Robert Schwartz was found dead. Soon, a strange tale of parricide emerged. Daughter had had her father killed, and the killer thought he was doing a noble deed. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the bizarre story.
When on December 10, 2001, Robert Schwartz (57), a famous scientist renown for his work in biometrics and DNA research, did not show up for work at the Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon, Virginia, his colleagues got worried. They called his neighbours, who checked on Schwartz and found him dead. He had been dead for the past two days.
Sometime on December 8, 2001, he had been stabbed no less than thirty times and his body was found lying facedown at his farmhouse near Hamilton, some forty miles west of Washington, D.C. The investigators who first got to the crime scene found a clear 'X' slashed into Schwartz's neck. Was the killing ritualistic in nature? The investigators could not tell then in absence of any other evidence.
Questioning the neigbours turned out to be fruitful. They had seen three teenagers - one girl, two boys - come to the farmhouse around the time the murder was thought to have taken place. The three teenagers got their vehicle stuck in mud and had to call a tow truck to assist them. The clue was sufficient, and within a few days the police had already rounded up three friends of Schwartz's daughter, Clara. These were Katherine Inglis, (19), Michael Paul Pfohl (21) and Kyle Hulbert (18).
Put through some intense questioning, when they began talking, a bizarre account of what happened emerged. Right from the onset it was clear that Hulbert was the one who had killed Schwartz, but his motive was rather perplexing.
When the police searched the residences of Katherine and Michael they found a number of knives, swords and literature on human sacrifice. It was, therefore, natural for the police to see the mark 'X' as an occult symbol left behind by the killers with belief in occult power and rituals.
However, they got to the bottom of it only when Schwartz's own daughter, Clara Schwartz, was taken into custody and questioned intensively. She had been questioned by the police before for five long hours on December 12. At that time she had maintained that Hulbert, was not capable of murdering her father. Strangely enough, she also added that she somehow knew that he would kill. That sounded like a contradiction. Perhaps that was why the investigators let her go but did not forget her. Investigative searchlights were back on Clara. There was something that Clara had forgotten to tell them, which could not have simply slipped off her memory. So, apparently, she had deliberately not revealed the fact that Hulbert had told her on December 9, 2001 itself, a day after the murder, that he had killed her father.
It was Katherine Inglis who drove Hulbert and her boyfriend, Michael, to Schwartz's place to "do a job", and as per her statement to the police, she did have some idea as to what that 'job' could be. Hulbert was let out and when they prepared to leave, they got stuck in the mud, which is when they had the need to call a tow truck. Hulbert was asked to go back and call the tow truck, but he did not readily agree saying that nobody was at home. And then he put the sword inside the car. The sword had blood on it. They worked out an alibi, according to which they had gone around Clara's house to get something for Clara.
Clara (21) was arrested on February 1, 2002. Her computer was also seized and she was charged as a co-conspirator in the murder of her father. The search conducted on her revealed documents that proved her participation in her father's murder.
Clara was, by and large, described as 'friendly' and was considered a good student at her college. However, some also found her a bit rebellious. She liked to put on gothic attires and enjoyed music in the heavy metal category. She was often found socializing with those who lead alternative lifestyles (the 'alts'). She lived in a dorm that was preferred by those students who liked to live in seclusion.
It was admitted by her grandfather when he talked to some reporters that Clara did fraternize with a 'fringe group', he related it to Clara's having to cope with her mother's death from cancer four years back.
Inglis revealed that Clara had told her and the other two friends that her father had attempted to poison her no less than eleven times and had also been cruel and violent with her. There was no evidence found to support that.
Inglis also told that Hulbert had brought the sword with him on his own and it was he who had gone inside alone to kill the scientist while she and her boyfriend waited for him. So, they neither planned the murder with Hulbert, nor assisted him in committing it. In other words, they were reluctant accessories to the crime. She also told that Hulbert through and through believed that he was protecting Clara by killing her father though he barely knew her. Given Hulbert's history of mental disorders like paranoid schizophrenia, hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, it was not incredible that he could do such a thing.
It was discovered that Hulbert took active interest in Live Action Role Playing (LARP). Generally, youngsters got involved in LARP for fun alone, but it also attracted mentally instable, as their delusions could find an outlet in the activity.
Finally, Hulbert confessed. He stated that he was solely responsible for the killing, it was not a pre-meditated offence and neither Inglis, nor her boyfriend, Pfohl, knew anything about it beforehand. He also told that after killing Schwartz, he called Clara to tell her that he had "done the job". Hulbert was convinced that Clara's father wanted her dead. Hulbert had met Clara's father on three occasions and did not like him much. When Clara told that there was a family trip to Virgin Islands coming up, he thought that Clara's father would again try to kill her. To his mind the best way to protect Clara was to kill Schwartz.
According to Hulbert, he went to Schwartz's house pretending to be looking for Clara. The old man told she was not at home and invited him in. He confronted Schwartz accusing him of mistreating Clara. Hulbert thought that what he saw in Schwartz's eyes in response to his accusations was guilt. He insisted that had he not seen that 'guilt', he would not have killed Schwartz. Hulbert also told that the old man "backhanded" him, which triggered a violent response from Hulbert that led to Schwartz's death. The "X" was not explained because Hulbert did not remember carving any such sign. "When I returned to the state of mindfulness and sanity, I was drawing the sword from his back," Hulbert stated.
The investigation revealed that Clara had told her friends about her problems with her father and had suggested that her life would be much better if he was eliminated. As for Hulbert, his attorneys and his family told that he was not mentally fit.
The trial was held and on October 15, 2002, a grand jury held Clara guilty of first-degree murder and recommended a sentence of 48 years in prison. What made things worse for Clara was that the prosecution managed to find another young man, whom Clara had approached for the purpose of having her father eliminated. The fellow backed off when he realized that Clara was serious about it.
The defence wanted to plead for a reduction in the sentence on the ground that Clara had shared a tumultuous relationship with her father. The judge, however, decided on February 10, that the defence plea was of no consequence with respect to the verdict. Clara was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Psychiatrist Howard Glick, testified that the accused was friends with imaginary creatures like vampires and dragons, which gave him a sense of family. In a short span of time he felt strongly for Clara, who seemed to have the problems of the same kind. To his mind' killing Clara's father was a heroic and noble act.
Despite having acknowledged Hulbert's difficulties, the judge told him what he had told Clara earlier - that he was responsible for his actions. He was awarded a life sentence without parole with another ten years for conspiracy charges. The two sentences were to run concurrently. Inglis and her boyfriend, Pfohl, got off with lighter sentences for their roles.