Kyle Hulbert couldn't get the stories out of his mind. His dear friend's father was trying to kill her, he wrote in a statement to police, by lacing lemons with sulfuric acid and poisoning pork chops.
But Hulbert didn't have "just cause" to kill the well-known biophysicist Robert M. Schwartz until the friend, Clara Jane Schwartz, said her father was planning a family trip to the Virgin Islands and wanted to make "sure she did not come back," Hulbert wrote in a statement made public yesterday.
"That was all I could take," he said. His otherwordly companions -- vampires and creatures named Ordog, Sabba and Nicodemus -- then gave him permission. So Hulbert went to Robert Schwartz's house, confronted him about his supposed plans for his daughter and stabbed him to death with a 27-inch sword, Hulbert said in the statement filed in Loudoun District Court. He did it for Clara Jane, C.J., "my closest, most dear friend and as a sister as well," he wrote.
Now, Clara Schwartz, 19, Hulbert, 18, and two friends who allegedly accompanied him the night of the killing -- Michael Pfohl, 21, and Katherine Inglis, 19 -- are awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges. Their friendships and the worlds they lived in and created -- fantasy realms dominated by vampires and witchcraft -- are at the center of the investigation into the Dec. 8 slaying.
As statements made to detectives by Hulbert, Inglis and Pfohl were filed in court in recent days, a picture has emerged of the relationships among the suspects and the events leading to the slaying. It's a world where Hulbert thought of himself as the protector and couldn't bear that one of his "sisters" was supposedly suffering.
At times, the writings seem outlandish. Hulbert wrote that he drank Robert Schwartz's blood and went "into a frenzy." And Pfohl called the whole incident "a big oopsy," prompting some family members and attorneys to question whether Robert Schwartz, 57, was the victim of a sinister plot or a group of young adults so caught up in the occult and mythology that they blurred the lines between fantasy and reality.
Investigators, who seized a computer, a rabbit skin and a book of runes from Clara Schwartz's dorm room at James Madison University, are working to decipher a code the suspects used in e-mail, sources said. Authorities also are studying a book known as the "vampire's bible" and researching an Internet role-playing game called Vampire: The Masquerade.
The Schwartz family remains stunned as they try "to sift and sort it out" before they visit Clara Schwartz in jail, said her grandmother Mary Schwartz. The suggestion that Robert Schwartz would poison his daughter is "absolutely absurd," and the idea that Clara Schwartz would help plan his killing is unthinkable.
"This is the part nobody can comprehend," Mary Schwartz said. "Obviously, Clara was deeply involved in this group. . . . I wish I could just black it all out."
Clara Schwartz's attorney, Corinne J. Magee, declined comment yesterday. She also filed a motion alleging that the publicity surrounding the case will damage her client's right to a fair trial. She is asking the court to seal all evidence. Pfohl's and Hulbert's attorneys also declined comment. Inglis's lawyer did not return calls.
In their statements, the suspects describe a circle of friends fiercely loyal to one another. What follows is based on the written accounts of Hulbert, Pfohl and Inglis as well as detectives' notes of their interrogations that also were filed in court.
It began, Hulbert wrote, when he met Clara Schwartz at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville in October along the bustling paths of jugglers, wizards and food vendors. Inglis, Schwartz's high school friend, hung out there, too, as did Inglis's new boyfriend, Pfohl.
Schwartz and Inglis, who were known as shy and quiet by peers at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, were at home at the festival, where they fitted easily into the whimsical world. Pfohl, his parents said, had an interest in philosophy and religion and enjoyed dressing up for the festival.
Hulbert, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been treated in psychiatric facilities for the past decade, was perhaps the most deeply immersed in fantasy. He practiced self-mutilation and penned long letters and poems, many about drinking blood. After signing his name on his Dec. 12 statement to police, he added one of his nicknames, Demon.
Hulbert wrote poetry under the name Dragonklawz for a poetry Web site. In a profile, he listed his occupation as "Poet. Storywriter. Wiccan" and said he lived in "VA. USA. Earth. Usually I reside in Dimension X."
"Unfortunately, I do not have much love in my life from anyone," Hulbert wrote in a January 2001 posting on the poetry site.
Last fall, he found acceptance with Schwartz, Pfohl and Inglis, and the four became close.
Hulbert started calling Pfohl "brother" and the women "sisters." Inglis moved in with Pfohl and his family at their Haymarket house soon after they met, and Hulbert, who was bouncing among friends' houses, occasionally spent the night.
Hulbert said Schwartz soon confided that she believed her father was trying to harm her. Her accounts, including a written list of times she allegedly had been abused, made him increasingly angry, Hulbert said, and he began having "visions" of her being hurt or crying.
"I have always told Clara that I would protect her," Hulbert wrote. "I thought about killing him when the visions got out of control."
When he visited the Schwartz home Thanksgiving weekend, Hulbert said, Clara Schwartz offered him a bite of a pork chop, and said her father had "cooked it separately" for her. The meat tasted bad, and Hulbert was convinced that Robert Schwartz had poisoned it.
Robert Schwartz's relatives said they cannot imagine a man they knew as a devoted and gentle father ever harming his children -- Clara Jane, Catherine Michele and Jesse. They recall that after his wife's death in 1997 from lung cancer, Schwartz worried about his children and sought grief counseling for the family.
"It's just so crazy," said Maria Schwartz, Clara Schwartz's aunt. "My brother loved her. What I saw was a man who went out of his way to care for his children."
There had been some tension between daughter and father when she was in high school because he was concerned that she hung out with teenagers who favored a "goth" look, her grandparents said. They said he tried to encourage other interests, including riding, and bought a horse after her mare, Cherokee, died.
"I know my son well enough that I would swear on a Bible that he never hit her," Mary Schwartz said.
Even some of Clara Schwartz's friends and alleged co-conspirators doubted her stories. Inglis said she and Pfohl discussed "how we couldn't be sure if the things like the abuse were true."
But Hulbert "trusted [Clara] wholeheartedly in everything she said," Inglis wrote.
On Dec. 8, a rainy Saturday, Hulbert said he asked Pfohl and Inglis to take him to Schwartz's house. He said he "had a job to do" and strode toward the house, Inglis wrote. "I saw the flash of his sword just before he disappeared and knew he was doing a job seriously," Inglis wrote.
"A job," Inglis and Pfohl agreed in their statements, meant an assassination.
Robert Schwartz was settling in for the evening when Hulbert arrived, his family said. Schwartz had changed from jeans into a pair of sweats and set out two tortillas for dinner.
Hulbert, who recounts his time in the house as if it were a script with stage direction, said he asked for a number to reach Clara Schwartz at school and, as her father jotted it down, said, "How have you and Clara been getting along?"
Schwartz looked at him with a "slight grin." "I know your plans, and you will not get away with it," Hulbert recalled saying.
Hulbert said Schwartz hit him, and the two began to struggle. "Had he not struck me, Had he not grin[ned] in such a way that haunts my mind even now. Had I not seen his confession in his eyes, I would have left and let him live."
The creatures in his mind -- Sabba, Ordog and "wise Nicodemus" -- counseled him during the encounter, Hulbert wrote.
Hulbert said he stabbed and slashed Schwartz and knew his "soul had departed." He rinsed the blade in the sink, turned off all the lights but one and left.
The next day, Inglis wrote, Hulbert called Clara Schwartz and told her he "had done the job."