Murder suspect could be extradited from Brazil

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A woman accused of murdering her husband, who was a military and commercial pilot, in 2007 then fleeing to Brazil has had her Brazilian citizenship revoked, possibly clearing the way for her to be extradited to Trumbull County to face charges, officials said.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and State Department officials said on Wednesday Brazil revoked Claudia Hoerig’s citizenship. Hoerig fled to Brazil after she was accused of murdering her husband, Karl Hoerig, 43.

Brazil previously refused to extradite Hoerig to the United States because she was a citizen while local officials tried to persuade the government to release Hoerig. Brazil’s laws prohibit extraditing nationals.

Local officials said they believe the step could be the first that would allow her extradition. Hoerig can appeal Brazil’s ruling. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said once the appeal process is complete, Hoerig will be turned over to U.S. Marshals who will bring her to Trumbull County.

The Brazilian Ministry of Justice revoked Claudia Hoerig’s citizenship because she had previously renounced her citizenship when she came to the United States and earned her citizenship here.

“I applaud the government of Brazil for taking action,” Watkins said. “Hopefully in the near future with the return of Claudia Hoerig to face trial, justice will be served and the Hoerig family will have some closure.”

Maj. Karl Hoerig was a reserve pilot in the U.S. Air Force 910th Airlift Wing when he was fatally shot in the back of the head on March 12, 2007 in his Newton Falls home.  Hoerig flew nearly 200 combat missions while serving in the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hoerig had alluded to marital problems when he was talking to a co-pilot before he was shot to death. His wife purchased a .357 Magnum two days before the murder, and investigators say she transferred money to her family and used her husband’s flight benefits as a commercial pilot to fly to her native Brazil.

Ryan has tried several different legislative approaches, including introducing legislation to urge Brazil to comply with a treaty signed with the U.S. in 1961 to extradite accused criminals or face aid cuts.

Ryan introduced a bill and a companion amendment to this year’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill to suspend visas for Brazilian nationals.

“For over six years, Claudia Hoerig has lived as a free citizen in Brazil despite being accused of murdering her husband, Major Karl Hoerig, in cold blood,” Ryan said in a statement. “With the help of Karl’s family, a dedicated group of his supporters and Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and his team, I have worked hard to bring Claudia Hoerig back to the United States to face prosecution for murder.”

Ryan said the citizenship revocation of Claudia Hoerig is just the first step in a long process, but he said it’s a big one.

“I know I’m not going to be happy and the Hoerig family won’t be happy until she is back in the U.S.,” Ryan said.

He said he thinks the citizenship revocation got expedited a few months ago when legislators were able to allow no funding to go to Brazil to process visas.

“That really started to garner national attention to this, and it really got the attention of the Brazilians,” Ryan said.

He said Clauida Hoerig can appeal the decision with the Department of Justice in Brazil, but that is the same body that revoked her citizenship in the first place.

He said that while he is “fairly confident” Claudia Hoerig will be brought back to the United States, he and other local officials will not rest until she is on U.S. soil. Ryan said he is hoping that will happen within weeks, or even days, not months.

Ryan said his office first got a tip online two days ago that this happened. Then his office contacted the embassy in Brazil, who looked into it and finally got confirmation from the government of Brazil.

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