A former New York City teacher who had ranted online that his life was being destroyed by a trans-Atlantic custody fight shot and killed his 6-year-old son, ex-wife and current wife before turning the gun on himself, police said.
James Shields, 39, was found dead on Monday in his Queens home, where cops discovered “two Glock handguns and 70 rounds of ammunition,” the New York Daily News reported. His ex-wife, Linda Olthof, 47, current wife Saskia Shields, 38, and son James Jr., 6, were also found dead in the apartment, police said.
“That's an interesting wrinkle in this case,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said, referring to the ammunition found. “What those rounds were meant for … may never be known.”
Shields, a licensed physical therapist, had a permit to keep guns in his residence and the pistols appeared to have been legally purchased, investigators said. He used to teach at Manhattan’s High School for Art and Design.
Okhof, a Dutch artist, had been raising their son, known as Jimmy, in the Netherlands and was expected to take the boy back to Europe next week. The two arrived in the U.S. on July 21. Shields wrote in an online post that Olthof only wanted the child in the U.S. two weeks a year.
Shields set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for his custody fight with Olthof. He posted a rant on the GoFundMe in April under the subject “Child Kidnapping.”
“Due to my ex’s extreme jealousy and bitterness she is dragging me through court case after court case to be spiteful,” Shields wrote in the post.
“In the Netherlands, the government pays for all legal expenses, so she’s enjoying this as it drags on and on ruining me,” he continued.
Shields’ GoFundMe campaign received no donors and was taken down by the website on Tuesday afternoon. Olthof’s friend told the Daily News the mother did not like traveling across the Atlantic in order for her son to visit his father. She said Shields had a “hot temper” and did not pay child support.
“She told me that some of the demands that he would make in court papers were totally one-sided and selfish,” said the friend, who asked not to be named. “He put the financial burden on her.”
Shea said the GoFundMe page was “among the pieces of evidence suggesting the triple-murder had stemmed directly from the custody battle.”
“We have a twist in the case in that, in this custody battle, if you look at the GoFundMe, there’s some self-reported statements that his life is spiraling out of control,” Shea said. “Financial and custody seem to be the primary reasons behind this tragic incident at this point in time.”
Shields’ current wife, Saskia, was also a Netherlands native who worked at a magazine. Neighbors told the Daily News they often heard the two fighting.
“It would seem like it was a frequent thing,” said Ellie Alvarado, a neighbor. “Different times of day, there was some kind of yelling coming from the apartment.”
Another neighbor, Tony Bekan, said his wife called Shields a “Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde kind of person.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.