John E. du Pont, heir to family fortune who killed Olympic wrestler, dies at 72
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 9:22 PM
John E. du Pont, an heir to the DuPont Co. chemical fortune who was known as a generous if eccentric patron of amateur wrestling before he inexplicably shot and killed Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz in 1996, died Dec. 9. He was 72.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. du Pont was pronounced dead at a hospital in Somerset, Pa., after being found unresponsive in his cell at Laurel Highlands state prison. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Mr. du Pont was the great-great-grandson of E.I. du Pont, a French industrialist who founded the company that introduced the world to now-ubiquitous modern materials such as nylon, Teflon and Lucite.
Mr. du Pont's fortune was said by Forbes magazine to be about $200 million, which he had used to indulge his twin passions: natural history and athletics. He built a museum in Delaware to house his collection of 66,000 birds and 2 million seashells and spent millions of dollars to promote sports, including swimming and the pentathlon.
His foremost passion was wrestling, and he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to USA Wrestling, the sport's governing body.
He also spent generously to aid the efforts of top individual wrestlers, paying them a monthly stipend to live at Foxcatcher, his sprawling estate near Philadelphia, and train at a 14,000-square-foot facility he had built there.
He called the wrestlers he supported "Team Foxcatcher" and envisioned them filling the roster of the 1996 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.
Schultz was one of Mr. du Pont's beneficiaries. Having won Olympic gold in 1984, the 36-year-old father of two was living at the du Pont estate, hoping to qualify for the 1996 games in Atlanta and serving as a Team Foxcatcher coach.
On Jan. 26, 1996, Mr. du Pont drove to the guesthouse where Schultz was living with his wife and two children. The heir fired three shots from a .38-caliber handgun out the window of his Lincoln Town Car. Schultz lay in the driveway, dying in his wife's arms.
Mr. du Pont barricaded himself in the steel-lined library of his three-story Greek-revival mansion. SWAT teams descended as negotiators tried to persuade Mr. du Pont to surrender.
Mr. du Pont, who was known to have an arsenal of high-powered weaponry, held police at bay for 48 hours until he was tricked outside to check on a faulty heater, which officials had disabled in an effort to freeze him out. He was taken into custody without any shots fired.
The case captured the nation's attention. The question was never who had killed Dave Schultz, but why?