The daughter of the gunman who killed two women at the New Castle County Courthouse is seeking legal guardianship of her three nieces.
The girls’ mother, 39-year-old Christine Belford, was shot to death in the lobby of the courthouse Feb. 11 by her former father-in-law, Thomas Matusiewicz of Edcouch, Texas.
That day, Belford was on her way to attend a child-support hearing opposite ex-husband David, with whom she had three daughters. Matusiewicz also killed Belford’s friend, Laura “Beth” Mulford, before taking his own life.
Amy Gonzalez of Edinburg, Texas, wants to take responsibility for her three nieces, ages 7 to 10. Gonzalez is the younger sister of David Matusiewicz and the only aunt to his three daughters, who are in foster care.
The Delaware Division of Family Services is opposing Gonzalez’s petition, saying she isn’t related to the children and, thus, doesn’t meet requirements for permanent guardianship under Delaware law, according to court records.
Family members usually receive preference when the courts are considering the permanent guardianship of minors in foster care. However, the state is grounding its argument in a Family Court order that, in 2011, terminated the parental rights of the girls’ father, David.
That order followed David’s 2009 conviction on charges that he kidnapped of his three daughters to Central America for a year and a half with the help of his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz. Both David and Lenore served prison time — Lenore following her conviction on three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The day after the February courthouse shooting, a Delaware judge issued a no-contact order against Lenore, now 67, directing her to stay at least 1,000 feet away from her three granddaughters and to have no “direct or indirect” contact with them. David has been in federal custody since the shooting, currently serving a six-month sentence for violating his probation.
When a mother or father loses parental rights to a child, that loss extends to the status of the parent’s blood relatives for the purposes of preference in family court proceedings, said Jason Miller of the state Attorney General’s Office.