By The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

One of the women killed in the New Castle County Courthouse shooting had been involved in a long custody fight with her ex-husband who served time in prison for kidnapping the children, law enforcement and legal sources said.

Christine Belford, 39, had been battling her ex-husband, David T. Matusiewicz, who was recently released from prison. Law enforcement and legal sources identified the gunman who killed Belford and another woman as Thomas Matusiewicz, David's father.

David Matusiewicz kidnapped his three young daughters in August 2007 and took them on an 18-month odyssey to Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua. In March 2009, authorities discovered Matusiewicz, his mother Lenore and the girls - then ages ages, 4, 6, and 7 - living in a dirty and cramped trailer. Matusiewicz and Belford divorced in November 2006.

Matusiewicz, a former optometrist, spent time in federal prison for the kidnapping and a bank fraud charge for forging Belford's name to get a $249,000 home equity loan.

He continued trying to get joint custody, and have visits with the girls, while serving his four-year sentence in the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center and the federal prison in Bastrop, Texas. But parental rights were terminated.

He was released from prison in April 2012 to a halfway house in Texas, prison officials said. About two months later, Matusiewicz was released from the halfway house. He was ordered to home confinement until Sept. 5.

David Matusiewicz' location today was not immediately known. Belford was one of two women killed by the shooter. The other woman's identity is not known.

Belford remarried and lived with the girls in Pike Creek's Meadowdale neighborhood. She periodically contacted The News Journal to report how she and the girls were doing, saying that it was a struggle but all were recovering from their ordeal.

Bob and Eileen Thomas live two houses down from Belford. They said she had motion sensitive lights and security cameras installed on the outside of her house because she feared her ex-husband.

"Many people have a little bit of security, but not as much as she had," Bob Thomas said.

Lois Dawson lives across the street from Belford and they often looked after each others' houses when one was away.

"I asked her to look after my house a few years ago and she said, 'No problem because my security camera looks right down your driveway,'" Dawson said.

Belford said the kidnapping was devastating to her, Dawson said. "She told me, 'For 18 months, I didn't know if my kids were dead or alive,'" Dawson said.

In a December email to The News Journal, she mentioned an upcoming mediation hearing with Matusiewicz regarding overdue child support.

"Kids are doing ok,'' she wrote in the email. "Some lingering issues, as expected, for all of us.''

Diane Altevogt lives across the street from Belford. She said the kids were wonderful. "A couple of them played with my grandson when he was here," she said.

Altevogt said Belford never talked about the kidnapping.

"This is a neighborhood where you don't think of these things going on," Altevogt said.

Belford's daughters often came over to play with Thomas' grandkids, and the Thomases recently bought some Girl Scout cookies from one of the girls.

"Christine and her family are beautiful people," Eileen Thomas said. "She loves her children so much."

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