4 dead, including boy, in murder-suicide amid custody battle

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York murder-suicide that left four people dead, including a 6-year-old boy and his Dutch mother, may have stemmed from a trans-Atlantic custody fight.

The boy and his mother were found dead of gunshot wounds in a Queens apartment on Monday night, along with a second woman and a man whose throat also had been slashed.

The man’s father identified him as suspect James Shields Jr. and said the slain boy was Shields’ son, Jimmy. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the boy’s 47-year-old mother was among the victims.

James Shields Sr. told reporters on Tuesday that his son was in a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife and that she was taking Jimmy to the Netherlands next week.

The elder Shields said his grandson was “a beautiful boy” and defended his son as a “good man.”

The shootings brought a throng of officers, some in heavy tactical gear, to the low-rise brick building. Bystanders gathered behind police lines on the roped-off block.

The New York Police Department said investigators were interviewing the person who called 911 and were examining data to see if officers had been called to the apartment in the past. Police were scheduled to provide an update on the investigation later Tuesday.

James Shields Jr., a licensed physical therapist, ranted about the custody dispute in an April GoFundMe posting titled “Child Kidnapping.”

Shields indicated in the post that his ex-wife was raising Jimmy in the Netherlands and only wanted him in the U.S. two weeks a year, an arrangement Shields wrote, “I just can’t accept as a father.”

Shields wrote that his ex-wife had gone back to the Netherlands while pregnant with the boy because she couldn’t find work as an artist, causing him to spend “a fortune to travel there” to see his baby.

He said the financial stress of their dispute was destroying his life and his second marriage, also to a Dutch woman.

“I had the perfect life a few years ago but it has spiraled out of control,” Shields wrote.

The posting was pulled from GoFundMe by Tuesday afternoon.

Shields was a co-founder of a Manhattan physical and occupational therapy practice. In an online bio, he described himself 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.

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