John Eleuthère du Pont (1938 - 2010)

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Nicknames: "duPont"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: Died in Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania, United States
Managed by: Grant Brunner
Last Updated:
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About John Eleuthère du Pont

John Eleuthère duPont (November 22, 1938 – December 9, 2010) was an American 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 Life

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 (0.98 km2) 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 19th century. DuPont was the youngest of four children; he had two older sisters, Jean duPont McConnell and Evelyn duPont Donaldson, and an older brother, Henry E. I. duPont.

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 held 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.

DuPont died on Thursday, December 9, 2010. A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said DuPont was found unresponsive in his bed at the Laurel Highland State Correctional Facility. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 a.m. at Somerset Community Hospital. DuPont had unspecified health issues and had been ill.

David Schultz murder

In 1997, DuPont was convicted of murdering Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler Dave Schultz the year before and sentenced to 13 to 40 years in prison. Experts at the trial testified that DuPont suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

On January 26, 1996, DuPont shot Schultz dead in the driveway of Schultz's home on DuPont's 800-acre (3.2 km2) estate while Schultz's wife and DuPont's head of security witnessed the crime. The security chief was sitting in the passenger seat of DuPont's car while DuPont shot 3 bullets into Schultz. Police did not establish a motive. Schultz was a longtime friend of DuPont who had repeatedly tried to help him.

DuPont's friends said the shooting was uncharacteristic behavior for him. Joy Hansen Leutner, a triathlete from Hermosa Beach, California, lived for two years on the estate.[6] Leutner said DuPont helped her 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. She is quoted as saying "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.”[8] Charles King, Sr., a DuPont stable hand and manager for 30 years, claimed he knew DuPont well throughout his life. King's son Charles “Chuckie” King Jr. said he considered DuPont his friend during his childhood. Charles King Sr. blames the DuPont security consultant, for influencing what happened. King said “I don’t think John could shoot someone unless he was pushed to or was on drugs”. “After that guy 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. During the trial one of the defense's expert psychiatric witness described DuPont as a paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him. He said DuPont believed people would break into his house and kill him, the reason he put razor wires in his attic.

DuPont pleaded "not guilty by reason of insanity". The insanity defense was thrown out and 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, "insanity" 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.[9] The jury verdict of "guilty but mentally ill" meant the sentence would be referred to Judge Patricia Jenkins who then was given the opportunity to sentence him from 5–40 years. The prosecution failed to mention DuPont used hollow point bullets and fired the last shot into Schultz's back while Schultz was bleeding to death from a gunshot wound to his chest and crawling face down in the snow trying to get away. Some Schultz family members were outraged at the verdict. The wrongful death lawsuit petitioned by Dave's widow Nancy following the guilty verdict resulted in Nancy and Dave's two children receiving a multi-million dollar settlement.

DuPont was sentenced to 13 to 30 years incarceration and was 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.

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John du Pont's Timeline

1938
November 22, 1938
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
1985
1985
Age 46
2010
December 9, 2010
Age 72
Somerset, Somerset, Pennsylvania, United States
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