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Twice, Karl Hoerig had let true love slip through his fingers. He was determined not to let it happen a third time. Unfortunately, the woman he married would murder him and escape justice for a decade.
Karl was born on Christmas Eve in 1963, and raised in Newton Falls in Ohio, the second of three boys. It was an idyllic small town upbringing and following high school, he enlisted in the military.
Karl met his first wife, Rhonda, at a military formal ball. They had two children together, a daughter and son. They divorced in 1998 but remained on good terms, and Karl was a devoted father.
After the completion of his service, Hoerig worked as a pilot for Southwest Airlines and joined the Air Force Reserves. He rose to the rank of Major and saw active duty in the Persian Gulf.
“He flew logistical missions and rescue missions, he flew in combat zones. This was a guy who dedicated his life to his community, his country, his family,” U.S. Marshal Bill Boldin told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
While on a routine mission in Peru, Karl met a young woman named Carla del Castillo whom he would refer to as “the love of his life,” according to the weekly newspaper Cleveland Scene.
Carla moved in with Karl outside Youngstown, Ohio, but after two years their relationship hit a roadblock. She wanted marriage and kids. He did not. They broke up but six months later Karl realized the error of his ways. By then Carla had already moved on.
In April 2005, Karl met 40-year-old Claudia Sobral on a dating website. Claudia had escaped a rough upbringing in Brazil and moved to the United States in 1989, where she married a doctor. Claudia became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998. A year later, she and her husband divorced. When she met Hoerig, Claudia was a successful accountant living in Queens, New York.
“He told me all about this girl from New York City and that he really liked her but one of my first impressions when I met Claudia was that she reminded me so much of Carla,” Hoerig’s friend Christopher Swegan told “Snapped.”
Six weeks after meeting, Karl proposed to Claudia. They married in Las Vegas in June 2005 and Claudia moved to his hometown of Newton Falls, where he had just bought a house near his parents.
On March 15, 2007, Karl failed to report for duty at the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station. His friend, airman Gary Dodge, immediately sensed something was wrong.
“It was not common for Karl to miss work so Gary Dodge placed a call to 911 to check the welfare of his friend,” Trumbull County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Yannucci told “Snapped.”
Authorities went by Karl’s home but there was no answer at the door. Karl’s father, Ed, was called and let them into the home.
Inside, authorities found the dead body of 44-year-old Karl Hoerig at the bottom of his stairs. He had been shot three times, once in the head and twice in the back, from a shooter standing at the top of the stairs, according to court documents. Two more bullets were found lodged in the floor.
Karl’s body had been covered with a comforter and a construction tarp, which investigators believed indicated the killer knew him. There were no signs of a break-in, nor was anything taken from the home.
Investigators found the murder weapon, a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum Revolver, in a closet upstairs. It was cocked and loaded and facing outward, the barrel poking out of a 2-by-4 which went across the door frame. A string attached the trigger to the door but the gun didn’t fire.
Karl’s car was parked in the Hoerigs' driveway. Inside was a hastily packed suitcase and his cellphone, indicating he was in the middle of leaving when he was murdered. There was no sign of Claudia at the home and her BMW was missing.
Jim Thomas, a retiree who lived next door to the Hoerigs, told investigators that on the morning of March 12 he saw Claudia leave and speed off down the street. "Like a bat out of hell," Thomas later told Cleveland Scene.
Investigators spoke with Karl’s friends and family who revealed the Hoerigs’ marriage was deeply troubled. As the relationship went south, Claudia began acting erratically.
In early 2007, Claudia asked Karl’s family to come over for what she called "an emergency meeting," according to the CBS television series “48 Hours.” Karl was unaware of the get-together until he came downstairs for his morning coffee.
During the gathering, Claudia accused Karl of being emotionally abusive while he complained about her unwillingness to help clean the house. When the subject of divorce came up, Claudia fainted, then locked herself in the bedroom.
Later that day, Claudia swallowed a bottle of pills and went out in her car. She was later involved in a car crash and charged with driving under the influence, according to Cleveland Scene.
While flying for Southwest Airlines on March 10, Karl had a layover in North Carolina and visited his ex-wife. He confided to Rhonda that he was leaving Claudia and moving into a house he had rented on March 12, according to “48 Hours.”
To Karl’s loved ones, Claudia was the killer. "The first thing I said to the police was, 'You know who to go after,'" Karl’s mother, Frannie Hoerig, told Cleveland Scene.
Investigators also learned that on March 9, Claudia made arrangements to close her bank account and wire $9,900 to her father in Brazil, according to court documents.
A day later, Claudia purchased the murder weapon, on which she had a laser-sight-grip installed, and hollow-point bullets from a local gun shop. Later that day, she went to a firing range to practice using the gun.
A BOLO was placed for Claudia’s BMW. It was eventually located at Pittsburgh International Airport. Claudia had flown from there to New York City on March 12 before boarding a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Having established motive and means, authorities in Trumbull County filed aggravated murder charges against Claudia Hoerig and issued a warrant for her arrest on April 12, 2007, according to Youngstown, Ohio, NBC-affiliate WFMJ-TV.
The Brazilian constitution expressly forbids the extradition of its citizens. However, in becoming a U.S. citizen, Claudia had taken an oath renouncing her Brazilian citizenship.
The Brazil government was initially uncooperative in U.S. efforts to bring Claudia Hoerig back to Ohio to face justice. In 2013, Brazil’s Supreme Court revoked Hoerig’s citizenship but her actual extradition remained up in the air.
“We were keeping an eye on her. We find out she bought a house, she started her own business, she actually got remarried. These were all things that were a smack in the face to the victim, to the family and really, really frustrating to the detectives involved in the case,” Boldin said.
In the ensuing years, the murder of Karl Hoerig would be covered by numerous true crime shows and Claudia would be put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Finally, in April 2016, Brazilian officials allowed Claudia Hoerig’s extradition to move forward and she was taken into custody. She was extradited to the United States and arrived at the Trumbull County Jail on the night of January 17, 2018, to face charges of aggravated murder, according to Youngstown CBS-affiliate WKBN-TV.
Claudia immediately confessed to shooting her husband but claimed she did it under emotional duress. She said Karl was controlling and abusive and that she became suicidal after suffering two miscarriages.
According to Claudia, she had bought the murder weapon to die by suicide. On the morning of May 12, 2007, she told Karl she was going to kill herself. She claimed he asked her to wait until he left and to do it in the basement so she didn’t splatter any blood on the walls.
“I got very angry. If he hadn’t said that, I would be dead and he would be alive,” Claudia told detectives in her videotaped interview, obtained by “Snapped.”
At her murder trial in January 2019, Claudia took the stand in her own defense, repeating her claims of emotional abuse, allegations Karl’s family adamantly refuted.
Claudia claimed that after killing Karl, she turned the gun on herself only to find it was out of bullets. Intending to reload the gun and finish the deed, she called her family in Brazil who she said convinced her to flee to Brazil, according to WKBN.
The murder weapon itself, however, contradicted her own story. “Obviously, if you’re going to kill yourself, you don’t need a laser sight to accomplish that goal,” Yannucci said.
On January 25, 2019, after a 12-year quest for justice, it took just three hours of deliberations for the jury to find Claudia Hoerig guilty of aggravated murder, according to local newspaper the Tribune Chronicle.
Claudia Hoerig was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 28 years. Now 57, she will first be eligible for parole in 2044.
For more on this case and others like it, watch “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.
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