By Sabrina Eaton, The Plain DealerIt’s been more than four years since Claudia Hoerig of Newton Falls allegedly shot her husband with a newly purchased Smith and Wesson revolver and fled to her native Brazil, which refuses to extradite its citizens for any crime but narcotics trafficking.Hoerig would face life imprisonment in Ohio if she’s found guilty of the March 12, 2007 murder of her husband Karl, a U.S. Air Force Reserves major who also was a pilot for Southwest Airlines. The pair had been married for less than two years. Karl Hoerig was planning to move out of their house on the day he was killed. The case has been featured on America’s Most Wanted.
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, has done his best to feature Hoerig’s case in Washington. He’s sent letters about it to everyone from President Barack Obama to then- Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He put language into a 2009 foreign relationsbill that urged justice in the case. Now he’s introducing bills that would prevent Brazilians from emigrating to the United States until Hoerig’s case is resolved, and would block more than $14 million each year in foreign aid to Brazil.
“It is shameful that Claudia Hoerig has managed to remain on the run from justice for over four years after killing her husband in cold blood,” Ryan said in an emailed statement. “Brazil should not be rewarded when they fail to honor their promises to America. My proposal is meant to honor the memory of Karl Hoerig and see that justice is finally done.”
A diplomat at Brazil’s embassy in Washington said his country is trying to resolve the case without extraditing Hoerig and has offered to <a title=”Legal Translation PortugueseEnglish” href=”http://localizationllc.com/” target=”_blank”>try the case in Brazil.
Trumbull County prosecutor Dennis Watkins says that’s not an acceptable option for many reasons including the high costs of transporting all witnesses to Brazil, differences between U.S. and Brazilian laws, and the language barriers involved in a case where all the witnesses would testify in English and the case would be conducted in Portuguese. He said it makes most sense to ship the alleged criminal back to Ohio for trial in the jurisdiction where the murder took place.
“For me to agree to transfer this case now to Brazil for prosecution under the known circumstances, would be irresponsible and contrary to my oath of office and not in the interest of the citizens of Ohio,” Watkins said in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department.
In an interview, Watkins said there have been numerous well-publicized problems with U.S. citizens obtaining justice from the Brazilian court system, ranging from the murder in Brazil of Sister Dorothy Stang, a nun from Dayton, to the child custody case of David Goldman, who spent years retrieving his son from his dead ex-wife’s family in Brazil.
Watkins said his evidence shows Hoerig shot her husband, removed $10,000 from their bank account, and took a free flight to New York using his airline employee privileges. From there, she fled to Sao Paolo, Brazil.
“Brazilians know they can come to the U.S. with a visa, commit any crime against Americans while visiting here, and then have safe haven if they get on an airplane,” said Watkins, who noted that Claudia Hoerig obtained U.S. citizenship in 1999. “That is not acceptable.”