Watch CBS News

Karl Hoerig murder: A family’s decade-long quest for justice

A Brother's Mission
A Brother's Mission 44:09

Major Karl Hoerig was found shot dead in his Newton Falls, Ohio, home in March 2007. His family and friends immediately suspected his second wife, Claudia. At the time, the couple was going through a rocky patch. Hoerig's friends say he was getting ready to seek a divorce.

"The way I found out was my oldest brother called and told me. He just said, 'Karl's dead.' As soon as he said 'Karl's dead,' I already knew who did it. Right away, I knew it was her," says Paul Hoerig.

By the time Karl Hoerig's body was found, Claudia had allegedly emptied their bank account and was back in her homeland, Brazil. Claudia Hoerig also bought a .357 Magnum handgun just days before Karl was killed. One month after his death, Claudia Hoerig was charged in absentia with aggravated murder.

There was little mystery about who had committed the crime. But there was a big question about whether she would be brought to justice. Brazilian law prevents Brazilian citizens from being extradited.

Karl and Claudia Hoerig
Karl Hoerig, an Air Force Reserve pilot living in Newton Falls, Ohio, was a divorced father of two when he met Claudia Sobral on an internet dating site. Paul Hoerig

But there's a big twist in this story that raised questions of international law and brought the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Brazil. Claudia Hoerig was also an American citizen and had renounced her Brazilian citizenship when she took that U.S. citizenship oath in 1999. Could she still be protected from extradition under Brazilian law? Will a family get justice for a slain war hero?

"We knew it wasn't gonna be easy," Paul Hoerig tells Moriarty. "But I don't think we thought it was going to take more than 10 years."

 "I'll do whatever it takes to get justice for my brother," he says.


Ask anyone who knew Karl Hoerig and they will tell you he was a hero.

Erin Moriarty: The way I've heard him described is "fearless."

Paul Hoerig: That's accurate.

Erin Moriarty: Is it?

Paul Hoerig: Yeah.

Karl Hoerig
Karl Hoerig  joined the military when he was 18. "So you know ... pretty much his adult life, he was in the military," says his younger brother, Paul. Paul Hoerig

Karl was one of those all-American military pilots, the real-life hero revered by Hollywood filmmakers.

Erin Moriarty: He looks like a movie star, doesn't he?

Eva Snowden: Yes.

He flew C-130 cargo planes on nearly 200 treacherous combat missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. But this fearless pilot was killed in his own home -- shot twice in the back and then again in the head at close range.

Paul Hoerig [standing at bottom staircase]: He was found here ... there was a big blood stain here.

A decade later, his brother, Paul and father, Ed,  can't even talk about their loss, without fighting back tears.

Ed Hoerig: I don't want to be seen on camera.

Erin Moriarty: Why not? 

Ed Hoerig: Because I fall apart.

Karl's daughter, Eva Snowden, can't believe her family is still fighting for justice.

Erin Moriarty: Did you ever think it would take so long?

Eva Snowden: No. Every time I think about how long it's been, I'm shocked.

One of the last people to see Karl alive was his first wife, Rhonda Sharpe. They had two children together, Eva and Brent.

Rhonda Sharpe: He'd call to check on the kids and we'd end up on the phone for as long as they would let him stay on when he was -- in Iraq,

Sharpe says that by the time she realized she had made a mistake by divorcing Karl, he had moved on.

Gary Dodge | Karl's close friend: He'd had about three or four dates a week with different girls … for months.

Gary Dodge:  Every time we were -- we would do something socially, he would be with somebody different.

Then came a woman named Carla del Castillo, who Paul says his brother fell for hard.

Paul Hoerig: [looking at photo album] Carla was really nice.

But Carla wanted children and Karl just wasn't sure he wanted more. He would later tell his friends he deeply regretted that decision. That Carla was the one who got away.

Gary Dodge: After they had split, I think he was still searching for that companionship … I was married and Chris was getting married, Casey was getting married, John was getting married.

So, in 2005, when Karl met a woman who looked a lot like Carla, he moved quickly, says Chris Swegan.

Chris Swegan:  He had said to me that, "I lost the last one. I gotta make sure that I don't lose this one as well."

Claudia Sobral Hoerig
Claudia Sobral Hoerig

Claudia Sobral was a Brazilian accountant and English teacher, who visited New York City in 1989. Six months later, she met and married a high-profile New York doctor and stayed. She had been divorced for five years when she met Karl on a dating website in 2005.

Erin Moriarty: How would you describe Claudia?

Paul Hoerig: She was nice enough to me. You know, especially at first. She was a little different. But you kinda just tack that up to -- somebody coming from a different country.

About six months later, Claudia moved from New York to Newton Falls, Ohio, and the couple jetted off to Las Vegas to get married. Casey Keibler says that right from the start, there was trouble in paradise.

Casey Keibler: …he had gotten away a few minutes to get a phone call off to me and said, "Ahh, I don't know if I'm doin' the right thing." And I said, "Don't! [laughs] Run away!"

Paul says it was the women in the Hoerig family who first sensed a problem.

Paul Hoerig: She seemed like she was friendly to the males more … and the females in the family basically said, "Something's wrong." …"Somethin' just doesn't seem right with her."

Gary Dodge: I think she wanted Karl for herself.  …you know she didn't want that type of relationship with our wives or our girlfriends. She wanted Karl.

At the time, Karl was a pilot for Southwest Airlines and was still flying in the Air Force Reserve. Claudia was alone a lot and spent much of that time shopping.

Eva Snowden: The basement is completely full. I just --

Erin Moriarty: With clothing?

Eva Snowden: Just clothes, and clothes, and clothes—

Erin Moriarty: Expensive clothing?

Paul Hoerig: Yeah. She had bought racks to keep 'em all on.

Claudia also insisted that she was afraid to be alone in the house and wanted a gun for protection.  Paul thought it was crazy.

Paul Hoerig:  She had lived in New York City and Newton Falls' crime rate is substantially less than New York City's crime rate. So I just wasn't buying the story.

Claudia seemed deeply unhappy and unsettled, but no one could have ever anticipated where it would lead.

Gary Dodge: There was zero reason to take it to that extreme. And only a monster could do something like that.


By late 2006, it was clear that Karl Hoerig's nearly two-year marriage to Claudia was coming apart, according to his brother Paul.

Claudia and Karl Hoerig Paul Hoerig

Paul Hoerig: He started talkin' to me about, "I just don't wanna be in this anymore. You know, she's actin' strange" … 'cause he could see that she was basically dragging him down.

But Claudia didn't want the marriage to end, and Karl couldn't seem to walk away.

Gary Dodge: He would say he's leaving, but then, he'd find a reason to stay. And then he was leaving, and then find a reason to stay.

As Karl became more resolute, Claudia's behavior became more erratic. In early 2007, she summoned the Hoerig family to what she called "an emergency meeting" to complain about the couple's marriage.

Paul Hoerig: He wanted her to help out with the house cleaning and the cooking … like, a 50-50 split. And that just how -- isn't how it was. …And we were, like, "Well, that's just part of being an adult. That's just what you do."…And Karl was just sittin' there … just shakin' his head in disbelief.

Then just a month before Karl was killed, Claudia called her stepdaughter.

Eva Snowden: She said, "Eva, I'm just calling to tell you goodbye." And I was, like, "What do you mean? What do you mean?"  She's, like, "That's all. Just goodbye."

Eva would learn that soon after they spoke, Claudia was in a single car accident. According to court records, she was driving under the influence.

Erin Moriarty: Was she telling you that she was going to take her life?

Eva Snowden: That's what I could guess now.

What appeared to be a suicide attempt landed Claudia in a psychiatric ward and caused Karl to rush to her side – again -- says his longtime friend Chris Swegan.

Chris Swegan: When the suicide thing happened, it was, I think, her attempt to try to get him to stay.  All these things are her attempt to try to get him to stay.

But this time it didn't work. In early March, Karl made plans to move out, renting a small place nearby so  Claudia could have their house.

Paul Hoerig: He wasn't gonna leave her high and dry. I mean, he tried to help her.

On March 10, Karl -- on assignment for Southwest Airlines -- had a layover in North Carolina and spent the next day with his ex-wife and kids, who are now grown.

But before flying home to Ohio, Karl confided in Rhonda that his marriage to Claudia was over.

Rhonda Sharpe: And he says, "I think I'm leaving when I get back. It's just not gonna work." … And I said, "I'm really sorry to hear that."

Karl had told Claudia he planned to move into his new place on March 12, the next day.

Erin Moriarty: Did he seem sad about it?

Rhonda Sharpe: Yeah. He did. …I said, "Make sure you call me when you get home." "OK. I will."

Erin Moriarty: And he didn't this time.

Rhonda Sharpe: He didn't.  …I was scared. And I don't know why.

Back in Newton Falls, Claudia was unraveling. In the early morning hours of March 12, she emailed a letter to a friend, but addressed it to Karl.  She wrote

"you made me promises that no matter what, there would be no divorce in this relationship … I'm a good woman, Karl!  Do NOT do me wrong, please!"

Chris Swegan: it was more of a plea to Karl to please not leave. "Let's give our marriage another chance."

Swegan says Claudia also sent him a copy of that letter.

Erin Moriarty: Do you think that Karl ever got a chance to read this letter?

Chris Swegan: If I had to guess … I would probably say yes. Yeah.  I would think so.

Karl Hoerig's friends
Karl Hoerig's best friends talk with "48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty. Back row from left: John Boccieri, Casey Keibler and Chris Swegan. Front row from left: Gary Dodge and Dan Henry CBS News

If he did, he didn't tell anyone. In fact, Karl disappeared on March 12.  Two days later, he was scheduled to be at the military base for reserve duty.  When he didn't show up for a flight, his friends began to worry.

Gary Dodge: That would never happen.

John Boccieri: Never missed—

Erin Moriarty: Has he ever missed a flight?

Gary Dodge: No.

Chris Swegan: I don't think so.

Gary Dodge: No.  …that's a big deal. When you don't show up, that's a big deal.

When Gary Dodge couldn't reach Karl the next morning, he left a concerned voicemail.

Gary Dodge: "Hey look, I don't know where you're at. …but if I haven't heard from you in the next hour I'm callin' the police." And I didn't hear from him.

So Dodge called police and arranged for Karl's father to let them inside when no one came to the door.

Gary Dodge:  At that point, I'm on the phone with the police officer.  …And I heard his dad scream. So that's when I knew that, uh oh, you know, something's definitely wrong. 

Erin Moriarty: What went through your mind?

Gary Dodge: (Emotional) Go to the next -- (uncomfortable laugh) -- yeah, I -- that was tough.

Claudia had vanished. She quickly became the prime suspect.

Eva Snowden: I knew it -- I just knew it had to be her 'cause not a single person ever said anything bad about him.

Paul Hoerig:  It appears if he was sitting on the steps, tying his shoes, trying to leave.

Chris Swegan: She apparently went upstairs and got a weapon that he didn't know about. …and stood at the top of the stairs and shot him from there.

Two bullets hit Karl's back and one was fired into his head.

Erin Moriarty: You think she came down the steps and shot him again?

Chris Swegan: Oh, we know -- yeah, at point blank range. Right in the head. …execution style, right in the back of the head.

Retracing Claudia's steps, investigators soon learned that two days before the shooting she went to a gun shop and bought a .357 Magnum.

And like Claudia did that day, "48 Hours"  took a .357 to a shooting range to practice and got help from the same gun expert,  Richard Sliter.

Firing a .357 Magnum a "sobering experience" for "48 Hours"' Erin Moriarty 02:15

Sliter remembers Claudia clearly.

Richard Sliter: She never once acted like she needed my, you know, input. I mean, she pretty much had it down.

Erin Moriarty: Did she explain why she needed a gun this size?

Richard Sliter: Just mainly for, she wanted, you know, stopping power is what she wanted.  …when you pick up something like this, you ain't messin' around. It's time to get serious.

Where police later found the gun shocked even hardened investigators.

Paul Hoerig: The pistol that she used to shoot my brother was found in [the] closet.

Paul Hoerig: There was a string attached to the trigger and to the door so that whoever opened the door, the gun would go off and shoot 'em.

Fortunately, the gun didn't fire. 

Erin Moriarty: Why would anybody set up that booby trap with a .357 in the closet?

Paul Hoerig: I don't know. I-- it's hard sayin' what went through her mind. …you don't know if she thought that would give her more time… Or if she was just an evil person.

Investigators believe Claudia covered her dead husband's body with a plastic tarp. She then drove his car to Pittsburgh, some 80 miles away.  Then she used his airline pass to fly free to New York City and then to Sao Paulo, Brazil.  

Karl's friends believe it was all part of a diabolical plot.

Gary Dodge: And she'd already drained the bank account … sent the money, you know, to Brazil.

Chris Swegan: This is a well-thought-out, well-planned execution that had been in the works for at least four or five months. No doubt in my mind.

By the time Karl's body was discovered three days later, Claudia was long gone.


The purchase of a .357 Magnum revolver, the sudden flight to Brazil on the day Karl Hoerig was shot to death in his home  --  the evidence against his wife, Claudia, was overwhelming.  

And on April 12, 2007, a month after his death, Claudia Hoerig was charged with aggravated murder and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Gary Dodge: She needs to be found guilty in a U.S. court and then spend her remaining days in prison.

Claudia Hoerig
Claudia Sobral Hoerig Paul Hoerig

But will Claudia Hoerig ever go on trial?  Remember, as she once mentioned to the family, Brazil refuses to extradite Brazilian citizens.

Paul Hoerig: At the time, it just seemed like,  just a story about, you know, her home country.

It is written in the constitution: no Brazilian-born citizen can be extradited -- even if the person is a wanted criminal in another country. 

Paul Hoerig: So, she was obviously aware of it.

From the beginning, the Hoerigs felt like they were hitting a wall with their own government

Paul Hoerig:  In my opinion, the State Department didn't really take much of an interest … they kept telling us at the beginning, you know, "Basically, she's a Brazilian citizen and there's nothin' you can do."

Erin Moriarty [looking at photo]: Who is this? 

Dennis Watkins: That's Karl.

Erin Moriarty: Well with this sitting here you can't forget this case.

Dennis Watkins:  No.

Erin Moriarty: This is here every time you walk into the office

Dennis Watkins:  You know, it's a pending case...

But Trumbull County prosecuting attorney Dennis Watkins was determined not to let Karl' s wife get away with murder.

Dennis Watkins: We are not gonna give in, we will never give in.

And immediately after Karl's death, Watkins began the task of trying to get Claudia back to the states for trial, writing letters by the dozens to the State Department, the Justice Department -- through two presidential administrations -- to little avail.

Erin Moriarty: How many emails do you estimate that you have sent on this case?

Dennis Watkins: It's over 500. …It is frustrating, because I don't have any control. The state of Ohio, under the Constitution of the United States, is not a party to international extradition.

Brazil offered to try Claudia under their justice system, but Watkins rejected that idea.

Dennis Watkins: This case is gonna be tried in the United States of America. …The crime … was committed here. All the witnesses are here. The prosecution is here. She's the one that left. She's the one that should come back.

Watkins turned to Capitol Hill when Karl's friend and fellow pilot John Boccieri won a congressional seat in 2008.

Rep. John Boccieri: I moved with a sense of urgency once I got to Washington to try and get this done.

Boccieri joined forces with another Ohio congressman, Tim Ryan, on legislation to penalize Brazil for harboring a fugitive. But still, no movement.

Congressman supports Ohio family's 10-year quest for justice 01:27

Erin Moriarty: Did you ever think it would take so long? 

Eva Snowden: No. No.

But with murder charges pending in Ohio and the defendant 4,400 miles away in Brazil, it's a complicated legal case. There was only one way to get answers.

And so "48 Hours" came to Brazil, to track down Claudia – to find out what has she been doing these past 10 years? And most important, where is she now?

Nobody in Ohio was quite sure what happened to Claudia after she fled to Brazil the day her husband was shot back in March 2007.

"48 Hours" learned that Claudia had opened her own accounting business.

Erin Moriarty to Claudia's co-worker: We're with CBS News. Would anybody want to talk a little bit about Claudia? Who she is as a person?

Translated response: No. They said the ideal thing would be to talk to … her lawyers.

"48 Hours" also learned that Claudia had a new, younger boyfriend, a taxi driver named Daniel Barbosa, whom she later married, and they had been living together.

Clearly, the woman who was a fugitive from justice in the U.S. was not living like one in Brazil. She had that accounting firm, the new man in her life. And she's living in a very comfortable, middle-class neighborhood. It looked like she was home free.

But everything was about to change. Just as Claudia settled into her new life, her case took a dramatic turn.

It turned out that when Claudia had become an American citizen in 1999, she pledged a standard oath saying, "I renounce all allegiance to any foreign state or sovereignity  of which I have been a citizen." She even signed a document referring to "country of former nationality—Brazil." Prosecutor Watkins had always argued she could no longer be protected by Brazilian law.

Dennis Watkins: Claudia Hoerig came to this country in 1989. Became a naturalized American citizen in 1999. That changed her status under Brazilian law.

In 2013, six years after Karl Hoerig was murdered, the Brazilian authorities agreed. The Ministry of Justice stripped Claudia of her citizenship, which meant she could be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for the murder of her husband.

Daniel Majzoub, a prominent attorney in Brazil and an expert in Brazilian extradition law, says it was a groundbreaking case.

Erin Moriarty: It's a big story here? 

Daniel Majzoub:  It's a big story.

Daniel Majzoub: It's a very controversial case. It's the first time in Brazilian history … that we're extraditing a Brazilian national. …She chose to become an American; automatically she lost her Brazilian nationality.

Claudia fought the unprecedented ruling through the courts, and for three more years kept living her life of freedom as the case worked its way through the complicated Brazilian justice system.

By law, the case went all the way to the top to the Supreme Court of Brazil. And in April 2016, that court also ruled against Claudia, but, this time, she was arrested and sent to prison.

Three months later, Claudia -- who had put on weight and drastically changed her appearance -- went before the court, in prison clothing, pleading to keep her Brazilian citizenship. It didn't work. Again, the court ruled against her.

But in the Brazilian system of justice, it's never really over -- she can continue to appeal. And even if there's a final court ruling against Claudia, the president would have to issue an order to put her on a plane back to the U.S.

Claudia has now been in prison for a year-and-a-half, and the Hoerigs want some answers. Because no one knows how long it will take or if Claudia will ever be extradited at all.

Paul Hoerig: I would love to go to Brazil. You just let me know when and I'll be there.

Karl's brother, Paul Hoerig, frustrated by the slow pace of justice, agreed to join "48 Hours"' investigation and we flew him to Brazil.

Paul Hoerig: It's gonna be harder for them to ignore me when we're face-to-face.


Erin Moriarty: Are you excited a bit?

Paul Hoerig: Yeah… [Why?] Oh, I'm just eager to find out some answers to some questions that I've had for over 10 years.

In Brazil, Paul Hoerig can finally get a glimpse into the life Claudia led for nine years until her arrest: her business, her new husband, her middle-class life.

Paul Hoerig: It makes me mad to know that she was living such a comfortable life. And you know my brother's dead.

Erin Moriarty: That's hard isn't it?

Paul Hoerig: [emotional] Yep.

Erin Moriarty: You're carrying him with you even here to Brazil.

Paul Hoerig:  Yeah.

Paul wants answers. He hopes to meet with American officials in Brazil to learn more about their effort to get Claudia back to Ohio, which means a stop at the American Embassy in Brasilia.

Erin Moriarty: I mean, Paul, up to now has anyone from the State Department talked to you?

With specifics?

Paul Hoerig: They have, but on and off. At the beginning, I wasn't getting anything. It was basically getting a block wall thrown up in front of me. And then for a little while they talked to me, and that's basically went away.

When "48 Hours" sought information from U.S. officials about the case, we were stonewalled. Claudia Hoerig is an American citizen, we were told, with a right to privacy. And as we were speaking with Paul Hoerig outside the Embassy, Embassy spokesman Mark Pannell came out and made that position quite clear.

Erin Moriarty: Is there any chance that you can talk just a little bit to Karl Hoerig's brother and just kinda give him an update?

Mark Pannell: No. 

Erin Moriarty: Why not?

Mark Pannell: Because you and I had discussed this. We – any time we have a request to speak to with U.S. media, we are required to get clearance from Washington, we do not have that clearance.

Paul Hoerig
Paul Hoerig: "I'll do whatever it takes to get justice for my brother." CBS News

Pannell declined to speak to "48 Hours" or to Paul Hoerig, and asked us to turn off the camera. But he promised to do his best to get some information for Paul.

Paul Hoerig: I was hoping I'd get to speak to somebody, but not totally surprised that they didn't speak to me.

Erin Moriarty: But disappointed -- I can understand why they may not wanna talk with us on the record, but didn't you think they might give you some --

Paul Hoerig: I thought they might. Especially since I'd traveled all the way to Brazil.

As Paul seeks information, Claudia is in prison while her lawyers fight her extradition.   She hoped to gain public sympathy by speaking with Brazilian reporters like Renata Varandas.

Erin Moriarty: How was she -- was she scared? Nervous? Angry? 

Renata Varandas | Record TV correspondent: Very scared of course.  She's in jail.

"48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty talks with Renata Varanda of Brazil's Record TV about her interview with Claudia Hoerig. CBS News

Last year, Claudia, in her only television interview, refused to show her face or answer questions about Karl's murder. But that didn't stop Varandas from asking.

Erin Moriarty: Did you ask whether she actually shot him?

Renata Varandas: Yes. Yes.

Erin Moriarty: And what did she say?

Renata Varandas: She didn't answer this -- this question. 

Erin Moriarty: Did she deny it? Did she say, "I didn't do it?"

Renata Varandas: She deny it. She deny it.

Karl and Claudia Hoerig
Karl and Claudia Hoerig Paul Hoerig

Claudia claimed Karl had been emotionally abusive, and hinted at the defense she might use at trial. She told wild stories about how Karl treated her:  "He treated me like a prostitute," she said.  "I wasn't treated like a wife. I wasn't given the right to be a mother."

Renata Varandas: He was treating her as a prostitute … She got pregnant … and she was obliged … to have an abortion.  And it happened three times according to her. …And I asked her, "Why didn't you get divorced of this man?"

Erin Moriarty: Yeah, why didn't she leave him?

Renata Varandas:  Of course.

But Karl's ex-wife, Rhonda Sharpe, says Claudia's stories are absurd.

Erin Moriarty: Do you believe in any way that Karl could've been emotionally abusive to Claudia?

Rhonda Sharpe: It doesn't sound like the Karl that I know ... Karl was very loyal, very loving. He was kind.

And if Karl was abusive, why didn't Claudia say that during the family emergency meeting she called back in 2007? Paul believes Claudia has now made up the stories to justify murder.

Erin Moriarty: You know you're just hearing one side of this, only one version of this story.

Renata Varandas: Yes, yes. Because I just interviewed her.

Erin Moriarty: Why do you think she did the interview? Why?

Renata Varandas: I think she wanted to caught Brazil's attention about her case.

Claudia hoped the interview would convince Brazilians that she should be kept there.

Erin Moriarty: Does she wanna be tried here? Tried for murder here?

Renata Varandas: Sure. Yes. She want.

But there were details about the murder that Varandas did not know. Moriarty  showed her a picture of the type of powerful gun used to shoot him.

Renata Varandas: Yeah. That's -- it's terrible. …I think if she's guilty, she has to pay for it.

Paul, observing the conversation, patiently waits to ask questions of his own.

Erin Moriarty: Paul, do you have a question or two that you want? Come on out.

Paul Hoerig: Did she produce any documentation saying she actually had three abortions -- or one abortion?

Erin Moriarty: Do you understand what Paul's question is?

Renata Varandas: I know. I think it's very -- it's very strange.  It's a very strange story.

Erin Moriarty: So you have some doubts about the story she told?

Renata Varandas: Yeah, sure. Of course, of course.

Paul had one more question for Varandas: 

Paul Hoerig: Do you get the feeling that she thought she was gonna get away with it and just continue to live here free?

Renata Varandas: I don't know. Maybe yes. I don't know.

Paul Hoerig: Thank you.

Renata Varandas: OK. Thank you.

There are so many questions, "48 Hours" arranged a meeting between Paul and the Brazilian lawyer Daniel Mazjoub, who has studied the case. 

Paul Hoerig: So she's done with the appeals? 

Daniel Mazjoub: No, she's not done with the appeals. There are other appeals that can be filed by her defense.

Paul Hoerig: So this could go on for quite some time?

Daniel Mazjoub:  Definitely. Unfortunately.

Paul Hoerig: It's kinda hard to take, because we really thought we were closing in on the end.

Daniel Mazjoub: Yeah. Brazil's a young democracy … we're coping with many challenges, many controversial cases. This is one of the controversial cases we're dealing with. That's not an excuse, but it's a reality. Unfortunately.

Paul Hoerig: Is there anything the U.S. Embassy could do to push this along?

Daniel Mazjoub: The Embassy is, from what I've heard and what I've researched, the Embassy is working very hard and thoroughly.

There's just one more thing Paul hopes to do while in Brazil -- he wants to go to the prison and try to see Claudia face-to-face.

Erin Moriarty [in a van with Paul, headed to the prison]There's a chance you might see the woman that you believe killed your brother today.

Paul Hoerig: Yeah I'm looking forward to it. 

Erin Moriarty: Looking forward to it?

Paul Hoerig:  Just -- I want to see her, verify where's she's at, and see the living conditions that she's in.


As "48 Hours" and Paul Hoerig head to the prison where accused killer Claudia Hoerig has been held for the past year, Paul shared some surprising news: the U.S. Embassy officials will meet with him, after all.

Paul Hoerig: And this morning I checked my emails… they're willing to meet with me today.

Erin Moriarty: This is terrific! 

Paul Hoerig: Yeah, it's great.

Erin Moriarty: So, in fact, it looks like Paul, you're shaking some trees.

Paul Hoerig: It looks that way. 

Erin Moriarty: And lighting some fires just like you'd hoped. 

Paul Hoerig: Yeah.

Erin Moriarty: Oh my god, that's great!

Paul Hoerig: Yeah.

The meeting was set for the afternoon.

Paul Hoerig: I'm not sure what they're gonna be willing to talk to me about.

Erin Moriarty: Are you planning on telling the State Department, "Look, push -- push for this, we need this?"

Paul Hoerig: Oh I've been telling them that. I'm just gonna reinforce that.

But first, Paul hopes to confront Claudia in the prison where she awaits extradition.

The prison director, Deuselita Pereira Martins, agreed to talk about Claudia and her life there.

Renata Matarazzo translated the conversation.

How does Brazilian punishment fit the crime? 01:47

And what we learn is surprising -- even shocking. For one thing, Claudia is allowed regular intimate visits with her husband.

Erin Moriarty:  How often does he come to visit her—does she know?

Deuselita Pereira Martins: [translated]  Every week.

Convicted prisoners aren't confined to cells all day; many are allowed out on work-release programs.

Erin Moriarty: If she were convicted of something like murder ... she would be allowed out during the day to work?

Deuselita Pereira Martins: [translated]  Exactly, the Brazilian law allows it.  

And prison sentences here are far less restrictive than in the U.S. Even for crimes like murder, inmates face a maximum of 30 years and they can reduce their prison time by working or even studying.

Paul Hoerig: It's hard to believe

It's all beginning to add up to Paul. 

Paul Hoerig: It makes a lot more sense why she would like to stay here.  'Cause she's trying to reduce her time in prison. 

Erin Moriarty: And how do you feel about that? 

Paul Hoerig:  it would not be fair and that definitely would not be justice. 

And the director had one more shocker: a rumor running through the prison. 

Erin Moriarty: Claudia is that worried about going back to the United States that other inmates think she might kill someone rather than go back to the United States?  She'd kill someone here?

Deuselita Pereira Martins: [translated] Exactly.

Inmates are concerned that Claudia would do anything to avoid being sent back --even murder, which is why she is being held in a cell by herself. Paul didn't get what he really hoped for -- a chance to see and confront Claudia. The director said that Claudia refused to see us.  

Paul Hoerig outside the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia
Paul Hoerig outside the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia CBS News

Resigned to the reality of not seeing Claudia, Paul Hoerig headed to the U.S. Embassy for his long hoped-for meeting with officials there, determined to lobby for action.

Paul Hoerig: It was a great visit. …It was a lot more than what I had expected. Extremely positive.

Erin Moriarty: What basically have you learned that you didn't know before you came here?

Paul Hoerig:  I promised them that I wouldn't talk specifics with anybody. We came to an agreement. But I can tell you that they were … very receptive and positive. …It was an opportunity to clear the air on some old issues. And the future looks extremely positive and cooperative.

As Paul's journey in Brazil ends…

Paul Hoerig: I learned so much about the legal system here … which gives me more reason not to want to have Claudia prosecuted here, so it was -- it was well worth it.

…he heads home more determined than ever to see his brother's accused killer back in Ohio.

Paul Hoerig: We'll be ready for the trial when it gets here.

For the first time in a decade, there's new hope. Karl Hoerig's family and friends believe they may be getting closer to a trial and to getting the answer to the question that haunts them: why? 

Gary Dodge: This was a vindictive thing.

For now, the most his friends can do is speculate.

Chris Swegan: Karl was leaving her and she didn't like that fact. She wanted the relationship to end on her terms, not on his terms.

Gary Dodge: And she wanted to have that control, she wanted to, you know, make the statement that, "You're not gonna leave me. I'm gonna do this."

Erin Moriarty: I mean, are we talkin' about  just, like, the classic, "If I can't have you, nobody else can have --" 

Chris Swegan: Absolutely. Yes.

Since Paul returned from Brazil, prosecutor Dennis Watkins has spoken to American officials, and he believes Paul's trip did make a difference.

Dennis Watkins: Paul's journey to Brazil put a face on the victim's family.

And three weeks later, the wheels of justice are moving —another piece of good news from Brazil: the Supreme Court officially denied Claudia's appeal to remain in the country —she can be extradited to the U.S. There's only one step left now—the Brazilian president has to issue the order to put Claudia on a plane.  

Erin Moriarty: What are your thoughts that now there's just one person who has to make this decision?

Paul Hoerig: Hopeful. Very hopeful. 

But two more months would pass. Then on a cold winter day just 17 days ago Paul Hoerig's phone rang.

Paul Hoerig: …it was Dennis Watkins on the other end and he said, "She's back, we got her."

Authorities won't share details of what led to the release, but once the Brazilian president had issued his order, diplomatic negotiations between Brazil and the U.S. heated up.

Dennis Watkins: And I get a call before Christmas and it's from the Justice Department, saying "they're gonna render her  … and it could happen any time."  … I couldn't tell anybody. 

Erin Moriarty: That had to be tough.

Dennis Watkins: It was tough

U.S. Marshals under the supervision of Peter Elliot flew to Brazil on a chartered jet the second Sunday in January and went to the prison.  Three days later, the once beautiful Brazilian, now a weary and bedraggled prisoner, arrived back in Ohio.  

Claudia Hoerig Trumbull County Sheriff's Office

Peter Elliott: I expected anything, but I was comfortable when I was called by my deputies and was told that wheels were up and they were on their way.

Prosecutor Watkins' first call was to the family.

Erin Moriarty: You called Paul? 

Dennis Watkins: I called his father first.

Erin Moriarty: And what did Ed say? 

Dennis Watkins: He was almost in tears; I could feel him, as I can feel him a lot. He's a very emotional and sensitive man. …His son and that family, as you know, are just salt of the earth folks.

Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe spoke to Claudia when she arrived.

Sheriff Paul Monroe: In my opinion she was almost relieved to start putting this behind her and get on with the next chapter of her life.

That next chapter started two days later, as Claudia was walked into court for her arraignment.  And for the first time in more than a decade, the Hoerig family was relieved.

Claudia Hoerig's bond is set at $10 million.

Erin Moriarty:  Did you really think it would happen? 

Paul Hoerig: I did but I didn't think it would be so quickly.  Going to Brazil with "48 Hours" really made a difference, I think it shed light on the case and it got people to act quickly. 

And everyone is praising the dogged prosecutor at the center of it all.

Pete Elliott to reporters: I have never seen a more passionate prosecutor than Dennis Watkins.

The Hoerigs can finally see the end of the road to justice for Karl, who even in death, remains a bigger-than-life personality and is still so missed. 

Rhonda Sharpe | Karl's ex-wife: He was funny. He was kind. He was considerate.

Ed Hoerig | Karl's Father: There's nothing that can be said or done that's ever gonna bring him back.

Brent Hoerig | Karl's son: Nothing but good memories...

A man with a courageous spirit, a contagious smile and a drive that inspired the people around him to soar.

Rep. John Boccieri: And I'm really, really, just reminded of our last flight, that last encounter ... we were fliying into a setting sun ... and he said, "When I take my last flight into the setting sun, and I look back over my shoulder, I hope the people who knew me were happy they did." And we are.

Claudia Hoerig has been assigned a public defender.  She is expected to go on trial in about a year.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.