In his career as one of the U.S.'s most accomplished freestyle
wrestlers, Dave Schultz seldom allowed himself to be caught out
of position. His chess player's mind and flawless technique kept
him one move ahead of most opponents.
But that was on the mat. Schultz's choice of where to live and
train was another matter. For the past half-dozen years,
Schultz, the 1984 Olympic champion at 163 pounds and a favorite
to make the '96 U.S. team at that weight, lived with his wife,
Nancy, and their two children in an old farmhouse on the
800-acre Newtown Square, Pa., estate of millionaire
philanthropist and Olympic sports benefactor John du Pont. And
last Friday afternoon, as he walked out to the driveway of the
farmhouse to install a new radio in his Toyota Tercel, Schultz,
36, broke a cardinal rule of wrestling. He left himself exposed.
The events that followed were shocking: Schultz's murder and a
48-hour police siege that ended with du Pont, 57, in jail,
charged with slaying Schultz. The tragedy claimed the life of
one of the most popular competitors in U.S. wrestling history
and raised questions about how du Pont--who said he heard voices,
called himself the Dalai Lama and barreled around his estate in
a tank--could be a major force, at one time or another, in three
U.S. Olympic sports: swimming, modern pentathlon and wrestling.
Scattered about du Pont's rolling Foxcatcher Farm estate, a
property that he had turned into a virtual Olympic training
center, were houses in which the Schultzes and five other
nationally ranked wrestlers and the families of some of them
lived. All the wrestlers were members of du Pont's Team
Foxcatcher club and were on du Pont's payroll. Schultz was
nominally a Foxcatcher coach, but his job, like that of the
others, was to train for the 1996 Olympics--and to be a friend
to John du Pont.
February 5, 1996
A family friend said Nancy Schultz, Dave's wife of almost 14
years, told him that her husband had walked outside last Friday
to work on his car. Nancy told police that she was inside, in
the living room, when she heard a gunshot. At first she thought
Schultz may have decided to practice target shooting, but then,
as she walked to the front door, she said, she heard a second
shot. She opened the door and saw Dave lying facedown behind his
Toyota and du Pont sitting behind the wheel of his Lincoln Town
Car, his arm outstretched and a gun in his hand. That gun was
pointed at her husband, she said, and as she watched, du Pont
fired for a third time and Dave's body flinched. Then, Nancy
said, du Pont turned the gun toward her and she fled into the
house. Once she heard du Pont's car pulling away, Nancy said,
she rushed to the side of her dying husband and, as she hugged
his motionless body, there was one last sound: a gurgling deep
within his chest.
Du Pont, who maintained a shooting range on the estate,
barricaded himself in his mansion, where, it was reported, he
kept a cache of weapons. Soon after Nancy called 911, the first
of 75 police officers--including three SWAT teams--arrived. For
two days they waited, unsure whether du Pont might open fire or
perhaps even blow up his mansion. Not until about 3 p.m. Sunday
would he be captured, when he stepped into his greenhouse to
attempt to fix a heating device that had been disabled Friday
night by the police in hopes of flushing him out.
That Schultz would have left himself vulnerable--that he would
have stayed at Foxcatcher through years of sometimes strange and
frightening behavior by du Pont--puzzled some of his friends and
relatives. For at least a year, a number of them had been asking
Schultz to get out of there. He had stayed, insisting that he
was not afraid, and, in fact, he and his family lived a fairly
routine life. Dave drove the children, Alexander, 9, and
Danielle, 6, to school every morning, and Nancy was active in
the PTA and sold cosmetics. Schultz occasionally had dinner with
du Pont, who was regarded by some of the wrestlers as a kind of
father figure, sometimes gruff but also caring.
The wrestlers knew they had to stay on du Pont's good side. "If
you didn't have a daily friendship with him, if you didn't go to
see him, he would kick you off the team," says Stanford
wrestling coach Chris Horpel, for whom Schultz, a Palo Alto
native, worked as an assistant from 1983 to 1986. Some of du
Pont's wrestlers played along with his fantasy that he was a
world-class wrestler himself. When du Pont took to the mat, they
let him execute throws and holds against them. "Everyone knew
how to wrestle John du Pont," says Horpel. Much of the time, du
Pont seemed non-threatening. "He would get mad at you sometimes,
you know, yell or something," says Ed Giese, a Foxcatcher
wrestler who lives on the estate. "But it was the way your
father might yell at you. We look like idiots now, living out
here with him. But none of us would have come here if we'd
thought for one second that there was a danger."
In truth, the deadly unraveling of du Pont's psyche seemingly
had been under way for years. "[Du Pont] was becoming like
Howard Hughes," Horpel says. "He was reclusive. He wouldn't
shower regularly. He wouldn't brush his teeth."
Du Pont was also occasionally delusional. According to some of
the wrestlers who have lived on his estate, he imagined that
"enemies" were tunneling into his mansion. He believed that
something, or somebody, was hiding inside walls of the house,
waiting to leap out and kill him. He heard voices inside the
He also told his wrestlers to shoot imagined Nazis out of trees.
He complained that bugs were crawling across his body. He
insisted that the wrestling mats on which his team trained were
covered with ticks.
Sometimes du Pont lashed out at Schultz. "He would accuse Dave
of trying to come through walls and spy on him," says Jerry
Stanley, a friend of Schultz's who coached at the University of
Oklahoma. "People used to kid Dave about going through the walls
to get at people. One time Dave said, 'I'm going to disguise
myself as a dog next time.'"
There were other reasons to be concerned about du Pont's
stability. Two wrestlers say he had been drinking heavily in
the last year. "He was really trying to get off [alcohol]," says
former Foxcatcher coach Greg Strobel, who moved off the estate
last summer. "But after I left, one of the first calls I got
from the wrestlers who were still there said [du Pont] had
started drinking again, that he was slobbering and falling down.
I remember thinking, This might be the end of John du Pont."
Du Pont had a history of making threats and being violent. In a
1985 lawsuit that followed the breakup of her brief marriage to
du Pont, Gale Wenk du Pont alleged that he had choked her,
threatened her with a knife and tried to push her out of his
moving car. Former wrestler Andre Metzger, who coached for du
Pont, alleges that several years ago, du Pont "threatened to
Dan Chaid, a wrestler who lived at the estate for eight years,
says that one day in October, du Pont walked into the Foxcatcher
weight room, where Chaid was lifting, and pointed a loaded
AK-47-style machine gun at Chaid's chest. For no stated reason,
du Pont had decided he wanted Chaid to move. "He said,
'Don't ------- with me. I want you off this farm,'" recalls
Chaid. "He looked like he was going to kill me."
Two weeks later, after moving, Chaid returned to pick up a van
he had left behind. He stopped briefly at the Schultzes' house.
Chaid said the Schultzes later told him that du Pont soon showed
up, looking for him. He says du Pont accused the Schultzes of
hiding Chaid, then fell and gashed his head on a piece of
furniture. Chaid says that according to the Schultzes, du Pont
called the police to report that Chaid had assaulted him with a
baseball bat. Police came to the house, Chaid said, and talked
to the Schultzes, but they left when the Schultzes did not
corroborate du Pont's story. (Chaid filed suit against du Pont
on Monday as a result of the alleged machine-gun incident.)
Chaid took a job as Horpel's assistant at Stanford. "When Chaid
told me du Pont had pointed a gun at him, I knew I wanted Dave
to get out of that place," says Horpel. "Dave still thought du
Pont was harmless. He told me, 'He's unstable, he's eccentric,
yes, but he wouldn't shoot anybody.'"
The death of Schultz devastated the tightly knit Olympic
wrestling community. "This is the biggest tragedy the sport of
wrestling has ever had," said Joe DeMeo, who was Schultz's first
Not only was Schultz a technically brilliant performer, he was
also an ambassador for the sport. "When he wrestled, the
Iranians cheered him, the Russians cheered him, everyone cheered
him," says Strobel.
After winning his Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles, Schultz
failed to make the U.S. teams in 1988 and '92. However, he ended
'95 ranked No. 1 in the U.S. at 163 pounds after finishing fifth
at last summer's world championships. He hoped to finish his
career with his second Olympic gold, in Atlanta--then leave du
Instead, his legacy is a question: Why did no one do anything
about John du Pont?
The obvious answer is money. Du Pont, one of scores of heirs to
the du Pont chemical fortune, used his riches in ways that made
people beholden to him. Police? He bought them bulletproof vests
and let them practice at his shooting range. The Newtown Square
Township police department made him an honorary officer.
Chaid says he reported to the Newtown Square police the threat
at gunpoint he alleges du Pont made but that the authorities
dismissed it as a mere flash of du Pont's eccentricity. Police
say Chaid never completed the paperwork necessary for them to
move forward on his complaint.
Amateur sports officials, struggling to field competitive teams
in fund-starved disciplines, had reasons to look the other way.
A onetime competitor in modern pentathlon (which includes
swimming, shooting, riding, fencing and running), du Pont
managed the 1976 Olympic team in that sport. "One of the
criticisms was that he had bought his way onto the Olympic
team," says Robert Marbut, president of the U.S. Modern
Pentathlon Association. "He wanted the warmup suit and a spot in
the team picture."
Du Pont also became active in swimming. Until late last year he
underwrote the Foxcatcher Swim Club, which trained in his
50-meter pool; in 1992 four Foxcatcher swimmers made the U.S.
Olympic team. For years du Pont funded a national learn-to-swim
program that reached 700,000 kids annually. From 1989 through
'95, du Pont gave $400,000 a year to USA Wrestling, the sport's
governing body in this country, and federation president Larry
Sciacchetano said Monday that the USAW board had planned to meet
this weekend to discuss how to make up for what they had been
expecting would be the loss of du Pont's support. Apparently, du
Pont's interest in the sport was beginning to wane.
"USA Wrestling got very dependent on his wealth," says one
American coach. Du Pont underwrote almost 10% of USA Wrestling's
annual budget, and the federation named him an assistant coach
of the 1992 Olympic team.
"We all respected what he did for wrestling," says DeMeo, who
now coaches at the New York Athletic Club. "Nothing he ever did
was so bad you said, 'Man, get that guy out of our sport.'"
Sciacchetano, however, said du Pont was discussed by several
wrestlers, including Schultz, in a conference call in November.
No action was recommended and none was taken.
Du Pont was also a member in good standing of the larger Olympic
family. The 1992 U.S. freestyle wrestling Olympic media guide
calls him "a major supporter and benefactor of amateur athletics
in America" and hails him as the "father of the triathlon in the
Unquestionably, du Pont has made heartfelt contributions to
amateur sports. Yet to many, his eccentricities suggested a
troubled mind. According to associates, in recent months he had
taken to carrying a handgun, sometimes firing at bushes that
were rustling in the wind. He reportedly drove two Lincolns into
a pond--in one case with a passenger aboard. A former guest at
the estate told reporters that du Pont drove his tank up to the
house where she and her husband were staying and asked whether
the husband could "come out and play."
Du Pont even carries his hobbies to extremes. As a youngster, he
collected 2.5 million seashells and 75,000 stuffed bird
carcasses--so many that he later founded the Delaware Museum of
Natural History to house them.
Another passion was sports. A wrestler, swimmer and fox hunter
in his youth, du Pont took up modern pentathlon in the 1960s. He
became obsessed with the sport and built a complete modern
pentathlon facility at Foxcatcher. But he failed in his quest to
make the U.S. Olympic team. "He wanted to be a big fish in small
sports," says Marbut. "That's why he liked the pentathlon."
Frank Keefe, the Yale swimming coach and a longtime friend of du
Pont's, says du Pont was disheartened when injuries in the
1970s brought an end to his dream of competing in the Olympics
in the modern pentathlon. "He got frustrated," Keefe says. "He
didn't have anything to do." At that point, Keefe says, du Pont
began drinking and acting erratically. "He became very abusive
with alcohol," says Keefe, who adds that he tried to persuade
his friend to enter a treatment facility.
Then wrestling became his special love. In 1986 du Pont funded
the creation of a wrestling program at Villanova. Six months
later he named himself coach and hired as assistants Metzger and
Mark Schultz, Dave's younger brother, who had won the 1984
Olympic gold medal at 180.5 pounds.
To the university's dismay, du Pont wanted control of the
program in exchange for his generosity. Inattentive to NCAA
regulations, he flew team members in his Learjet and let them
stay at his estate. Wary of NCAA sanctions, Villanova shut down
the program after two seasons. "That was a definite blow to
him," says Keefe. "He failed, and John du Pont doesn't fail."
In 1988 Metzger filed a $555,000 suit against du Pont, charging
that du Pont had made sexual advances toward him. Metzger
claimed that du Pont had dismissed him as coach because Metzger
refused to leave his wife and move in with du Pont. The
case--which du Pont through his lawyer called ridiculous at the
time--was, according to Metzger's lawyer, settled out of court.
But, says Stanley, not before du Pont suggested that he and
Metzger wrestle for the money in a winner-take-all match. "He
wanted to do it in front of a big crowd," says Stanley. "It
would be something to publicize wrestling."
Without a college program, du Pont turned to Foxcatcher. During
Dave's years with the club, a number of people, including his
father, Phillip, say they tried to persuade him to leave. After
Chaid was sent packing, he talked to Schultz too. "Look, you've
got to go," Chaid says he told Schultz. "This situation is too
"Deep down, Dave was trying to make the best of a hard
situation," says Chaid. "I think everyone knew in his heart that
after this summer John was going to get out of wrestling and
they were just trying to keep it together through the Olympics."
A question hanging over last weekend's tragic events is whether
wrestlers--and wrestling--have any business getting so cozy with
someone like du Pont. Needless to say, a generous booster is
hard for cash-poor amateur sports organizations to resist. For
the wrestlers he supported, du Pont was a godsend, paying them,
providing housing, letting them train. Life at Foxcatcher was,
in its own weird way, a good gig.
So they stayed. Ed Giese, a 114.5-pound wrestler for the
Foxcatcher team, says the machine-gun incident with Chaid didn't
make him and his teammates fear for their safety. Instead, they
feared du Pont might kick them off Foxcatcher, as he had Chaid.
Some close to Schultz suggest his motive for sticking with du
Pont was also humanitarian. "Out of everyone, Dave was the one
who really believed that he could help Mr. du Pont, help him
get off his mood swings, stop his lying, bring him back to
society," says Strobel. "Dave used to tell me that Mr. du Pont
had the emotional stability of a 12-year-old. Dave took walks
with him, talked to him, tried to help him.
"Dave would never say anything bad about him, even though all
the other wrestlers did. Dave was probably the best person du
Pont ever came into contact with in his whole life. And du Pont