The Halloween 2004 attack took place at the Kroboths' former house at 186 Terrell Road. It has since been sold.
Kurt Kroboth left his teenaged sons sleeping inside the house at 815 St. Clair Avenue on the night he attacked his estranged wife. Investigators found a copy of her will next to Kroboth's computer.
The man who donned a vampire mask one Halloween night and attacked his estranged wife as she slept has been set free after more than six years behind bars. In an exclusive interview with the Hook, Kurt Kroboth acknowledges "shameful and humiliating" behavior, but remains defiant about what he calls an "overreaching prosecution" that led to his 2006 conviction for attempted murder.
"It was criminal behavior," says Kroboth, reached in Green Valley, Arizona, where he relocated after his February 1 release.
However, the now-55-year-old former financier says the idea that he intended to kill his wife, Jane, is wrong.
"There was an assault," says Kroboth. "If you think about it, there was no weapon. I came upon a sleeping person. Had I intended to kill someone, it would have been easy to do."
Kroboth's release came as something of a surprise– as did the interview. The Hook's last story on Kroboth, in May 2006, reported he wouldn't be eligible for release until 2014. But according to prosecutor Jon Zug in the Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney's office, three weeks after that story ran, his sentence was amended when Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge William Shelton realized the sentence was longer than allowed by statute, which permits a maximum of 10 years. Judge Shelton issued a 10-year sentence and suspended three years, paving the way for Kroboth's recent release.
According to Larry Traylor of the Virginia Department of Corrections, Kroboth received permission to move to Arizona, where he's living in a home owned by his Wisconsin-based parents, Harvey and Alice Kroboth, and performing community service. An online phone listing, however, suggests the house is occupied by Kroboth's victim, his ex-wife Jane. When a reporter called asking for her, Kroboth answered the phone, then granted a wide-ranging interview that covered his time in prison, what the future may hold, and, of course, the case that put his name in headlines.
As detailed in the Hook's February 16, 2006 cover story "Horror in the Hallway," the crime for which Kroboth was convicted seems more like the plot to a B movie than real life.
Before the marriage ended, Kroboth entertained a litany of girlfriends found online, according to divorce records that read like an issue of Penthouse magazine.
Then on Halloween night in 2004, having severed the power and phone lines at the nearly million-dollar home he once shared with his wife, Kroboth crept into the near west-side residence wearing the monster mask, latex gloves, and carrying a bottle of chloroform, an anesthetic whose vapors can depress the central nervous system to the point of death.
A witness would later testify that Kroboth planned to incapacitate his ex-wife, drag her to a bathtub, and "make it look like a suicide." When police found Kroboth on foot 1.3 miles away, they confiscated the chloroform and a latex glove. The mask and another portion of a latex glove were found in a nearby trashcan.
Prosecutors said there was plenty of evidence of premeditation. In addition to the Walmart receipt for the mask, purchased four days before the attack, they found evidence Kroboth had made online searches for chloroform and for the deadly rosary pea. At the time of his arrest, his wife's will was found next to his home computer.
In court, prosecutors also presented a witness who said that Kroboth had offered to pay to have Jane killed. And they suggested a powerful motive too: money.
As part of the divorce, Kroboth, a corporate mergers and acquisitions expert, had been ordered to pay $6,000 a month in spousal and child support– an amount he said was more than the total take-home pay. With the divorce set to become final just a week after the attack, prosecutors argued that Kroboth believed he could rid himself of the support payments and ensure that he'd lay claim to all $1.6 million in marital assets.
The pre-attack alimony still riles the post-prison Kroboth.
"I was sentenced essentially to indentured servitude," says Kroboth. "My ex could travel the world, do whatever she wanted, while I was sentenced to work 80-hour weeks and see none of the proceeds."
Without offering specific details, Kroboth says the $6,000 monthly figure "came about through a considerable amount of fraud on the part of my ex wife, and obtuseness and indifference on part of the judge."
If the attack was intended to improve his financial picture, it didn't go as planned for the man who holds two graduate degrees, including an MBA from Columbia University.
Jane Kroboth– who now uses her maiden name, Levin– awoke and fought back. She bit her assailant on the finger and successfully thwarted his attempts to throw her over a second floor landing to the first floor, some 15 feet below. She testified that her assailant suddenly fled when she begged him to spare her for the sake of her children.
Having spent more than six years behind bars, Kroboth says now that the attack was "something irrational," and that while "it may sound hard to believe, I didn't intend to inflict any harm, and I don't think I would have been capable of what I was accused of doing."
But if he finds some fault with his own behavior, he reserves his harsher criticisms for others– including judge, prosecutors, and even his own attorneys.
"The entire charge was a matter of prosecutorial overreach," says Kroboth. "There was an assault case that was clearly there, and instead they made it into an attempted murder case."
He says the attorneys he chose– first Rhonda Quagliana and Fran Lawrence and later David Heilberg (whom the Hook often quotes as a legal analyst)– didn't represent him well.
"You think because people graduate from UVA and stay in town, you'll get your choice of good attorneys," says Kroboth. "It's ridiculous. As a group, they're terrible."
"The reason for that," continues the unrepentant convict, "is because they understand the judges are arbitrary, evidence doesn't matter. The way the judicial system is set up, every judge is a little lord of his fiefdom. It's the old patrician system where the judges are great and the god of our state."
While Quagliana and Lawrence did not respond to the Hook's call requesting comment, Kroboth's analysis doesn't resonate with Heilberg.
"Mr. Kroboth has always been right about everything in his life," says Heilberg. "So why should he start being wrong now?"
There's at least one element of the legal system that Kroboth doesn't criticize: prison.
"It's not so bad, really," says Kroboth, adding that he was more bothered by the other inmates than by confinement.
"I felt utterly safe at all times," he says. "From the regional jail there to the Department of Corrections, I never felt in the slightest risk of physical harm. I think they've done that right at least."
Kroboth says he's now in the process of planning his future. He is prohibited from having contact with Jane, who remains in Charlottesville and did not return a reporter's call, but he says there's "no legal impediment" to resuming a relationship with his children, now ages 20 and 21.
And citing a settlement in exchange for discharge of his financial obligations to his ex-wife, he says he's free from the ongoing financial burdens that sparked the incident. But thanks to the internet, he says he'll never be really free.
"Anybody that goes on Google finds it," he says. "It's been six years now, and I can't get free of that. I move to another state, it doesn't matter; it's going to follow me."
And he's no fan of the news media either.
"You people," says Kroboth, "don't take into account what effect you have on people's lives."