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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
September 3, 1983,
he married therapist Gale Wenk, but the marriage was annulled 90 days
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
Du Pont guilty but mentally ill in Olympic
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,
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
"I think they came to a result that we can live with,"
Bergstrom continued. He said du Pont thanked him after the verdict was
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,"
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
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
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,”
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
“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
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
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
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.