, the 1760 Virginia estate built by James Madison Sr., father of the fourth president of the United States. In November 1900, du Pont’s grandfather, William Sr., bought Montpelier. John’s dad was raised there.

In 1925, William Sr. built Liseter Hall for Willie and Jean, but the 600-plus-acre site itself didn’t even derive from the Du Ponts. It was a 1919 wedding gift from Jean’s father, William Liseter Austin, a Baldwin Locomotive Works executive. He’d begun the prized Guernseys dairy herd there in 1916, but Jean’s Welsh ponies, which she began breeding in 1928, were among the country’s best. They were her showstoppers at 78 straight Devon Horse Shows. She’d also kept hunters and was a popular queen at the Radnor Hunt. She bred and raised a matched pack of 13-inch-high beagles, too.

John fared poorly in following in his parents’ footsteps—and not for a lack of trying, at least initially. After Willie’s death at 68 on Dec. 31, 1965, John spent $767,000 for seven of his father’s 51 horses sold at auction. After Jean’s death, John and his lone brother, William Henry, bought many of her 91 remaining ponies, including a 7-year-old stallion that cost John $90,000.

But like the later favors on the wrestling mat, someone always had to “school” horses for John—even immediately before he mounted. So to pique his competitive urges, he turned to athletics. In 1966, he built an Olympic-sized pool for his Foxcatcher Swim Club. By the 1980s, he was sponsoring U.S. Olympic wrestlers.

Foxcatcher wrestler Cuvo says du Pont was considered the “black sheep” of his famous family. “There were rooms full of dog and horse show ribbons, and he was in a peasant sport,” he says. “Wrestling was barbaric [to the Du Ponts]. He once told me he was an outcast because he chose wrestling. It was so opposite to how he was raised.”

In 1997, Du Pont’s lone living sister, 83-year-old Jean Ellen du Pont Shehan, was one of the three trustees a Delaware County court approved to manage his funds while incarcerated. And rest assured she is well-guarded in her dotage by a son, James McConnell, and a daughter, Marian Lassen. Publicly, Lassen speaks for all the Du Ponts, offering nothing on the impact John’s struggles have had on the family. “We’re private people,” she says.

But longtime estate employee King Sr. says du Pont’s mother “would roll over in her grave—many times” if she knew what had become of her youngest child.

“If she was still here, I don’t think any of this would have happened,” he says. “She kept the wraps on him.”

A Tragic Chain of Events

Jan. 26, 1996: Dave Schultz is murdered.

September 1996: After being held in Delaware County Prison, John du Pont is found mentally incompetent to stand trial by Judge Patricia Jenkins. She reverses that ruling two months later after du Pont receives treatment at Norristown State Hospital.

January 1997: Testimony in du Pont’s murder trial begins and lasts five weeks, followed by a week of deliberations by the jury, which finds du Pont guilty of third-degree murder but mentally insane.

Feb. 25, 1997: Du Pont is convicted.

May 1997: Du Pont is sentenced.

April 1999: Du Pont’s direct appeal is denied.

June 1999: Du Pont’s attorneys launch a flurry of appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which won’t hear the case.

Sept. 22, 2003: Du Pont is denied relief under the Post-conviction Relief Act, touching off a series of appeals that continue to this day. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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