Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clara Schwartz: A Deadly Game

Domestic Homicide

Clara Schwartz, 2000
Clara Schwartz, 2000

Clara Jane Schwartz, 21, was arrested on February 1, 2002, at her dorm on the James Madison University campus where she was a sophomore. A computer was also removed from her room, and she was charged as the fourth person in the conspiracy to murder Robert Schwartz. Documents found during a legal search indicated that she had helped to plan her father's murder with the other three suspects. Although her grandfather denied to reporters that she'd had any such contact with the suspects, she was taken before a magistrate in Loudoun County, Virginia and then to the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center. There she remained until her trial.

The dorm monitor, Mark Pinnow, who did not know her well, offered an observation to reporters about her relationship with her father when Robert Schwartz brought Clara to school to drop her off: "They seemed to have that kind of father-daughter relationship where they were both different and knew it." Pinnow thought Clara was friendly. In fact, she was a good student, and she was avidly interested in history and Civil War battlefields. Those who knew the computer-science major, who owned her own horse, thought of her as smart and on her way to being quite accomplished.

Rockingham Hall at James Madison University
Rockingham Hall at James Madison

Yet some also knew her as brooding and rebellious. According to the Washington Post, she liked to dress in the gothic look, sported dark clothing and liked to listen to heavy metal music. She tended to hang out with people who preferred an alternative lifestyle — "alts," as they liked to refer to themselves, to mark their boundaries as outsiders. She had also moved into a single room in a dorm that was a converted Howard Johnson's motel situated behind a gas station — a place for students who desired seclusion. Her grandfather, speaking to reporters, acknowledged that she was drawn toward a "fringe" group of young people, and attributed that to having to deal with her mother's death from cancer four years earlier. Other relatives said that in recent years she had been distant from the family.

"She was very, very close to her mother," the grandfather told the Washington Post, "and I think it was a rather serious thing for her. And my son worked overtime trying to help her. She certainly had a lot of emotional problems that were fairly apparent."

Reporters sought out an attorney whom Clara had retained directly after the murder when the police first started asking questions, but he indicated that he was no longer in her employ. When questioned about the arrest, the police would not offer a motive. Relatives insisted that Schwartz had been a devoted father who talked often of his three college-age children.

Japanese sword, similar
Japanese sword, similar

Yet when the news of Clara's arrest was reported, the Associated Press included an interesting item: Inglis allegedly had admitted to investigators that Clara had told her and the other two that her father had been violent with her and had tried to poison her "at least 11 times." Such things do happen, and children involved in roleplaying and occult activities may overdramatize the possibility. But family members denied it, and the police had no record of having to go to the home to intervene in any situations. At any rate, Inglis further stated that Hulbert had gone into the farmhouse alone with a 27-inch sword hidden under his coat and had used it to slash and stab the scientist. She and her boyfriend, Paul Pfohl, had waited for him in the car. They'd had nothing to do with the murder, she said, adding that Hulbert had believed he was doing something good for Clara. Yet he hardly even knew her.


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