2018-08-01 / Front Page

NYPD: Custody Battle Eyed In Astoria Murders

By Liz Goff
Investigators say the triple murder-suicide in Astoria on July 30th was likely triggered by a custody battle that began in the Netherlands – and turned deadly in an Astoria apartment.

Cops believe that James Shields, 39, fatally shot his wife, Saskia Shields, ex-wife, Linda Olthof and 6-year-old son, James Jr., on the night of July 30th, before taking his own life inside a first-floor apartment at 23-07 30th Drive in Astoria.

Shields was found with a gunshot wound o his head in the living room of the apartment just before 9 p.m. on July 30th. A black semiautomatic pistol was found nearby Shield’s body, police said.

The bodies of Saskia Shields, Olthof and the little boy were also discovered in the living room, police said.

Shields’ ex-wife, Olthof, recently brought James Jr. to New York from her home in the Netherlands to fulfill an annual visit ordered by a Dutch judge, a law enforcement source said. Shields posted an appeal for financial help on a Go-FindMe page in the days before Olthof and the boy arrived in New York City, saying the custody battle had ruined his life, according to the source.

Sources said Olthof was concerned about leaving James Jr. with Shields, saying he had anger management problems that could flare up at any moment, the source said. “She told friends and family members that she was scared of Shields, and afraid for the little boy.”

Friends said Shields became “unhinged” when he learned that Olthof was planning to return to the Netherlands this week with James Jr., the source said.

Investigators believe Shields was enraged at the news, setting off actions that led to the Astoria murders, the source said.

Shield’s father, James Shields Sr., was escorted to the 114th Precinct Squad for questioning shortly after he arrived at the crime scene on the morning of July 31st, police said.

Dozens of heavily armed police officers arrived at the scene just after 9 p.m. on July 30th, after a neighbor called 911 to report the grisly scene inside the apartment, an NYPD spokesperson said.

Detectives at the 114th Precinct Squad arrived first at the scene, where they discovered the bodies of the two women and the young boy in the first-floor apartment. Shields’ body was found a short distance away with a gunshot wound to the head, and markings on his throat that may indicate that the women struggled with him before he shot and killed them, the law enforcement source said. The little boy’s body was found near the woman with a gunshot wound to his head, police said.

Police officers who responded to the crime scene are still shaking their heads. “Why the little boy?” one officer asked. “This guy wasn’t just angry. He was heartless.”
The investigation is ongoing.

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