Latest Entry: The RSS feed for this blog has moved

Washington Post staff writers offer a window into the art of obituary writing, the culture of death, and more about the end of the story.

Read more | What is this blog?

More From the Obits Section: Search the Archives  |   RSS Feeds RSS Feed   |   Submit an Obituary  |   Twitter Twitter

John E. du Pont, heir to family fortune who killed Olympic wrestler, dies at 72

FILE - In this file photo taken March 15, 1996, millionaire murder suspect John E. du Pont, right, is led from the holding area by an unidentified law enforcement officer, at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media, Pa. Du Pont, the chemical fortune heir who killed an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler at his estate, died Thursday Dec. 9, 2010, after being found unresponsive in his prison cell. He was 72. (AP Photo/Tim Shaffer, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken March 15, 1996, millionaire murder suspect John E. du Pont, right, is led from the holding area by an unidentified law enforcement officer, at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media, Pa. Du Pont, the chemical fortune heir who killed an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler at his estate, died Thursday Dec. 9, 2010, after being found unresponsive in his prison cell. He was 72. (AP Photo/Tim Shaffer, File) (Tim Shaffer - AP)

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
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?


CONTINUED     1        >

More in the Obituary Section

Post Mortem

Post Mortem

The art of obituary writing, the culture of death, and more about the end of the story.

From the Archives

From the Archives

Read Washington Post obituaries and view multimedia tributes to Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, James Brown and more.

[Campaign Finance]

A Local Life

This weekly feature takes a more personal look at extraordinary people in the D.C. area.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile