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Claudia Hoerig again seeks release

YOUNGSTOWN — A woman who killed her husband in 2007 and escaped local authorities for more than a decade to gain asylum in Brazil — only to be brought back to Trumbull County for conviction — once again is trying to gain her freedom.

Claudia Hoerig, 57, has filed a petition in federal court for release, citing legal errors — including prosecutorial and judicial misconduct — in her 2019 jury trial before Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan. Her trial ended in a conviction for aggravated murder with a gun specification and sentence of life in prison with a chance for parole after 28 years.

Hoerig admitted to shooting her husband at their Newton Falls home. In her defense at trial, Hoerig’s attorneys argued she shot Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig — who was planning to move out — in a moment of rage and that any appearance of premeditation was because she intended to kill herself, not Maj. Hoerig, a pilot. She then used her husband’s credentials to get an airplane flight to Brazil.

In a 19-page handwritten document, Hoerig asks the U.S. Southern Ohio District Court to vacate her conviction and set her free. The matter, which was filed Feb. 18, has since been transferred to U.S. Northern Ohio District Court and has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen Henderson in Youngstown.

Henderson has not set any hearings as the petition has been forwarded to respondents, including officials at the Dayton Correctional Institution where Hoerig is housed.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said he has followed Hoerig’s effort to gain freedom “through various frivolous motions.”

“This is not unexpected considering her character,” Watkins said, noting Hoerig’s past flight from justice.

Hoerig’s sentence fit within the requests of the Brazilian government, which were made before it agreed to allow the U.S. to extradite her in January 2018.

Among the grounds Hoerig raised to justify her release, she cites ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and during appeal. She was represented by attorneys John Cornely and David Rouzzo at trial and sentencing, and by attorney Michael Partlow at appeal. Other grounds cited by Hoerig are prosecutorial and judicial misconduct and violation of the extradition treaty with Brazil. She said her rights to a speedy trial and due process were violated because of pretrial publicity and failure to hold a change-of-venue hearing.

“This petition is timely, but it is not complete due to law library restrictions. This is a draft because the final version I was not able to print because I am on law library restriction,” Hoerig printed on a form dealing with the timeliness of the petition. She asks the court to file an amended version of her petition as soon as her restriction is lifted.

Hoerig had raised some of these issues during the appeal of her conviction in both the 11th District Court of Appeals of Ohio and the Ohio Supreme Court. The 11th District affirmed the conviction in April 2020, while the state’s high court declined to hear the case later that year.

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