Justice finally will be served in Hoerig case

It was Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins whom Paul Hoerig praised first when we contacted him after learning of murder defendant Claudia Hoerig’s return to Trumbull County to face charges in the murder of Paul’s brother, Karl.

Certainly, Watkins’ name came to mind first because of his never-ending persistence and devotion to this case that involved a seemingly insurmountable international extradition battle.

It had been more than a decade since the woman accused of killing her husband, Air Force Maj. Karl Hoerig, had fled to her native Brazil. She was subsequently indicted by a Trumbull County grand jury on a charge of aggravated murder with a gun specification.

Karl was a highly decorated pilot with the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He was assigned to the 910th Tactical Airlift Wing at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, where he flew C-130H planes.

Karl’s body was found March 15, 2007, after his wife had left the country, returning to her native Brazil.

Before marrying Karl, Claudia had renounced her Brazilian citizenship and became an American citizen. Still, the South American country for years had denied U.S. requests to return her to Ohio authorities.

Watkins led the local efforts to return her to the U.S. for trial. He remained steadfast in returning her to America for trial, refusing offers by Brazil to try her in that country.

He knew his high standards would be maintained here, which included no less than a fair trial as he worked to prove her guilty of the cold-blooded killing.

In his fight to return Hoerig to Ohio, Watkins was joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, and former U.S. Rep. and and now state Rep. John Boccieri, D-New Middletown, in efforts that included hundreds of attempts via letters, emails and court action and congressional demands. Ultimately, the U.S. State Department also stepped in to ensure Claudia Hoerig’s recent return to American soil.

All those involved deserve praise.

The family of Karl Hoerig never gave up, and they, too, must be praised for their resolute faith. Family and friends kept constant vigil via social media, as well, continuing to shine light on this case that could so easily have fallen through the cracks.

Paul, especially, demonstrated persistence and showed not a second of hesitation when invited last year by CBS’s “48 Hours” to go with a news crew to Brazil in an attempt to rouse interest and urge the Brazilian government’s cooperation.

The “48 Hours” report extended to a national level the coverage that local media, including the Tribune Chronicle, has been doing for years. It put a face on Karl Hoerig and his family that international powers no longer could ignore.

The work by Watkins and all these others involved in Claudia Hoerig’s return was no less than amazing. Watkins would tell you, however, that the work really is just beginning. Justice will be served only once this high-profile case has been adjudicated.

They say justice delayed is justice denied. In this case, however, we say it’s never too late.