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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 for orchestrating her father's murder. The case made national headlines due to Robert 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, and 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, Robert Schwartz was stabbed to death with a sword at his Leesburg, Virginia farmhouse. His body was discovered two days later. Three days after the murder, then-19 year-old Katherine Inglis made statements to the police implicating Schwartz's daughter Clara in his murder. Inglis claimed that Clara Schwartz discussed the planning and murder of her father with her, 21 year-old Michael Pfohl, and 18 year-old Kyle Hulbert. Inglis stated that the motive for the murder was that Robert Schwartz had hit Clara and she believed that he tried to poison her. Clara Schwartz, who was a sophomore at James Madison University at the time of the murder, was charged with the crime 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 were all previously indicted for Robert Schwart'z murder.
Clara Schwartz was the first of the four co-defendants to go on trial in October 2002. The prosecutors portrayed Clara Schwartz to be a manipulative young woman who used her role-playing game, Underworld, to convince her friends to kill her father. The prosecutors argued that "Clara Schwartz wanted her father dead; she had hated her father for a long time", and that after failing to enlist her friend Patrick to kill her father, Clara became desperate to have her father murdered.
Clara's defense argued that Robert Schwartz's killer, Kyle Hulbert, had taken Clara's directives to kill her father out of the context of their role-playing game. Her attorney persisted that "Clara Jane Schwartz never intended for any person to kill her father." However, the prosecution's star witness Patrick testified that Clara spoke increasingly about killing her father, and that she researched herbal poisons because she wanted his death to appear natural. Patrick also testified that she spoke of how much money she stood to inherit if he died and her concerns that he would cut her out of his will. He stated that she became increasingly frustrated because he was not carrying out her wish, and said how Clara later found a willing participant in Kyle Hulbert.
On October 16, 2002, Clara's jury convicted her 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; her conviction was most recently affirmed Fourth District of the United States Court of Appeals on March 9, 2010.
For their roles in the murder, Kyle Hulbert was sentenced to life in prison and Michael Pfohl was sentenced to 18 years. Katherine Inglis served a 1-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.