4 dead in Astoria murder-suicide linked to custody battle ID’d

ASTORIA, Queens — All four people — three adults and a 6-year-old boy — killed a murder-suicide in Queens have been identified, the city’s medical examiner said Wednesday.

They are: James Shields, 39; Linda Olthof, 47; Saskia Shields, 38; and James Shields Jr., 6. Shields died of a gunshot wound to the head and neck, while the others died of a gunshot wound to their heads, the medical examiner said.

Investigators said Shields fatally shot his 6-year-old son, his ex-wife and his current wife before turning a gun on himself Monday at his Queens apartment.

The suspect had ranted online that his life was being destroyed by a trans-Atlantic custody fight, and the slayings happened on what Shields’ father said was one of the last days of a summer visitation with his son.

Shields wrote in an online post that Olthof wanted the child in the U.S. for two weeks a year. Shields said that was something “I just can’t accept as a father.” He posted his custody dispute rant on GoFundMe in April under the subject “Child Kidnapping.”

Shields, a licensed physical therapist, was armed with a pair of Glock pistols and had seven extra magazines loaded with dozens of rounds of ammunition, police said.

He had a permit to keep guns in his residence and the pistols appeared to have been legally purchased, according to investigators.

A building caretaker saw the bloodied first-floor apartment through a window while taking out garbage and called 911. A throng of officers, some in heavy tactical gear, responded to the low-rise brick building.

Olthof and her son arrived in New York for Shields’s visitation on July 21, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said.

Shea said Shields’ neighbors appeared to know little about him. Police were called last December when someone heard people arguing and possibly throwing things around in his apartment.

Shields wrote that Olthof had gone back to the Netherlands while pregnant because she couldn’t find work in the U.S. as an artist. He said the move forced him to spend “a fortune” to see his son as a baby.

Shields complained that the financial stress of their dispute was ruining his life and destroying his second marriage.

“I had the perfect life a few years ago but it has spiraled out of control,” Shields wrote. “I desperately need any help you can provide.”

The posting was pulled from GoFundMe by Tuesday afternoon.

Shields, a co-founder of a Manhattan physical and occupational therapy practice, described himself in an online bio as a “wannabe anthropologist” who enjoyed traveling to new and exotic locations. He said volunteering at a nursing home at age 16 led to his career in physical therapy.

His business partner, reached by telephone, declined to comment.