There’s a glimmer of hope today that the seven-year ordeal of bringing to justice the accused killer of U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig of Newton Falls may be ending.
The decision by the minister of justice of Brazil to declare that Claudia Hoerig, who was indicted on a charge of aggravated murder with a gun specification in her husband’s death, is not a Brazilian citizen must be viewed as a major development.
Claudia Hoerig fled to her native Brazil before Karl Hoerig’s body was found in their Newton Falls home. Over the years, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has sought her extradition in order to stand trial, but the Brazilian government has ignored the numerous requests from the prosecutor.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, and former Congressman John Boccieri, who once lived in New Middletown, pursued various legislative strategies to force the White House and the State Department to issue an ultimatum to the Brazilian government, to no avail.
Likewise, we called on President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to use their positions to get the Brazilians to send Claudia Hoerig back to Trumbull County, but the lack of attention to this important issue has been glaring. It should be pointed out that the administration of former President George W. Bush also was unwilling to intercede on behalf of the family of Maj. Hoerig and the people of the Mahoning Valley.
Now, however, the government of Brazil has no reason to protect Claudia Hoerig, seeing as how she is an American citizen living in Brazil — most likely without the proper residency documents.
The request to the government is now for the return of a U.S. citizen to stand trial for the murder of a decorated member of the military.
As Prosecutor Watkins, whose refusal to drop this case despite the numerous political and legal barriers is commendable, noted in a news release announcing the latest developments, “ … U.S. Immigration Custom Enforcement records show that on August 23, 1999 Claudia Hoerig (Sobral) processed her petition of American citizenship and under the space designed ‘Country of Former Nationality’ Claudia wrote ‘Brazil.’ She then signed her name under Oath of Allegiance to the United States.”
Walkins also pointed out that in taking the oath of U.S. citizenship, Claudia Hoerig renounced her Brazilian citizenship.
Indeed, the prosecutor has made this point repeatedly over the years in arguing that the Brazilian government was harboring an American under indictment for murder.
Given the positive development in the case, we will refrain from wondering why it has taken so long for the minister of justice to conclude that Claudia Hoerig is not a citizen of Brazil.
Suffice it to say that justice has not been served by the intransigence of the Brazilians and the hands-off attitude of the Bush and Obama administrations.
The U.S. and Brazil have had a long-standing relationship and are trading partners, with the Brazilians benefitting more than Americans from the partnership.
We now renew our call to the Obama administration to get directly involved in the Hoerig case and to do whatever is necessary to secure the return of Claudia Hoerig to Trumbull County to stand trial for the murder of her husband, Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig.