In the 1980s, chemical heir John du Pont builds a state-of-the-art training center on his Foxcatcher estate in Newtown Square, Pa., and attracts world-class wrestlers like 1984 Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz.
On Jan. 26, 1996, du Pont, then 56, fires three shots with a .38 from the window of his Lincoln Town Car and kills Schultz, 36, a father of two who was coaching and training at Foxcatcher for the Atlanta Olympics. Schultz's wife, Nancy, one of two witnesses, calls 911. Du Pont barricades himself inside his mansion and tells police surrounding the house to address him as "His Holiness." Even before the shooting, du Pont was known as an eccentric gun enthusiast who owned an armored personnel carrier and sometimes referred to himself as the Dalai Lama. After two days, du Pont is captured by a SWAT team when he leaves his house to fix a heating-system boiler that police had turned off to try to freeze him out. Thirteen months after Schultz died, du Pont is found guilty of third-degree murder but was deemed mentally ill and is sentenced to 13 to 30 years in prison.
Du Pont is eligible for parole on Jan. 29, 2009. His parole hearing will take place next month, and a decision should be announced in October. Leo Dunn, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, says du Pont will be evaluated according to the standard criteria that applies to all inmates, including his physical, mental and behavioral condition and history, his general character and background and recommendations from his warden and sentencing judge. To get out, he needs five of the nine parole-board members to say he should be released. If that happens, it's unclear what conditions would be placed on him or where he would live; he is selling his 416-acre Foxcatcher property to a real-estate developer. "There are so many variables," says Dunn. Typically in Pennsylvania, 50 to 60 percent of inmates who are interviewed for parole are granted it. Nancy Schultz and du Pont's lawyer both decline to comment. But the district attorney and Schultz's friends say they oppose release. "Based on the grievous nature of the crime, we don't feel that a release date on or about the minimum date for incarceration is appropriate," says District Attorney G. Michael Green. Schultz's wrestling colleagues agree. Others believe that there's no guarantee that du Pont's mental issues (a psychiatrist who testified on du Pont's behalf said he "suffers from schizophrenia, paranoid type") are gone. "If he was mentally ill, I don't see why it would be anything different now," says Jim Humphrey, a former Foxcatcher coach. "He's dangerous and should not be granted parole and should stay in prison until he dies." Du Pont's maximum sentence ends on Jan. 29, 2026, when he will be 86.