Man ruled incompetent in murder-for-hire case

December 12, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

An Armistead Gardens man charged with soliciting a carwash employee to murder a Baltimore County judge was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

John T. Klauenberg, 60, is charged with soliciting the murder of ++ Circuit Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., who has presided over a dispute involving Mr. Klauenberg's father's million-dollar estate.

After finding Mr. Klauenberg incompetent to stand trial, Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy committed the man to the custody of the state health department. No trial date will be set unless doctors later find him competent.

Judge Gordy based his decision on a report by psychiatrists at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, the state hospital for the criminally insane where Mr. Klauenberg is being held, according to his lawyer. The report was sealed within the court file.

After being led into the courtroom with his ankles shackled and his hands cuffed to a leather belt around his waist, Mr. Klauenberg stood to denounce the report as "garbage" and a "tragic sham." He complained that his "alleged doctor" had not spent enough time with him to formulate any opinions and he renewed complaints of the handling of the estate case, saying he had lost everything, including his grade school pictures.

Dressed in a blue sweater and maroon pants and squinting behind his eyeglasses, the bearded Mr. Klauenberg mentioned an unspecified "plot" and added: "There's a whole lot more but I'm dead scared." The court file contains rambling letters written by Mr. Klauenberg and referring to, for example, an "endless conspiracy" to harm him.

His attorney, assistant public defender Elizabeth L. Julian, said Mr. Klauenberg wants to be moved from the Perkins hospital to the Spring Grove Hospital Center.

Mr. Klauenberg was arrested in May at his home in the 1000 block of Rodman Way. Police learned of the alleged plot in April when an employee of an Erdman Avenue carwash went to police and told them he had been offered money to kill Judge Murphy. After weeks of investigation, city homicide detectives obtained a warrant for Mr. Klauenberg's arrest.

Since the mid-1980s, Mr. Klauenberg and his sister have been warring over their father's estate, once valued at more than $1.2 million, court records show. His sister tried to remove him from the will by alleging that he was responsible for their father's death, court records show. Judge Murphy denied that request.

Judge Murphy later ruled that Mr. Klauenberg had used undue influence to get his father to write a second will that left the entire estate of more than $1 million to him, according to court records. The judge ordered the estate's $905,000 split between Mr. Klauenberg and the sister, but after deducting for legal expenses the man's share was less than $120,000.

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