Gruesome murder-suicide at an Astoria apartment building may have stemmed from custody dispute (UPDATED)

Crime scene detective at scene of murder in astoria. Photos by Mari Estrella.
Photos by Mari Estrella/RHS News

A 39-year-old man shot and killed his ex-wife, current wife and 6-year-old son before turning the gun on himself in Astoria on Monday night as the result of an apparent custody dispute, detectives announced on Tuesday.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a July 31 press conference that James Shields, 39, pulled the trigger on the two women and his son inside of a first-floor apartment on 23rd Street near 30th Drive, then took his own life.

During the investigation that followed, Shea said, police learned that Shields had been in a custody battle with his ex-wife, 47-year-old Linda Olthof, over their child, Giacomo James Shields. A dispute inside the apartment on the night of July 30 led to the gruesome violence.

According to Shea, detectives recovered two Glock firearms as well as seven fully loaded magazines in James Shields’ possession. “What those additional rounds were meant for may never be known,” he said.

Officers from the 114th Precinct and other NYPD units rushed to the home just after 8:30 p.m. on July 30 after shots were reported in the area of 30th Drive and 23rd Street.

Once inside that location, Shea said, the officers found four individuals, each of whom sustained gunshot wounds. Paramedics were called to the scene, and all four were pronounced dead.

Police did not disclose the identity of Shields’ wife, as they were still attempting to notify her family.

The New York Times reported that responding officers found a man dead in the backyard of the home, with a slashed throat and a gunshot wound.

“We believe we have one tentative ID on one of the deceased, which I will not be releasing at this time, and the other individuals for a total of one male adult, we have two female adults that are both deceased, and we have one child that is approximately 5 years of age, deceased,” Shea said at a July 30 press conference at the scene.

The incident prompted a massive police response to the location, with officers swarming the immediate area to secure it and guard against any possible active shooters.

Citing sources, NY1 reported that detectives believe the male victim, who lived at the building, shot the two women and child before taking his own life. Police have recovered a gun located at the crime scene.

This story was updated on July 31 at 5 p.m.

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