Chemical fortune heir to be sentenced for wrestler’s murder
MEDIA, Pa. (AP) _ More than a year after John E. du Pont coolly fired three deadly shots into an Olympic wrestler, mental health experts said today he no longer suffers from the paranoid schizophrenia that made him see ghosts.
But at a sentencing hearing, two defense doctors testified that the chemical fortune heir could return to the abyss if forced to serve his sentence in prison rather than a mental hospital.
After hearing testimony from doctors, friends and David Schultz’s widow, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Jenkins planned to announce the sentence. He could be sentenced to five to 40 years in custody and a $50,000 fine.
Because a jury found du Pont guilty of third-degree murder but mentally ill, he could spend all or some of his sentence in a state mental institution.
Two defense experts and one for the prosecution testified that eight months of treatment at Norristown State Hospital have countered du Pont’s paranoid schizophrenia. They said he no longer poses a threat to himself or others, a yardstick for determining where he should begin serving his sentence.
But the defense experts said they fear a lack of controls in prison will allow du Pont to stop taking his anti-psychotic drugs.
``Were he to either be placed in a stressful situation ... or he stop taking his medication, that would again show an acute exacerbation of the paranoid illness ... and he would pose a potential danger to himself and others,″ forensic psychologist Gerald Cooke said.
Prosecutors were expected to press for a stiff sentence. Nancy Schultz also has asked for a lengthy sentence for the man who killed her husband on Jan. 26, 1996, and left her two children without their father.
Defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom was pleased with the Feb. 25 verdict even though the jury rejected his client’s insanity defense. Bergstrom has expressed hope that du Pont would someday return home.
Du Pont killed Schultz, 38, as the 1984 Olympic gold medalist was tinkering with his car in the driveway of his home on the edge of du Pont’s Newtown Square estate and wrestling center.
Du Pont locked himself inside his mansion for two days after the shooting, negotiating with police on the telephone. He was captured when he walked outside to fix his heater.
Witnesses said du Pont’s slide into mental illness began after his mother died in 1988. Jurors heard tales of du Pont using cocaine, casually toting around guns and believing he was the Dalai Lama.
Defense psychiatrists testified that du Pont killed Schultz out of a paranoid delusion that the wrestler, his longtime friend, was an agent of an international conspiracy to kill him.
Prosecutors said du Pont killed Schultz because he was jealous of the respect Schultz commanded in the wrestling world.
Mrs. Schultz has sued du Pont for damages resulting from her husband’s death. Du Pont also has an agreement pending in court that would allow estranged relatives to take over control of his financial affairs, valued at an estimated $250 million.