For Ohio authorities, Claudia Hoerig‘s “confession” to the killing of her husband Karl Hoerig doesn’t make this an open and shut case. She claimed she killed her husband in the heat of the moment, but Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins told Ohio jurors on Wednesday that hard evidence punched holes in that story. Testimony will show that Claudia chased the victim and finished him off, Watkins said in his opening statement. Karl Hoerig was 43.
Hoerig, 54, is charged with aggravated murder.
As may be expected, Hoerig’s lawyer John Cornely conveyed a different interpretation of the incident. Evidence wouldn’t undermine Hoerig’s story, the defense attorney said. Cornely acknowledged his client killed her husband, but said that she only did it in a “moment of weakness” and had originally planned to commit suicide during the incident. Hoerig’s history of miscarriages and a psychiatric stay in a hospital bolstered the details she shared in her confession, the attorney said.
Investigators said the Hoerig killed her victim on March 12, 2007 with a newly purchased .357 Smith & Wesson revolver at their home, took his money, and escaped to her birth country of Brazil before the body was discovered. Federal authorities had her extradited in January 2018, and a videotaped confession showed her admitting to the killing.
Watkins told jurors that they will see this footage. In it, Hoerig gave federal authorities an unsolicited story during a 9-hour flight back the United States.
“You know a wife does not a kill a husband unless there’s good reason,” she said in the confession, as told by Watkins. Federal investigators weren’t asking any questions because it wasn’t their case, they were just bringing her back for state authorities, the prosecutor said.
Hoerig claimed she got pregnant, that her husband didn’t want the baby, and that the pair got into an argument. According to Hoerig, this argument escalated to the point where she put a gun to her head and said that she was going to commit suicide. She claimed her husband told her to do it downstairs because he didn’t want blood on his art. Hoerig told investigators that if he hadn’t said that, he would be alive. Claudia Hoerig claimed that she opened fire and that the victim then tumbled down the stairs.
That didn’t happen, prosector Watkins said. Watkins said witness testimony would show that Karl was ambushed and murdered in “cold blood.” A trooper will say that at least three shots were fired upstairs, at least one of which hit and injured the victim, the prosecutor said. Hoerig allegedly pursued her husband downstairs and shot him twice more.
Prosecutors allege that Claudia planned this ahead of time. Testimony is expected to show that the victim never fell down the stairs — there was no blood on the steps, and the body didn’t display injuries consistent with falling down like that, Watkins said.
The prosecutor also singled out another element of the defendant’s “confession.” Hoerig claimed that during their final confrontation Karl Hoerig grabbed her and threw her down, but let her keep the gun. Watkins suggested this detail made no sense.
Nonetheless, Cornely’s opening statement showed that details in Claudia Hoerig’s most recent story have precedence. Hoerig attempted suicide at least twice before and got into arguments with Karl over pregnancies that he didn’t want her to have, the attorney suggested.
The relationship started strong, but quickly soured, Cornely said. The couple met on Match.com. She was in New York City, he was in Ohio. They hit it off, especially when this “dashing Air Force pilot” visited her, Cornely said. She, in turn, visited him just weeks into the relationship, and he held her a surprise engagement party. Claudia agreed to the marriage because she was 40, and didn’t want to mess things up, Cornely said. She left her home and her job as an accountant to be with her new spouse.
That was as good as it got.
According to the defense, Karl, a pilot for both the Air Force and Southwest Airlines, signed up for a months-long training course in Texas, and left Claudia alone and unemployed in Ohio. Another surprise: She had to briefly stay with and take care of Hoerig’s 16-year-old son from a previous relationship.
The marriage continued to devolve after two pregnancies, Cornely said. Claudia Hoerig believed she couldn’t have children, he said. Karl, on the other hand, insisted he didn’t want kids, and demanded she have an abortion. Both times, it ended with a miscarriage, the defense said.
The “tipping point” came in February 2007, according to Cornely. Claudia Hoerig took a bottle of sleeping pills, called people in New York City, got into a car, and drove into a telephone pole to kill herself, the defense said. She was admitted to a hospital on a psychiatric hold and lost her new accounting job over the issue. Other evidence showed that she previously attempted to take her own life with a gun.
Karl largely wasn’t there to support her because he was often out of town for work, up to three days at a time, Cornely said.
Clauida Hoerig started planning suicide again in early March 2007 and settled on using a gun. Prosecutors suggest that she purchased the .357 revolver on March 10 and tested it out a shooting range to use it on Karl, but the defense said her husband wasn’t the target. She wanted to use it on herself, had wired her personal money to her father in Brazil to support him, and even constructed a “suicide rig” to make sure she didn’t miss her target, the lawyer said.
The defense said that evidence would show she only killed Karl in a “moment of weakness” when he told her to kill herself in the basement. She only planned her flight to Brazil after the killing.
She only used her money (not Karl’s) for the flight and didn’t even hide the gun, according to Cornely.
[Image via WKBN27 screengrab]