As a freshman in high school, 15-year-old Clara Jean Schwartz spent her time playing "Dungeons & Dragons," going to Renaissance fairs and listening to Marilyn Manson on her family’s farm in rural Loudoun County, Virginia. The youngest of three children, Clara often felt like an outcast next to her popular, more outgoing siblings, but she did connect with a few people from her school, including Katie Inglis and her boyfriend, Michael Pfolh. The three friends spent hours together absorbed in role-playing games, and Clara even invented a game she called "Underworld." Her title was “Lord Chaos,” and everyone had to answer to her.
Though her father Robert Schwartz was supportive of her more eccentric interests, he became concerned about Clara once her grades plummeted during her first year at James Madison University in 2000. Clara spent most of her time at college developing "Underworld" and recruiting new players, one of them being 18-year-old Kyle Hulbert. Kyle had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at a young age, and he immersed himself in fantasy worlds when he was unable to find a steady job due to his mental health history. Clara met Kyle at a Renaissance fair, and she introduced him to Katie and Michael as an “assassin” who had a fascination with vampires, swords and goth culture.
To hear more about the Clara Jean Schwartz case, listen to episode 48 of our Martinis & Murder podcast.
Clara and her group of friends quickly brought Kyle into their inner circle, and Clara bought Kyle a sword, which one of his friends sharpened into a “ninja sword” a few weeks after he got it. The three even drove to James Madison University to visit Clara in her dorm. Two months after meeting Kyle, Cara brought him home for Thanksgiving break, and he met her father, Robert.
On December 10, 2001, a neighbor of the Schwartz family went to check on Robert after a co-worker reported that he hadn’t shown up to work. When he entered the kitchen, the neighbor found Clara’s father on the floor in front of the sink with multiple stab wounds. According to “Snapped: Clara Schwartz,” a few of the stabs went through him all the way into the floor.
When police went to James Madison University to tell Clara and her older sister, Michelle, about the murder, Michelle “was very distraught,” according to the “Snapped” episode. Clara, however, “wasn’t crying,” and her only question was, “How?” After notifying Robert's family, police spoke with another one of his neighbors, who said a young man came to their house less than 48 hours before Robert was killed. The neighbor said the man’s name was Kyle, and he had asked to borrow their phone to call a tow truck to pull his car out of the muddy road near the Schwartz family’s farm.
The tow truck driver told police there were actually three people were waiting for him to pull the car out of the mud: Kyle, Michael and Katie. Police arrived at Kyle’s parents’ house the following morning to apprehend the couple, and they found Kyle’s samurai sword — which had been freshly washed — in the basement. Michael and Katie told police Kyle had asked for a ride to Katie’s childhood home over the weekend, telling them he had a “job to do.”
Once police apprehended Kyle, he neither resisted arrest nor denied killing Robert, and he claimed it was entirely justified. In an interview with “Snapped,” the prosecution explained, “Kyle Hulbert felt that he was the protector of Clara Schwartz and indicated that she was abused.” According to The Washington Post, Kyle believed Clara’s father was trying to kill her with poisoned pork chops and sulfuric acid-laced lemons. He also claimed that vampires and creatures named Ordog, Sabba and Nicodemus gave him permission to kill Robert.
After booking the three on murder charges, Clara admitted Kyle and Michael had called her the night of the murder and told her what they’d done. During interrogation, Clara said she didn’t believe them and thought “they were joking.” She also claimed her father was both physically and verbally abusive toward her because of her slipping grades.
Two months after police released Clara — as she didn’t appear to be a co-conspirator — investigators issued her a search warrant and seized her computer, which contained incriminating chats with Kyle. She was arrested that afternoon.
[Photo: Loudoun County Sheriff's Office]
An attorney told “Snapped,” “Clara was very much involved in this. Clara was very much the organizer and the manipulator here and the puppet master.” During the trial, Clara’s former boyfriend, Patrick House, testified that while they dated, “He and Schwartz were the primary characters in an elaborate role-playing game she invented called 'Underworld.' Clara played the overlord, Lord Chaos, and House acted as an assassin assigned to kill ‘Old Guy,’ Clara Schwartz's father,” according to the Los Angeles Times. At one point, according to the LA Times, Clara asked him when he really would kill her father, but he never followed through, he testified.
Kyle was brought to the stand next, but he pleaded the Fifth. While Michael was awaiting trial, he didn’t testify against Clara, either. Katie, however, took a deal and testified against Clara, claiming that they visited Clara’s college to plan out the murder. Clara was convicted of being the mastermind behind the murder of her father, and she was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of solicitation to commit murder, according to The Washington Post. She was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
According to The Post, Kyle pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Michael pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for driving Kyle to Clara’s dad’s house. Katie pleaded guilty to “accessory after the fact” and served a year in jail.
[Photo: Loudoun County Sheriff's Office]
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