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Hoerig conviction upheld in spouse’s murder

WARREN — An appellate court has affirmed the conviction of Claudia Hoerig in the aggravated murder of her airman-husband, Karl of Newton Falls.

The decision comes more than two years after her extradition from Brazil to Trumbull County, more than a year after her conviction on aggravated murder charges, after hundreds — if not thousands — of pages of court documents filed in multiple courts, and nearly 13 years after she was first indicted.

Hoerig, 56, is being held at the Dayton Correctional Institution. She was convicted in January 2019 of aggravated murder with a firearm specification by a Trumbull County Common Pleas Court jury. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 28 years, a sentence that fit within the requests of the Brazillian government before it agreed to allow the U.S. to extradite her.

Though Hoerig admitted to shooting her husband, who was planning on moving out, she argued she shot Air Force Reserve Major Karl Hoerig in a moment of rage and that any appearance of premeditation was because she intended to kill herself, not Major Hoerig, a pilot.

In her appeal, Hoerig claimed the trial court made five errors that violated her rights to a fair trial. But judges with the 11th District Court of Appeals upheld her conviction and found all five of her arguments, made by defense attorney Michael Partlow, without merit.

The appeal claimed the prosecution did not present enough evidence to prove the “prior calculation and design” element required to prove premeditated murder, that there wasn’t enough evidence presented for a jury to fairly find her guilty, that the prosecutors made improper comments during opening statements, that the court made arbitrary and unreasonable rulings and that the “cumulative effect” of the errors led to an unfair trial.

Hoerig claimed she bought a gun with a laser sight just before the murder because she wanted to practice firing it before she turned it on herself, and that didn’t show she planned her husband’s murder.

But the court disagreed.

COURT DISAGREES

“Claudia argues that the ‘mere fact that (she) purchased a firearm and then learned how to use it does not support a conclusion that (she) intended to kill her husband,'” the ruling states. “We disagree. The fact that Claudia purchased a firearm with a laser sight, learned how to use it, and then used it to kill her husband at the next opportunity is evidence which, if believed, would convince the average mind, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she acted with prior calculation and design.”

Hoerig argued that her testimony demonstrated that the shooting occurred after an “almost instantaneous eruption of events,” But neither the jury nor the appeals court is “bound to accept Claudia’s version of events” and “there are several pieces of evidence that cast legitimate doubt on Claudia’s testimony,” the ruling states.

The “fact that she purchased a laser sight is certainly more consistent with the intent to murder Hoerig than to commit suicide” and the “fact that Hoerig was shot twice in the back and a third time at close range in the side of the head is certainly consistent with a premeditated plan to murder him,” the appeals court decision states. She also transferred most of the money in her bank accounts to family in Brazil.

The court found that statements made by Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins during opening comments may have been argumentive, but they were not examples of prosecutorial misconduct and not misleading.

“The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office is thankful and appreciative of the appellate court’s thorough and detailed analysis of the errors alleged by the defendant-appellant and the affirmance of this conviction in the 20 page opinion,” Watkins stated in a news release.

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