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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.
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."