CNN logo


Main banner

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

Widow to file civil suit against du Pont estate

February 25, 1997
Web posted at: 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 GMT)

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.

CNN's Adam Reiss reports on the verdict
icon  (47 sec. /576K AIFF or WAV sound)

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.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Related stories:

What You Think Tell us what you think!

You said it...
To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.