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Du Pont heir convicted of murder dies in U.S. prison

NEW YORK (Reuters) - John du Pont, a wealthy heir to his family's chemicals fortune, died on Thursday in a Pennsylvania prison where he was serving a sentence for the 1996 shooting death of Olympic champion U.S. wrestler David Schultz.

Du Pont was one of the richest murder defendants in U.S. history at the time of his conviction.

Du Pont, 72, died of natural causes at the Laurel Highlands state prison, about 70 miles from Pittsburgh, said Sue Bensinger, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. He had served 13 years of his 13- to 30-year sentence, she said.

He was a great-great-grandson of E.I. du Pont, who in 1802 founded the chemical firm that bears his name and created one of America's largest family fortunes.

At the time of his 1997 trial, John du Pont's personal wealth was estimated at up to $250 million.

Witnesses at his trial said du Pont shot Schultz, who lived at a wrestling training facility on the du Pont estate, three times with a handgun.

The shooting was followed by a 48-hour police standoff before du Pont's capture.

Du Pont was found guilty but mentally ill in connection with Schultz's death. During the trial, his attorney said du Pont suffered from delusions.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)