John Eleuthère du Pont

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John Eleuthère du Pont
John E Dupont at his home, February 1992.jpg
At his home, February 1992
Born (1938-11-22)November 22, 1938
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died December 9, 2010(2010-12-09) (aged 72)
State Correctional Institution – Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Education Haverford School (1957)
B.S., University of Pennsylvania (1960)
B.S., University of Miami (1962)
Ph.D., Villanova University (1973)
Spouse(s) Gale Wenk (m. 1983–83) annulled after 90 days
Parents William du Pont, Jr.
Jean Liseter Austin

John Eleuthère du Pont (November 22, 1938 – December 9, 2010) was an heir to the Du Pont family fortune.[1][2] He was an ornithologist (publishing several books on birds) and conchologist, philatelist, coach, sports enthusiast, and a convicted murderer. As a philanthropist, he founded and directed the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which opened in 1972. He also contributed to Villanova University and other institutions.

In the 1980s, he established a wrestling facility at his Foxcatcher Farm after becoming interested in that and the pentathlon events. He became a prominent supporter for amateur sports in the United States and a sponsor for USA Wrestling. In the 1990s, friends and acquaintances were concerned about his erratic and paranoid behavior, but his wealth shielded him.[3] In 1997, he was convicted of the murder in the third degree of his friend Dave Schultz, an Olympic champion freestyle wrestler. He was ruled to have been mentally ill but not insane and was sentenced to prison, where he died thirteen years later.

Du Pont is the subject of the 2014 film Foxcatcher, in which he is portrayed by Steve Carell.[4]

Early life[edit]

John du Pont (pictured bottom left) during his time at the University of Pennsylvania

John du Pont was born on November 22, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of four children of William du Pont, Jr. and Jean Liseter Austin (1897–1988). He grew up at Liseter Hall, a mansion built in 1922 in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, by his paternal grandfather on more than 200 acres of land given to his parents at their wedding by his maternal grandfather.[5] Both his parents' families had immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the 19th century and became highly successful.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the couple acquired more land and developed Liseter Hall Farm for Thoroughbred breeding, showing and racing. His mother retained Liseter Hall Farm after the couple divorced in 1941. She added a dairy herd of Guernseys and bred Welsh ponies at the farm. John was two when his parents divorced. He had two older sisters, Jean and Evelyn, an older brother Henry E. I. du Pont, and a younger half brother, William du Pont III, born of their father's second marriage.

Du Pont graduated from Haverford School in 1957. He attended the University of Pennsylvania where he belonged to the Zeta Psi fraternity. After transferring out at the end of his sophomore year, du Pont attended college in Miami, Florida, where he studied under and was mentored by the scientist Oscar T. Owre.[6] He graduated from the University of Miami in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. Du Pont went on to complete a doctorate in natural science from Villanova University in 1973.

Science career[edit]

During his graduate work, du Pont participated in several scientific expeditions to study and identify species of birds in the Philippines and South Pacific. As an ornithologist, du Pont is credited with the discovery of two dozen species of birds. He wrote a number of books on birds published by the Delaware Museum of Natural History, including:

In addition, he published several papers during the 1970s on birds, relating to the expeditions and updating the lengthier books:[7]

He also wrote:

and was second author, with Clifton Stokes Weaver, for Living Volutes: a Monograph of the Recent Volutidae of the World. (ISBN 9780913176016)[7]

He founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1957. As a young man, he served on the board, helping guide the institution toward opening in 1972. After having been part of scientific expeditions, he served as director of the museum for many years.

Personal life[edit]

At the age of 45, on September 3, 1983, he married 29-year-old Gale Wenk, an occupational therapist. They met after he injured a hand in an auto accident.[8] They lived together less than six months.[9] Du Pont filed for divorce when they had been married for ten months. Wenk sued du Pont for $5 million, claiming he had pointed a gun at her and tried to push her into a fireplace.[8] The divorce became final in 1987.[9] Du Pont's will excluded her from inheriting any of his estate.[10]

Interests[edit]

Philately[edit]

Du Pont was also a philatelist. In a 1980 auction, while bidding anonymously, he paid $935,000 for one of the rarest stamps in the world, the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta.[11] That stamp would be sold at auction for $9.5 Million (inclusive of buyer's premium) at Sotheby's June 17, 2014. For the fourth time that stamp broke the record for a single stamp's sale. [12] The one-of-a-kind stamp was part of the estate of du Pont. According to du Pont's will – unsuccessfully challenged by several parties – 80 percent of the sale proceeds go to the family of Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Jordanov Dimitrov and 20 percent goes to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife Foundation, based in Paoli, Pennsylvania, a group du Pont founded to support Pacific wildlife.[13]

Athletics[edit]

After his mother's death, du Pont developed the 440-acre (1.8 km2) Liseter Hall Farm in Newtown Square as a high-quality wrestling facility for amateur wrestlers.[14] He called the private team, "Team Foxcatcher", after his father's noted racing stable. Du Pont established an Olympic swimming and wrestling training center and sponsored competitive events at the estate. He also allowed some friends, such as Olympic champion wrestler David Schultz and his wife, to live in a house on the grounds for years. Schultz also coached the Foxcatcher team.

Du Pont became a sponsor in wrestling, swimming, track, and the modern pentathlon. He was also involved in promoting a subset of the modern pentathlon (run, swim, shoot) as a separate event.[15][16] He took up athletics and became a competitive wrestler in his 50s. His only prior wrestling experience was as a freshman in high school. He began competing again at the age of 55 in the 1992 Veteran's World Championships in Cali, Colombia; following that in 1993 in Toronto, Ontario; in 1994 in Rome, Italy;[17] and in 1995 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Dave Schultz murder[edit]

On January 26, 1996, du Pont shot Dave Schultz dead in the driveway of Schultz's home on du Pont's 800-acre (3.2 km2) estate. Schultz's wife Nancy and du Pont's head of security Patrick Goodale were present and witnessed the crime. The security chief was sitting in the passenger seat of du Pont's car when du Pont fired three bullets into Schultz. Police did not establish a motive. Schultz was a longtime friend of du Pont and had tried to help him with his drinking problem.[3]

Du Pont's friends said the shooting was uncharacteristic. Joy Hansen Leutner, a triathlete from Hermosa Beach, California, lived for two years on the estate.[18] Leutner said du Pont 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."[3] Newtown Township supervisor John S. Custer Jr. said, “At the time of the murder, John didn’t know what he was doing.”[19] Charles King, Sr., a du Pont stable hand and manager for 30 years, claimed he knew du Pont well throughout his life. King's son Charles “Chuckie” King Jr. said he considered du Pont his friend during his childhood.

However, many people had noticed du Pont's increasingly disruptive behavior in the months before the murder.[18] Charles King Sr. blames du Pont's "security consultant" Patrick Goodale 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 started 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.”[19]

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. In September 1996, du Pont was ruled incompetent to stand trial, as experts testified that he was psychotic and could not participate in his own defense. He was committed to a mental hospital and his condition was to be reviewed by the court in three months.[20]

During the trial, one of the defense's expert psychiatric witnesses described du Pont as a paranoid schizophrenic who believed Schultz was part of an international conspiracy to kill him.[21] He said du Pont believed people would break into his house and kill him, and that he had installed a variety of security features in his house.[citation needed]

Du Pont pleaded "not guilty by reason of insanity." The insanity defense was thrown out by the court, 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.[22]

The jury verdict of "guilty but mentally ill" meant the sentencing would be referred to the judge, Patricia Jenkins. She could have sentenced du Pont to from 5 to 40 years. Du Pont 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.[23]

Following the guilty verdict, Nancy Schultz, Dave's widow, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against du Pont. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed; however, The Philadelphia Inquirer, citing anonymous sources, said du Pont was to pay Schultz at least $35 million.[24]

Du Pont's attorneys filed appeals. In 2000 his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the verdict. Du Pont was first eligible for parole on January 29, 2009; it was denied. Du Pont's maximum sentence would have ended on January 29, 2026, when he would have been 87.[25] 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.[26]

Death[edit]

Du Pont died at the age of 72 on December 9, 2010, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema. A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said du Pont was found unresponsive in his bed at the State Correctional Institution – Laurel Highlands. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 a.m. at Somerset Community Hospital.[1][2]

Philanthropy and institutions[edit]

Du Pont founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1957, which opened to the public in 1972 on a site near Winterthur donated by his relative Henry Francis du Pont. John du Pont served on the board for many years.

He helped fund a new basketball arena at Villanova University, which opened in 1986. Originally it was called the John Eleuthère du Pont Pavilion, but after his conviction, his name was removed from the facility. Today it is simply called The Pavilion.

Foxcatcher Farm[edit]

After his mother's death in 1988, du Pont assumed stewardship of Liseter Farm and renamed it "Foxcatcher Farm" after his father's famed Thoroughbred racing stable.[27]

He maintained much of her work, but added a wrestling facility and supporting buildings for that interest.

After his arrest, du Pont sold off the dairy herd, nearly 70 Guernseys, in the fall of 1996. He ordered all the buildings at Foxcatcher Farm to be painted a matte black. The Delaware Museum of Natural History, which du Pont formerly headed and which held the dairy farm in trust, sold that portion in January 1998 after his conviction and sentencing to prison. Since then, the land has changed hands again. It has been developed into the campus for the relocated Episcopal Academy prep school as well as a community of new million-dollar-plus homes.[27] The 400-plus acres of Foxcatcher Farm was left of the original larger property.

The mansion was torn down in January 2013 in what is anticipated to be a development of 400 homes by Toll Brothers called "Liseter Estates" [28] Most of the outbuildings too were torn down, though an existing 7,000 square-foot historical barn will be used as a clubhouse in the new development.

Disputed will[edit]

Du Pont's will bequeathed 80% of his estate to the Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Yordanov, an Olympic champion, and his relatives. In June 2011, Beverly A. du Pont Gauggel and William H. du Pont, relatives of John du Pont, filed a petition in Media, Pennsylvania, to challenge the will, asserting that du Pont was not "of sound mind" when he made his will. The petition claims that during that period, du Pont asserted alternately that he was Jesus Christ, the Dalai Lama and a Russian czar.[29]

That petition was dismissed, and while appealed, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld a Delaware County Orphans Court order dismissing a challenge on the will on November 19, 2012.[30] Former Delaware County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Joseph Cronin dismissed the challenge for lack of standing, finding that because the niece and nephew were not named in two successive wills going back to 2006, they would not be harmed if the September 2010 will were deemed valid. A three-judge panel of the Superior Court affirmed that ruling on November 19, 2012.

Representation in media[edit]

  • Du Pont's murder of Dave Schultz is recounted in the 2013 true crime book Wrestling with Madness.[31]
  • Steve Carell portrays du Pont in the 2014 film Foxcatcher, based on the events related to the Schultz brothers and exploring du Pont's relationship with them.[32] Carell's depiction was met with critical acclaim, and landed him numerous award nominations, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor.[33]
  • Olympic Wrestling Champion Mark Schultz, the younger brother of Dave Schultz, wrote Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold (2014) (ISBN 978-0525955030).[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jeré Longman (December 9, 2010). "John E. du Pont, Heir Who Killed an Olympian, Dies at 72". New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012. John E. du Pont, an heir to the du Pont chemical fortune whose benevolent support of Olympic athletes deteriorated into delusion and ended in the shooting death of a champion wrestler, died Thursday in a western Pennsylvania prison. He was 72. Mr. du Pont was found unresponsive in his cell at Laurel Highlands State Prison near Somerset, Pa., a prison spokeswoman told The Associated Press. ... 
  2. ^ a b "Du Pont heir dies in prison". United Press International. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010. Du Pont fortune heir John E. du Pont, convicted of the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler David Schulz, died of natural causes, Pennsylvania prison officials said. He was 72. Corrections spokeswoman Sue Bensinger said du Pont was found unresponsive in his Laurel Highland State Correctional Facility cell in Somerset County Thursday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Bensinger said he had been ill for some time. 
  3. ^ a b c Longman, Jere; Belluck, Pam; Nordheimer, Jon (February 4, 1996). "For du Pont Heir, Question Was Control". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Justin Chang (May 19, 2014). "Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum give superb performances in Bennett Miller's powerfully disturbing true-crime saga". Variety. 
  5. ^ "Last hurrah for historic Liseter Hall Farm", Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, September 2005
  6. ^ James A. Kushlan (1991). "IN MEMORIAM: OSCAR T. OWRE, 1917–1990". The Auk 108 (3): 705–708. doi:10.2307/4088110. 
  7. ^ a b Publications, Delaware Museum of Natural History
  8. ^ a b Hewitt, Bill (February 12, 1996). "A Man Possessed". People Magazine. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Pirro, J.F. "The Foxcatcher Murder". MainLine Today. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Last Will and Testament, September 16, 2010". Delaware Online. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  11. ^ Rachlin, Harvey (1996). Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Great Artifacts of History, From Antiquity to the Modern Era. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6406-0. 
  12. ^ http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/06/18/stamp-owned-delaware-murderer-john-du-pont-sells-million/10723161/
  13. ^ http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/06/18/stamp-owned-delaware-murderer-john-du-pont-sells-million/10723161/
  14. ^ "The Value of Open Space, Save Open Space, Everything Old is New Again", Save Open Space, April 1999
  15. ^ Alice Higgins, "Trials Of A Busy Pentathlete", Sports Illustrated, August 28, 1967
  16. ^ Chapter XI: "20th-Century Personages and the Arts", Historic Newtown Square, Newtown Square Historical Preservation Society
  17. ^ "Silverbacks: Masters 3rd Freestyle Wrestling World Championships Results-1994", Silverbacks Wrestling website
  18. ^ a b Randy Harvey, "Signposts to a Tragedy – Du Pont Heir", Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1996
  19. ^ a b J.F. Pirro, "In Memory of a Murder", MainLine Today, January 12, 2007
  20. ^ Associated Press, "Du Pont Is Ruled Incompetent for Trial in Killing of Wrestler", Los Angeles Times, 25 September 1996, accessed 15 November 2014
  21. ^ Vigoda, Ralph; Ordine, Bill. "Defense Doctors: Du Pont Feared He Was Target Of Conspiracy He Worried About The Russians, One Said. Then He Decided The Threat Was At Home". philly.com. Interstate General Media. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Law and Legal Research, Lawyers, Legal Websites, Legal News and Legal Resources, Onecle, Crimes And Offenses – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Pennsylvania Statutes
  23. ^ "Heir Sentenced Up to 30 Years For Killing of Olympic Wrestler", New York Times, May 14, 1997
  24. ^ "Du Pont, Wrestler's Widow Settle Suit". washingtonpost.com. Associate Press. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  25. ^ What Ever Happened to: Imprisoned Chemical Heir John du Pont? – Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Newsweek.com (August 7, 2008). Retrieved on March 16, 2013.
  26. ^ Circuit Won't Hear Arguments on Du Pont Millionaire's Last Round of Appeals", Law
  27. ^ a b Michael Yockel, "Last hurrah for historic Liseter Hall Farm", Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, September 2005, Retrieved on October 23, 2005
  28. ^ http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2013/01/24/main_line_suburban_life/news/doc510172af81da4619756296.txt
  29. ^ "Du Pont Relatives Contest Validity of Late Killer's Will", Delaware County Daily Times, 1June 15, 2011. Retrieved on June 15, 2011.
  30. ^ "Superior Court: Du Pont relatives have no standing to contest will", Main Line Suburban Life,
  31. ^ http://www.absolutecrime.com/wrestling-with-madness-john-e-du-pont-and-the-foxcatcher-farm-murder.html
  32. ^ "Foxcatcher". IMDB. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  33. ^ https://variety.com/2014/film/news/golden-globe-nominations-announced-updated-1201376916/
  34. ^ Strauss, Chris (November 14, 2014). "Where are the missing seven years in 'Foxcatcher'?". USA Today. Retrieved November 15, 2014. 

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