An undated photo of Maj. Karl Hoerig and his wife Claudia before his murder in March 2007. (Courtesy Karl Hoerig family)
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Nearly six years since have passed since Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig was murdered, but the person accused of killing him remains safe from justice.
Hoerig was shot to death in his Newton Falls, Ohio, home in March 2007. His body was found three days later, but his wife Claudia had already fled to her native Brazil. She was indicted for aggravated murder but Brazil refuses to extradite her because she was born there, said local prosecutor Dennis Watkins.
Right now, the case is at a "dead end," Watkins said. That's why Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, has waged a legislative battle for the past several years to force the Brazilian government to extradite Claudia Hoerig, who had dual citizenship, to the U.S.
"My staff and I are going to bulldog this thing until her rear end is back in the United States," said Ryan, whose district is home to Karl Hoerig's mother.
Ryan plans on introducing two bills that would deny visas for Brazilian nationals and ban foreign aid to Brazil until the country amends its laws to allow nationals to be extradited to other countries.
"We're not going to play with them until they allow us to get people like Claudia Hoerig back into America to be prosecuted for crimes like this," he said.
In the past, similar legislation has failed to pass Congress as a whole and only a small fraction of bills introduced to Congress are signed into law, but Ryan says he has no plans of giving up.
"As I told the people in Brazil and as I've told the State Department, we're not going away," he said. "This is not going to be ‘run out the clock' on us. We're going to continue the fight and drumming up public support in any way can."
Even if Senate does not pass the bills, Ryan hopes the continued pressure from the House will persuade the Brazilian government to hand Claudia Hoerig over to U.S. authorities.
"The sooner we can move on, the sooner the family can move on and have some justice here" Ryan said.
Highly decorated war veteran
Karl Hoerig began serving his country 25 years before his death when he joined the Army National Guard as a specialist with the 324th Military Police Company in Austintown, Ohio.
He became a warrant officer, flying UH-1 Huey helicopters with the Army Reserve in Greensburg, Ohio. Commissioned to fly C-130s, Hoerig transferred to the Ohio National Guard's 179 Airlift Group. In 1995, he transferred to the Air Reserve Station Youngtown's 910th Airlift Wing. He flew nearly 200 combat missions with 400 combat hours during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hoerig met Claudia Sobral through an online dating service and within a few months, the couple married in July 2005 in Las Vegas. But according to family and co-workers, cracks quickly formed in their relationship.
Karl Hoerig called the police to report his wife had left their home on Feb. 6, 2007, claiming she had been poisoned, according to a newspaper article. Hoerig added she had threatened suicide before, but did so to "manipulate" him.
The police found Claudia when she ran a stop sign and crashed her car, according to a newspaper report. She was ticketed for DUI.
Claudia failed to appear for her first court appearance Feb. 12; Karl explained she was being treated at a health center, the article stated.
Karl, fed up with his wife's histrionics, told his mother he was going to leave Claudia after her pre-trial hearing March 13.
On March 10, Claudia, using her maiden name, purchased a .357-caliber revolver with a built-in laser sight and hollow-point bullets, according to investigators in the case. She went to a practice range for an hour.
On the morning of March 12, Karl Hoerig came home. A neighbor, Jim Thomas, recalled seeing Claudia leave the home in her BMW car and drive away.
The car was found at the Pittsburgh International Airport, where Claudia had booked a flight to New York City using her husband's Southwest Airlines employee pass, and from there, a direct flight to Brazil.
Three days later, when Hoerig failed to show up for pilot training the night before, a co-worker contacted his family, who discovered Hoerig shot multiple times in the back and head, laying under a tarp.
A coroner's report stated Karl Hoerig died while tying his shoes.
This story includes reports from the Cleveland Scene, Warren Tribune-Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner.