PITTSBURGH (CBS/AP) John du Pont, the chemical fortune heir who killed an Olympic gold medalist at his lavish estate near Philadelphia four years ago, died Thursday after being found unresponsive in his prison cell.
Du Pont, 72, was found just before 7:00 a.m. at the Laurel Highlands state prison and was pronounced dead a short time later at Somerset Community Hospital, according to prison spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.
"He had had some illnesses so we are considering it natural," said McNaughton of du Pont's death, but Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said later Thursday that he was still gathering information on the death and had no immediate comment as to the cause.
Du Pont, who was the great-great grandson of the French-born industrialist E.I. du Pont who founded the chemical company, was serving a 13-to-30-year sentence after being found guilty but mentally ill in the death of Olympic wrestler David Schultz.
In January 1996, he shot and killed Schultz, a 1984 gold medal winner who came to live and train at the state-of-the-art Foxcatcher National Training Center that du Pont had built on his 800-acre property in Newtown Square. After the shooting, du Pont barricaded himself inside his home for two days, but was taken into custody when he left his mansion to fix a boiler police had shut off.
At the time of his trial, du Pont was one of the wealthiest murder defendants in American history. The trial revealed his bizarre, paranoid behavior and his many delusions, from his body being inhabited by bugs to his being spied on.
His lawyers contended du Pont was insane and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. At his arraignment, he told the judge he was the Dalai Lama. A psychiatrist testified at his trial that it was cocaine, not mental illness, which fueled the murder.
"In many ways, John du Pont died for me the day that he took my son's life," Schultz's father, Philip, told The Associated Press from his home in Palo Alto, Calif. "So the fact that he's officially gone, is almost a moot point. I did forgive the man for what he did. I never forgave the act."
Du Pont was the youngest of four children, and one of hundreds of heirs to the family fortune.