Murder of Robert Schwartz
The murder of Robert Schwartz occurred on December 8, 2001, in Leesburg, Virginia. The crime was orchestrated by his 20-year-old daughter, Clara Jane Schwartz, as part of a fantasy role-playing game. Clara was convicted of first-degree murder in her father's death. The case made national headlines due to Schwartz's prominence in the scientific community and for claims that his murder was related to role-playing games and the occult.
Robert Schwartz was a nationally renowned scientist in the field of biometrics and DNA research. In 1978, he was co-author with Margaret Dayhoff of a key paper in Science providing the first experimental evidence of Lynn Margulis' theory of the symbiogenetic origin of cellular mitochondria and chloroplasts. In 1992, Schwartz was a founding member of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. He was the father of three children: Catherine Michele, Jesse, and Clara Jane.
On December 8, 2001, Schwartz was stabbed to death with a sword by Kyle Hulbert at his Leesburg, Virginia, farmhouse. His body was discovered two days later. The following day, 19-year-old Katherine Inglis made statements to the police implicating Schwartz's daughter Clara in his murder, claiming that Clara discussed the murder with her boyfriend, 21-year-old Michael Pfohl, and 18-year-old Kyle Hulbert. Inglis stated that the motive for the murder was that Schwartz had hit Clara and she believed that he tried to poison her. Clara, who was a sophomore at James Madison University at the time of the murder, was charged on February 2, 2002. Clara was formally indicted for the murder, as well as conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder charges, on March 31, 2002. Inglis, Pfohl, and Hulbert had all previously been indicted for Schwartz's murder.
Clara was the first of the four co-defendants to go on trial in October 2002. The prosecutors portrayed her as a manipulative young woman who used her role-playing game, Underworld, to convince her friends to kill her father. Prosecutor Jennifer Wexton argued that "Clara Schwartz wanted her father dead; she had hated her father for a long time", and that after failing to enlist a friend named Patrick to kill her father, Clara became desperate.
The defense argued that the man who had committed the murder, Kyle Hulbert, had taken Clara's directives to kill her father out of the context of their role-playing game. Clara's attorney persisted that Clara "never intended for any person to kill her father." However, Patrick, testifying for the prosecution, stated that Clara spoke increasingly about killing Schwartz and had researched herbal poisons in order to make his death appear natural. Patrick also testified that Clara spoke of how much money she stood to inherit if Schwartz died, and her concerns that he would cut her out of his will. He stated that Clara became increasingly frustrated because he was not carrying out her wishes, and later found a willing participant in Hulbert.
On October 16, 2002, the jury convicted Clara of first-degree murder. On February 10, 2003, she was sentenced to serve 48 years in prison. She is currently being housed at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women near Troy, Virginia, and has a tentative release date of November 2, 2043. Clara has made many unsuccessful attempts to appeal her conviction, which was most recently affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on March 9, 2010.
For their roles in the murder, Hulbert was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, serving his sentence at River North Correctional Center; and Pfohl was sentenced to eighteen years. Inglis served a one-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.
In the media
The case was featured on a 2012 episode of the Oxygen Network program Snapped; an episode of the Investigation Discovery (ID) program Fatal Encounters; the 2013 episode "Souls of Stone" of the ID series Deadly Women; and an episode of Occult Crimes.
- "Daughter Guilty in Dad's Sword Killing". Los Angeles Times. 2002-10-16.
- Jon Echtenkamp (2002-10-15). "Fantasy, reality collide at murder trial". Fairfax Times. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Schwartz, R.; Dayhoff, M. (1978). "Origins of prokaryotes, eukaryotes, mitochondria, and chloroplasts". Science. 199 (4327): 395–403. Bibcode:1978Sci...199..395S. doi:10.1126/science.202030. PMID 202030.
- Maria Glod (2002-02-09). "4 Murder Suspects United by Occult; Loudoun Stabbing Endorsed by Fantasy Creatures, Teen Tells Police". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "Daughter of slain scientist charged with his murder". The Free Lance-Star. 2002-02-02.
- "Woman charged in dad's death by sword". Chicago Tribune. 2002-03-31.
- Matthew Barakat (2002-10-05). "Woman to go on trial in father's murder". The Free Lance-Star.
- Maria Glod (2003-02-13). "Daughter Gets 48 Years". ReligionNewsBlog.
- "UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 09-7671 : CLARA JANE SCHWARTZ, Petitioner - Appellant, v. GENE M. JOHNSON, Director, Department of Corrections, Respondent - Appellee" (PDF). Docs.justia.com. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
- Maria Glod (2003-09-08). "Life Sentence in Leesburg Scientist's Death". ReligionNewsBlog.