The Hoerig case 7 years later
NEWTON FALLS, Ohio - Major Karl Hoerig survived flying nearly 200 combat missions overseas for the Air Force Reserve, but was killed here at home, allegedly at the hands of his wife Claudia.
A woman authorities say fled to her native Brazil shortly after the crime, and has escaped justice for seven years.
On the anniversary of Hoerig's murder, 21 News has been investigating what progress is being made to take the case to trial.
It's a fight for justice that spans two countries, dates back seven years, and is centered around Major Karl Hoerig of Newton Falls.
Hoering was an Air Force Reserve pilot who dedicated his life to serving his country with the Valley's 910th Airlift Wing.
Larry Diemand was a fellow pilot and close friends with Hoerig for years. "I mean, he would do anything for you, and he was a great pilot," Diemand said.
But tragically, Karl Hoerig was found murdered on March 15th of 2007.
His parents contacted Newton Falls police to check his W. Ninth Street home when he didn't show up for a scheduled flight assignment.
Court documents say Major Hoerig's parents were "very concerned about their son because of recent marital problems."
Hoerig's body was found inside his home covered with a tarp at the bottom of the stairs. He had been shot twice in the back and once in the head.
Hoerig's wife, Claudia, was soon at the center of the investigation. She was wanted after authorities allege she coldly calculated her husband's murder, emptied his bank account, and then fled to her native Brazil before his body was discovered.
"She went out, she took lessons with a gun, she bought a gun, she learned how to fire it, and then she made her escape plan. She obviously knew what she was doing," Diemand said.
Claudia Hoerig was indicted for the murder by a Trumbull County Grand Jury in 2007, and Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins says there's a strong case against her.
But there's only one thing standing in the way. "The Brazilian constitution has a provision that it will not extradite its own citizens or own nationals to any other country of the world who flee to Brazil, who commit serious crimes including murder. Which means that Brazil as a nation has become a place of safe harbor for violent criminals," Watkins said.
But, Claudia Hoerig at one point became a U.S. Citizen and renounced her Brazilian citizenship. Now she's fighting to get it back in order to avoid extradition to the states.
Valley Congressman Tim Ryan says a decision from the Brazilian courts on the issue could happen at any time.
"It could be any day now. Like I said, it was supposed to happen in February. It took me to defund visas for Brazilian citizens to ultimately spark this initiative to even get the court cases going and we told them we weren't going away," Congressman Ryan said.
And Brazil's global reputation will be under a microscope this summer for the World Cup and again in 2016 for the Olympics.
Trumbull County's prosecutor believes it's the perfect time to apply pressure on Brazil.
"We can stop foreign aid, we can restrict visas, and we can say we're not going to go to the Olympics in 2016. We need to make it known that we're not going to forget about Karl Hoerig," Watkins said.
Congressman Tim Ryan's Office is working with the State Department and has now also provided some additional information to help understand the process as it moves through the Brazilian Courts. Brazil has two high courts, The Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) rules on matters of the Brazilian constitution and is the equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court. The other high court in Brazil is called the Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ). The STJ is highest appellate court in Brazil for non-constitutional questions of federal law.
There are two cases pending in regards to Claudia Hoerig. One case is at the STF and one is at the STJ. The case before the Brazilian constitutional court (STF) is a request for extradition filed by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice (and supported by the United States). That case, however, is on hold until the STJ case (non-constitutional) is decided first.
Everyone is awaiting the ruling from an STJ judge on whether Claudia Hoerig is considered a Brazilian citizen. If the STJ rules that she is not a citizen of Brazil, then the request for extradition that is pending before the STF (constitutional court) can then proceed.
Because the request to extradite Claudia Hoerig that's pending before the STF was filed by Brazil's Ministry of Justice, we are optimistic for a positive outcome should the STJ rule against her in the first case.
Stay tuned to 21 News and wfmj.com for any further developments on this story.