Clara Jane Schwartz, a former college student obsessed by vampires, assassins and magic, was sentenced yesterday to 48 years in prison for persuading a friend to kill her father, a respected Loudoun County scientist.
Schwartz, 20, was at James Madison University on Dec. 8, 2001, when Robert M. Schwartz was stabbed with a 27-inch sword as he sat down to dinner in his remote Leesburg farmhouse. But she had "set in motion a series of events that led to the terrible death," Loudoun Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne said before imposing the sentence.
"We are responsible for our actions," Horne said. "We don't shift blame to others."
Clara Schwartz faced her brother and sister yesterday, as both testified that no sentence, no matter how severe, could bring justice. Michele Schwartz, 22, told the judge that she is haunted by nightmares of her father's last moments and that the sight of a knife makes her uneasy. Jesse Schwartz, 25, said he thinks of his father's death -- and his sister's role -- every day.
"It's been nothing but a nightmare since the first day I found out," Michele Schwartz testified. "It's hard enough it was my father, but on top of that to have my sister committing such a horrible crime."
When Horne asked Clara Schwartz if she had anything to tell the court, she replied: "Nothing that hasn't already been said."
Clara Schwartz had long had a troubled relationship with her father, a noted expert on DNA sequencing, and complained that he poisoned her food, yanked her hair and disapproved of her clothes and friends, according to court testimony. Eventually, prosecutors said, Clara Schwartz's anger turned to hatred, and she sought out two young men to kill him. Ultimately, she persuaded one of them -- Kyle Hulbert -- to do it, according to testimony.
Clara Schwartz met Hulbert, 19, who had a long history of mental illness, at a local Renaissance festival in fall 2001. The pair were drawn together by a shared fascination with witchcraft and the occult, and Hulbert, who fancied himself a warrior, quickly dubbed himself Clara Schwartz's protector, prosecutors said.
On a rainy Saturday night, Hulbert and two friends, Michael Pfohl, 22, and Katherine Inglis, 20, drove to Robert Schwartz's fieldstone farmhouse, authorities said. Hulbert, of Millersville, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge, later told police that he went inside alone, confronted Schwartz about the alleged abuse and slashed and stabbed him with a sword, according to court documents.
Defense attorneys said Clara Schwartz complained about her father simply to vent her teenage frustrations but never planned his murder. Hulbert, they said, misconstrued Clara Schwartz's words and acted on his own.
Defense attorney Corinne J. Magee said yesterday that Clara Schwartz feels a "great deal of guilt" but insists that she never intended for her father to be killed.
Prosecutors, however, said Clara Schwartz's desire to get rid of her father was evident before she met Hulbert. During her October trial, Clara Schwartz's former boyfriend testified that in summer 2001 they engaged in a fantasy role-playing game called "Underworld," in which Schwartz's character, "Lord Chaos," asked his character, an assassin, to kill her father.
Clara Schwartz's uncle, Christopher Schwartz, one of a few family members supporting her, testified that his niece had been troubled for years. He said a hyperthyroid condition caused her to be confused and paranoid.
"She was a good person, but she had these demons," Christopher Schwartz said.
Clara Schwartz was convicted in October of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of solicitation to commit murder.
Pfohl, of Haymarket, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced in April. Inglis, of Haymarket, a friend of Clara Schwartz's from high school, is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.
Robert Schwartz, the victim's father, yesterday said he hopes his granddaughter will express remorse to the family as time passes.
"She had free choices, and her choices were always the bad ones," he said.
Robert and Mary Schwartz leave court with their granddaughter Michele Schwartz, whose sister, Clara Jane, was convicted in the death of their father, Robert Schwartz.Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Owen Basham speaks to reporters after Clara Jane Schwartz's sentencing.