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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Former exotic dancer - To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 8, 1982
Date of arrest: January 1989
Date of birth: 1953
Victim profile: Werner Hartmann, 38 (her millionaire husband)
Method of murder: Shooting (machine-gun)
Location: Northbrook, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to 22 years in prison on March 12, 1990. Released on September 27, 2002
photo gallery

Debra Hartmann Gets 22-year Term

By John Gorman -

March 13, 1990

A federal judge Monday ignored the plea of a tearful Debra Hartmann that "I did not want my husband dead," and sentenced the former exotic dancer to 22 years in prison for conspiracy in the machine-gun slaying of her millionaire husband.

Prosecutors branded the woman the "proverbial black widow."

In an unusual move, Hartmann, 36, was allowed to address U.S. District Judge James Moran in his chambers, away from the eyes of the media and courtroom spectators, to present her side of the June 8, 1982, murder of Werner Hartmann. Her plea was recorded for the court record.

"I did not want my husband dead," she said. "It's true we had our moments when he hit me, but I felt if we would have a separation, if we had gone for some counseling, things would have worked themselves out."

Moran was unsympathetic.

"You maintain your innocence and you come through as intelligent, but with a past history as psychologically damaged and unable to appreciate the injury you have inflicted," Moran told her in the courtroom.

After Moran sentenced her to 22 years in prison, he sentenced John Scott Korabik, her former boyfriend, to 16 years in prison, and their co-conspirator, Kenneth Kaenel, to 20 years in prison.

The sentencing brought to an end one of the most bizarre and publicized murders in recent memory.

Debra Hartmann, Korabik, 34, and Kaenel, 62, were convicted in December of multiple mail and wire fraud charges for conspiring to kill Werner Hartmann and cheat life insurance companies out of $800,000 in insurance benefits. No one has ever been charged with murder, a state offense.

Shortly after sunset on June 8, 1982, Assistant U.S. Attys. John Farrell and Steve Miller say, Korabik sneaked into the posh Hartmann home in Northbrook, hid in a closet, and then shot his lover's 38-year-old husband 14 times with a machine pistol to prevent Hartmann from divorcing and disinheriting Debra.

In asking for a life sentence for her, Miller described her as a "narcissistic parasite who lived for parties and money."

"She was the proverbial black widow," Miller charged. "These men face considerable incarceration because of the web this woman wove," pointing to Kaenel and Korabik.

But Samuel Banks, her attorney, portrayed Debra Hartmann as a victim rather than murder conspirator. "She lost a man she relied on who was the ticket to a better life," Banks said.

Until she met Hartmann in 1978, her life had been hard, Banks said.

"Her father beat his wife and children, causing them to leave their home," Banks said. He said Debra Hartmann had quit high school at 15 to become a dance instructor.

As he spoke, his client lost her composure for the first time publicly, weeping softly, dabbing tears with a tissue.

During her three-week trial, she watched stone-faced as witness after witness tied her to the plot to kill her estranged husband.

After she married Hartmann, Banks continued, his client was hospitalized several times from beatings inflicted by her husband.

"He (Werner) was a man who preyed on a girl like Debra Hartmann. He beat her. He shot at her," Banks continued.

Still, Debra Hartmann told Moran, she had hoped that their marriage might be patched together.

"The man wouldn`t have married me-we wouldn't have stayed together all those four years if there wasn`t something good going on," she told Moran.

"I did not want my husband to die, judge, believe me."

Debra Hartmann left her husband in late 1981 to move in with Korabik at his parents' home in Portage Park. There, prosecutors say, they hatched the plot to kill Werner Hartmann, a German immigrant who had moved here when he was 19 and earned a small fortune in the car stereo business.

At first she contemplated divorce, but cast that idea aside after deciding that Hartmann was worth more to her dead than alive, the prosecution charged.

Instead, she first forged Werner's signature on a $150,000 life insurance policy, then began to plot his murder, the prosecutors said. She later forged his signature on a $250,000 life insurance policy that she obtained after bribing the couple's insurance agent, Harvey Loochtan, according to prosecutors.

She and Korabik then enlisted the aid of Kaenel, a Korabik family friend who sometimes stayed at the Korabik home, prosecutors said. Kaenel helped Korabik the night of the murder, Miller argued.

That night, Kaenel either accompanied Korabik into the Hartmann home or waited outside in the getaway car, Miller charged. "John Korabik's a cold-blooded killer and a playboy who wanted the adornment of Debra Hartmann on his arm," he said.

Korabik's lawyer, Michael Saken, described his client as a "helpful and sensitive young man whose life was untarnished except for this incident."

Korabik chose not to speak, but Kaenel told Moran, "I did not kill anybody. I did not collect any insurance money."

His attorney, Michael Logan, argued that his client never participated in the murder and should be given credit for giving police evidence that led to the successful prosecution of the others.

Debra Hartmann collected $589,000 in a settlement with the insurance companies in November 1984. In addition to the prison term, Judge Moran ordered that Debra Hartmann pay whatever restitution was possible.

In an earlier sentencing hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras sentenced a weeping Loochtan to two years in prison for taking a $3,000 bribe from Debra Hartmann in March 1982 to make her the beneficiary on the $250,000 life insurance policy instead of her husband`s two teenage daughters, Stephanie and Eva.

"I'll take it for granted that Debbie was a beguiling charmer," Kocoras said. "But if we're going to go around forgiving every human, human weakness . . . punishment has no meaning."

Choking back tears, Loochtan, 52, whispered, "I'm just sorry I did it."


Widow's Ex-lover Denies That He Killed Hartmann

By John Gorman -

December 13, 1989

John Korabik, accused of conspiracy in the death of Werner Hartmann, admitted Tuesday that he was having an affair with Hartmann's wife, but denied committing the murder so that he and the widow could reap more than $800,000 in life insurance benefits.

"Did you kill Werner Hartmann?" asked Michael Saken, Korabik's attorney.

"No, sir. I did not," responded Korabik.

The testimony came in the federal court trial of Korabik, Hartmann's wife Debra, and Kenneth Kaenal. Korabik, 33, Debra Hartmann, 36, and Kaenel, 60, are accused of conspiring to obtain the insurance money by killing Werner Hartmann.

Korabik said he began dating Debra Hartmann in late 1981, shortly after meeting her in Werner Hartmann's car stereo store in Franklin Park.

"Did you begin a romantic relationship?" Saken asked.

"We were in love," responded Korabik. "It was a good relationship," but it ended in 1984 when she threw him out of her Northbrook home, he said.

Korabik testified that on June 8, 1982, when the government says he went to the Hartmann home and murdered Werner, he was visiting James Pappas in Bensenville.

No one has ever been charged with murder, a state offense. The defendants face multiple mail and wire fraud charges brought following a 2 1/2 year investigation by Special Agent James Delorto of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Illinois State Police.

The government contends that Debra Hartmann and Korabik plotted the murder of Werner Hartmann, a 38-year-old German immigrant who had met his wife when she was an exotic dancer. Prosecutors John Farrell and Steven Miller, both assistant U.S. attorneys, contend that shortly after sunset on June 8, 1982, Korabik sneaked into the Hartmann home and shot his lover's husband 14 times with a machine pistol so Debra would collect the insurance money before Werner Hartmann could divorce and disinherit her.

"Did you ever cause Werner Hartmann to be killed?" Saken asked.

"No, sir, I did not," Korabik said.

Under cross-examination by Miller, Korabik was asked if he lent Werner Hartmann nearly $20,000 in early 1982 to get back $250,000 in Debra's jewels that Werner said were being held by organized crime figures as collateral on a juice loan.

"No, sir, I thought they were holding Werner hostage for juice money," Korabik responded. He added that he considered Werner Hartmann a friend.

"You were sleeping with his wife?" Miller asked.

"Yes," Korabik said.

"Is that your idea of friendship, to humiliate him in front of his employees?" Miller asked.

"Werner accepted the relationship," Korabik answered.

"Is that when he threatened you?" Miller asked.

"He threatened to cut off my . . . and to break my legs," Korabik said. "We were friends before and after that."

"When you started sleeping with his wife, he didn't like you so much anymore, did he?" asked Miller.

"He was upset about it," Korabik replied. When that response was greeted by laughter, U.S. District Court Judge James Moran admonished the packed courtroom to remain quiet.

Korabik also denied that he had ever admitted killing Werner Hartmann to Debra Hartmann's brother, Curtis Alex Stover, in 1984.

"Was Alex Stover a friend?" Saken asked.

"No, sir, he was not," said Korabik.

In earlier testimony Tuesday, Pappas concurred that Korabik was visiting him at about the time Werner Hartmann was killed.

Pappas testified that on the evening of June 8, 1982, Korabik arrived at the Pappas home about 8 p.m. The testimony corroborated the version offered by Pappas' wife, Elizabeth, on Monday.

Pappas said he and Korabik talked until about 11 p.m, then went out to eat at a Wood Dale restaurant. Pappas employed Korabik at Gun World, a Bensenville gun store Pappas owned.

Pappas also testified that he bought a Mac-10 machine gun from Korabik in November, 1981. The revelation came as Saken apparently attempted to prove that Korabik had already sold the type of weapon the government contends was used to kill Werner Hartmann.

Under cross-examination by Farrell, Pappas was asked if he always registered the guns he sold.

"Yes," Pappas responded.

At this point, Moran adjourned for lunch. When court reconvened, Farrell asked Pappas if he ever sold guns to an undercover agent at O'Hare International Airport.

Pappas refused to answer, citing his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.


Hartmann's Brother Takes Stand

By John Gorman -

December 6, 1989

Debra Hartmann's brother testified Tuesday that his sister admitted she arranged her millionaire husband's murder and that her ex-lover later described the killing in vivid detail.

Curtis Stover, a convicted burglar who was brought from Cook County Jail to testify, told a federal jury that his sister had told him in late 1982 how she had Werner Hartmann shot on June 8 of that year.

In March, 1982, Stover testified, Debra's boyfriend, John Scott Korabik, told him that Werner Hartmann had borrowed $20,000 from him, failed to repay it and that he would kill Hartmann for the transgression.

Then in December, 1984, Stover continued, Korabik said that he went to the Hartmann home in Northbrook and entered after Debra left.

Korabik said that he shot Hartmann, who "spun like a top," Stover testified.

Korabik claimed that after Hartmann fell to the floor with four wounds to the face and head, Korabik stood over him and "shot the Nazi" 10 more times, Stover recalled.

Debra Hartmann, 36, her onetime boyfriend, Korabik, 34, and a third defendant, Kenneth Kaenel, are all accused of conspiring to kill Werner Hartmann and cheat the insurance company out of more than $800,000. No one has ever been charged with murder, a state charge. The defendants are charged with mail and wire fraud.

The government contends that Debra Hartmann and Korabik plotted the murder of Werner Hartmann, a 38-year old German immigrant who had met his wife when she was an exotic dancer. Prosecutors Steven Miller and John Farrell contend that on the night of June 8, 1982, Korabik sneaked into the Hartmann home and shot his lover`s husband 14 times with a machine pistol so they could collect $800,000 in insurance money before Werner Hartmann could divorce his wife and disinherit her.

Under questioning by Miller, Stover said that Korabik said once he killed Hartmann, he picked up several shell casings and then fled the home.

Once outside, he tripped over a tree stump and hurt his knee, Korabik allegedly told Stover.

Cross-examined by Korabik`s attorney, Michael Saken, Stover admitted that after he heard about the murder, he never told the police about Korabik's threat on Hartmann`s life. It wasn`t until after his arrest several years later on multiple burglary charges that he began talking to authorities, he admitted.

Stover said he told Werner Hartmann about Korabik's threat, but that his brother-in-law "didn`t think anything about it."

Stover said that Werner Hartmann did go over to a strip joint called Smoker's Lounge, where he had first met his wife, and got "three guys to go over to Korabik's house."

When questioned by Debra Hartmann's attorney, Sam Banks, Stover said that he was "upset" when he found out in January, 1982, that his sister was dating Korabik and told her to stop.

"I told her she was going to ruin any plans for a settlement," in a divorce, Stover continued.

The government contends that at about that same time Debra Hartmann dropped plans to divorce her husband and started plotting his death.


Hartmann Slaying 'Confession' Is Told

By John Gorman -

December 1, 1989

Three hours after millionaire Werner Hartmann was gunned down in his Northbrook home, a dazed Kenneth Kaenel arrived at the Elmwood Park home of a friend and confessed the killing, the friend testified Thursday.

"He came in like in a trance," Donald Zorc related. "He said that he murdered Werner Hartmann . . . and wanted us to be his alibi." Zorc said he had just heard about the murder on the radio the morning of June 9, 1982, when Kaenel arrived at his home.

Two days later, Zorc said, Kaenel returned to the Elmwood Park home Zorc shared with his brother, Jeff, and their parents Josephine and Charles.

"He showed us two gold necklaces that were part of his payment given him by Debbie (Hartmann). He was bragging about how he murdered the guy as he got out of the shower, shot him 14 times with an automatic weapon, then the gun jammed," Zorc recalled.

Debra Hartmann, 36, her onetime boyfriend, John Scott Korabik, 34, and Kenneth Kaenel, 60, are all accused of conspiring to kill Werner Hartmann and cheat the insurance company out of more than $800,000. No one has been charged with the murder, a state charge. The defendants are charged with mail and wire fraud.

The government contends that Debra Hartmann and Korabik plotted the murder of Werner Hartmann, a German immigrant who had met his wife when she was an exotic dancer.

Zorc's testimony contrasted with the opening statement given last week by Assistant U.S. Atty. Steven Miller, who contended that on the night of June 8, 1982, Korabik sneaked into the Hartmann home and killed his lover`s husband so they could collect insurance money before Werner Hartmann could divorce his wife and disinherit her.

Four years after the murder, Zorc said, Kaenel asked him to go with him to Debbie Hartmann`s house to collect some money because "she was spending it very fast." But Zorc said he refused.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Farrell, Zorc, who was granted immunity, said he first began cooperating with the government in 1986. Zorc said that in May, 1982, he and his brother were approached by Kaenel about the murder of Werner Hartmann. Zorc said that Kaenel wanted the brothers to steal Debra Hartmann's Mercedes Benz automobile because that would be "the down payment on the murder."

"He offered us $6,000 each (to help)," Zorc said.

Zorc said the money was to come from the $800,000 in life insurance.

"He said he was getting the guns from Scottie (Korabik)," Zorc said, adding that someone who used the name Scottie called the Zorc home frequently to talk to Kaenel in May, 1982.

On May 30 of that year, Zorc said, he went with his brother to buy a set of walkie-talkies to use in the murder. His brother died of natural causes five years ago.

Several days later, Zorc continued, he and his brother accompanied Kaenel to Northbrook and drove by a home on a side street there.

On June 6, Zorc said, Kaenel and Scottie got into an argument on the phone.

Zorc testified that Kaenel hung up the phone and said, "If we don't do it for all that insurance money, Scottie will do it himself."

"We told him we wanted nothing to do with it," Zorc said.

Miller declined comment on the apparent discrepancy in the testimony over who shot Hartmann.

Questioned later by Debra Hartmann's attorney, Zorc admitted he was a burglar and a thief, but denied he had ever killed anyone.

"I never hurt anyone in my life," Zorc said.

Later, Zorc's mother, Josephine, backed up her son's account of how Kaenel had shown up at their house the day after the murder. She said he described the murder in detail that day, including how the victim was shot emerging from the shower and how the gun had jammed. She added that Kaenel said the bullets used in the killing "were from Scottie's home."

She testified that Kaenel said he had "gotten rid of the gun. First, he said he threw it in the lake. Then, he said he buried it. Then, he said he had given it to someone in Melrose Park."

In earlier testimony Thursday, Stephanie Hartmann recalled how her father, Werner, had warned her in December, 1981, that she should return to Florida before her stepmother, Debra, sent her home "in a box."

"He was trying to protect me," Stephanie Hartmann recalled.

The warning was delivered just hours after Stephanie Hartmann, now 24, had told her father that Debra Hartmann was having an affair with Korabik. After that, Debra Hartmann had told her to leave the Northbrook home and return to Florida or she "would be disfigured permanently," Stephanie Hartmann testified.


The Case Of Millionaire's Death

Widow, 2 Men Accused Of Plot To Get Insurance Money

By John Gorman -

November 23, 1989

Just before sunset on June 8, 1982, Werner Hartmann emerged from the shower in his plush Northbrook home and was riddled with 14 bullets from a machine gun fired by his wife's lover, a federal prosecutor charged Wednesday. The first bullets caught Hartmann, 38, in the back. The force spun him around to face the gunman as his life slipped away. Then the killer stood over him and fired 10 more times.

"He was shot here, and here and here," assistant U.S. Atty. Steven Miller told a federal court jury, pointing to his face and down his body.

"Hours later, she comes into the Northbrook Police Department and says her husband committed suicide."

At this point, Miller whirled and pointed to Debra Hartmann, Werner's widow and the woman who, Miller said, plotted her husband's death to garner more than $800,000 in life insurance benefits.

Debra Hartmann, 36, and two men, Kenneth Kaenel, 60, and John Scott Korabik, 34, are all accused of conspiring to cheat the insurance company out of more than $800,000. None has ever been charged with murder, a state charge. The defendants are charged with mail and wire fraud.

Miller's opening statement was the first public account given by a law enforcement official of a slaying that has baffled authorities for years. The case is one of several brought in recent months in federal court arising out of killings that resulted in no state murder charges. In one case, suburban attorney Alan Masters and two law enforcement officials were convicted of conspiring to kill Masters` wife, Dianne.

The trial promises to provide days of testimony revealing inside details of the seamy lives of a couple who partied hard, spent freely and engaged in extramarital affairs.

Prosecutor Miller wasn't the only one pointing fingers before U.S. District Judge James Moran and the jury.

Korabik's attorney, Michael Saken, said his client was visiting a friend in Bensenville the night of the killing.

"And where was Kenneth Kaenel?" Saken asked, pointing to Kaenel. "He was in Northbrook killing Werner Hartmann. Why do I say this? There was a bullet found in Kaenel's house (matching the death weapon). And he admits killing Werner Hartmann to two, maybe three people."

"The murder of Hartmann was a professional job-no fingerprints, no witnesses. . . . and that excludes John Korabik," Saken said.

Kaenel's attorney, Michael Logan, returned the salvo.

"They (the government) don't say that my client was in the house or anywhere near the house," Logan maintained. "The evidence will show that one person and one person alone shot Werner Hartmann. John Korabik."

Sam Banks, Debra Hartmann's attorney, argued that nobody knows who killed Werner Hartmann. "We do know one thing-it wasn't Debra Hartmann."

Miller told the jury that minutes before the shooting occurred, Debra Hartmann was at home waiting for Werner to arrive. After he came home, they chatted briefly. She left when he got into the shower, Miller continued.

"That`s her cue to leave. Then John Korabik comes in and hides in a closet and soon hears the shower turn off," Miller related. "Hartmann comes out and sees a man holding a little machine gun. He turns but is shot four times in the back. Then, the gunman stood over him and fired again into Hartmann`s face and head."

Korabik then started picking up the spent cartridges, Miller charged.

"But then he panicked and thought someone had heard him, so instead of picking up the shells, he runs from the house and, looking behind him, he runs into a tree, spraining his ankle," Miller said.

Meanwhile, Debra Hartmann went to a restaurant where Werner's ex-wife and daughters were waiting. "They don`t know their father has just been killed," he said.

The scheme was doomed to failure because the conspirators "couldn't keep their mouths shut," Miller said.

The plot had been hatched, Miller said, the previous winter when Werner, a millionaire German immigrant, began talking about divorce after four years of marriage.

His wife "had an extramarital affair going with Korabik and had moved in with him," Miller said, pointing to Hartmann, who was dressed in a tight pink dress and matching cashmere sweater.

Debra Hartmann had filed for divorce in early January, 1982. Northbrook officer Walter Ostrenga testified that she had complained to police in December, 1981, that she had had a fight with Werner and he had taken away some of her belongings, including a diamond ring, a diamond necklace, and two fur coats, as well as other clothing, worth more than $127,000.

She quickly abandoned the divorce proceeding after she decided her husband was worth more to her dead than alive, Miller charged.

"She forged his signature to become the beneficiary of a $150,000 double-indemnity insurance policy. That means she would get $300,000 if Werner died of other than natural causes," said Miller, who is prosecuting the case with John Farrell.

In May, she borrowed $3,000 from Korabik to bribe her husband`s insurance agent, Harvey Loochtan, to change the beneficiary on another of Werner`s life insurance policies, which originally had listed his daughters, Eva and Stephanie, as the beneficiaries, Miller charged.

Loochtan has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify for the prosecution. The government contends that Debra Hartmann eventually received $589,000 in insurance settlements.

Kaenel, a friend of Korabik, joined him and Debra Hartmann to help find someone to kill Werner Hartmann for a $50,000 share of the insurance money, Miller continued. Kaenel is now serving a prison term on an unrelated gun charge.

Eventually, Werner Hartmann discovered the change in his policy and confronted Loochtan, who informed Debra Hartmann of her husband's discovery, Miller said.

Werner Hartmann began eavesdropping on his wife's phone conversations and overheard her discussing with Korabik how they will dispose of his body in a "vat of acid," Miller said.

"Werner Hartmann goes to the first two cops he can find and asks to hire them as bodyguards," Miller continued. "But the police won't do it. And Werner Hartmann has 10 days left."

The clock was ticking, Miller said, because the plotters believed they had to commit the killing before Werner could change back the beneficiary.

So Korabik killed "for his lover" while Kaenel helped "for the love of money," Miller said. "They were in it together."


The Trophy Wife and the Tennis Pro

By Chuck Hustmyre -

Strange Coincidence

CHICAGO June 9, 1982

Eva Hartmann, the 14-year-old daughter of the man everyone called "the stereo king of Chicago," found her father's bullet-riddled body lying on the floor of his upstairs bedroom. With Eva was her stepmother, Debra Hartmann, who that very night had been scheduled to negotiate the final details of her divorce from Eva's millionaire father, Werner Hartmann.

But instead of meeting with her estranged husband, Debra had surprised Eva and her mother, Werner's first wife, with a night on the town. The three of them had dined and then danced until the wee hours of the morning at a string of Chicagoland restaurants and discos.

Debra had not gotten Eva home until 4:30 that morning. When they pulled up to the house in the affluent suburb of Northbrook, Eva first noticed that her father's prized Rolls Royce was parked in the driveway, not in the garage where he normally kept it. Eva knew she was going to be in big trouble with her dad for coming home so late.

"We walked into the house, and I was trying to be quiet," Eva said. Classical music was playing from the stereo system, but there was no sign of her father. "You just got an eerie feeling when you walked into the house, and you knew something wasn't right."

Eva and her stepmother climbed the stairs. Debra saw Werner first. She then grabbed Eva and pulled her into the master bedroom and showed the 14-year-old her father's body.

Eva was horrified. She screamed and asked Debra to call for help. Eva wanted to stay with her father, but Debra insisted they leave. Debra didn't want to pick up the phone and await help. She wanted instead to drive to the police station. So she piled her stepdaughter into her car and drove to the Northbrook Police Department a mile away.

At the police station, Debra reported that her husband had committed suicide. The police ordered Debra and Eva to remain at the station while they dispatched officers to the house.

"This was a murder"

At 4:50 a.m., Northbrook Police Sergeant James Wilson arrived at the Hartmann residence, an old farmhouse Werner Hartmann had converted into a luxury home. A pair of concrete lions stood guard on the front lawn, two of four such lions Werner had given his wife as a birthday gift in honor of her astrological sign, Leo.

Sergeant Wilson entered through the kitchen door. Creeping through the dark house, a feeling of foreboding settled over the veteran police officer. "It was just very eerie," he recalls.

Upstairs in the master bedroom, Wilson found the body of Werner Hartmann, the stereo king of Chicago, lying face up and naked on the floor. He had been shot several times in the face and chest. Ten bullet casings lay scattered around Werner's body.

"The first thing that went through my mind was this was definitely not a suicide," Wilson said. "You could see from the number of gunshot wounds that this was a murder."

Werner Hartmann had five bullet wounds to his face alone: his left cheek, right eye, the edge of his mouth, the right side of his jaw, and one through his forehead. He had also been shot several times in the chest.

"You could see where someone stood over him and shot him while he was on the ground," Wilson describes. "There were wounds through the body and into the floor."

Crime scene investigators later pieced together what happened.

"The evidence at the murder scene showed that Werner Hartmann was shot fourteen times," said John Farrell, an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago. "There was one bullet wound right between Werner's eyes."

Aside from the bullets in the floor and the shell casings scattered around Werner's body, there was little else in the way of evidence in the house, nothing but a stack of unpaid bills. To investigators, the pile of delinquent account notices and the estranged wife suggested that Chicago's stereo king had been having financial and marital difficulties a sometimes lethal combination.

Detectives separated Debra and Eva and questioned them about where they had been that day, what they had done, and whom they had seen. The interviews lasted late into the morning.

During a break in the questioning, Debra Hartmann curled up on the floor of the detective office and went to sleep. To detectives, Mrs. Hartmann's behavior seemed strange, improbable for someone who'd just discovered her spouse, even an estranged spouse, shot dead in the family home.

"Within hours of finding her husband murdered, Debbie Hartmann was able to curl up and take a nap." Dominick Dunne said. "The police had never seen anything like it, and sleeping beauty quickly became their prime suspect."

The Stereo King

Werner Hartmann came to the United States from his native Germany in the early 1960s as a 19-year-old. He had little money but lots of ambition. He took whatever work he could find.

In 1964, while selling magazines door-to-door, Werner met a beautiful, raven-haired young waitress named Vasiliki. They dated, fell in love, and married the next year. The couple scraped by, even selling odds and ends, like cigarette lighters, at local flea markets to earn a living. Along the way Werner and Vasiliki had two daughters, Stephanie and Eva.

With a family to support, Werner realized he needed more money than he was earning selling magazines and trinkets. He also realized he had a gift for electronics.

In the 1970s, Werner started the Chicago Music Corporation, or CMC, a car audio store. Werner worked hard. The first few years he labored outdoors, installing stereos in customers' cars even in the midst of the freezing Chicago winters, because his first store didn't have a work bay. But the hard struggle paid off, and by 1977 the penniless German immigrant was an American success story, and a millionaire.

The King and the Floozy

Financial success didn't translate into domestic success for Werner Hartmann, though.

In 1977, Werner and Vasiliki divorced.

The following year, Werner was frequenting the seedy part of Chicago's west side. What he was looking for is anyone's guess. What he found was trouble, but years would pass before he realized just how much it was going to cost him.

"There was a whole strip of nightclubs with exotic dancers and thinly veiled whorehouses out on the western side of Chicago," recalls former Chicago Tribune reporter John Gorman.

One of the clubs was called The Smoker's Lounge. Werner, on the prowl, stepped into the club one night and met a stripper named Debra, a 24-year-old knockout who claimed to be a former model. Werner plunked down $75 and took Debra to the VIP room. Whatever happened there was obviously something that the 35-year-old stereo king wanted to continue.

Werner and Debra started dating. Soon they were married and Werner moved the new Mrs. Hartmann into the big house in Northbrook. Werner was in love and gave his new bride everything she asked for, including a Rolls Royce.

"He was in love with Debra, madly in love with her, and did everything he possibly could to try to please her," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Farrell. Not everyone in Werner's life was convinced that his feelings for his new wife were reciprocated.

The Material Girl

For Debra Hartmann, her marriage license must have seemed like a winning lottery ticket. Almost overnight she went from spending her evenings in a sleazy strip club to spending them in a luxury home in upscale suburbia.

Was she grateful? Not likely.

"Debra told everyone from the beginning, including Werner, it was for his money, his money only," Farrell said. "It was a marriage of convenience, and it would end when she decided it would end."

The stereo king did everything he could to buy his wife's love.

"Werner started spending a lot of money on her for fur coats, necklaces, diamonds, expensive cars, but he was paying for her favors much in the same way he did when he first met her," reporter John Gorman said.

Except now it was costing Werner Hartmann a lot more than $75 for a trip to the VIP room.

"She was probably the perfect material girl," said ATF Special Agent Jim Delorto. "She was a user, a professional user."

Even Werner's daughters could see through Debra.

Miss Showcase is what Eva Hartmann called her new stepmother. "Money was very important to Debbie," Eva said. "The way she acted, I knew she was never in love with my dad."


Werner Hartmann's stereos may have pumped out beautiful music, but, not long after it began, his marriage to Debra had already hit a sour note.

Just two years into the marriage, Werner called his ex-wife, Vasiliki, and confided to her that his replacement wife was spending all of his money, staying out all night supposedly with her girlfriends and using drugs.

Early one morning, after yet another night of partying, Debra came home wearing nothing but a long mink coat and high heels. Werner had had enough. They fought. He grabbed a gun, and she ran for the Rolls Royce. Werner fired shots at the car as Debra tore out of the driveway.

On another late-night outing, police spotted Debra's Rolls Royce barreling through downtown Chicago. She was hurling champagne glasses out the window. When the cops stopped Debra, they found a notorious Chicago drug dealer beside her and a gun under the seat.

In October 1981, the Hartmann marriage, already on life support, suffered its death-blow when Debra started dating a local tennis pro and part-time gun store clerk named John Korabik.

"Debbie was dating Korabik pretty openly," Gorman said. "He'd come into the store and they'd leave together."

For the hard-working Werner Hartmann, who stood a diminutive 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed just 130 pounds, seeing his wife carrying on right in front of his face with the young, 6-foot 3-inch Adonis was too much.

"My father was planning on divorcing Debra," Stephanie Hartmann recalled. "Debra knew it. I know that for sure. He told me."

Debra may have known the marriage was over, but she didn't let that affect her behavior in the least. She certainly hadn't been acting like a married woman.

Besides, she had a better plan than divorce.

The Setup

Christmas 1981 must have been a rough time for Werner Hartmann. His marriage was over, and his business was going badly. He still had his two daughters, though, and a chance to recover. He called someone he could trust, his ex-wife, Vasiliki, and asked for her help. Would she come back to work at the store and help him put his business the business they had built together back in order?

She said yes.

When Vasiliki came back to the office and examined the books, she was shocked. Werner and the business were nearly bankrupt.

"He wasn't the millionaire they portrayed him to be," she said. "He didn't own the Rolls Royce. He had no money."

In January 1982, Debra moved out of Werner's Northbrook house and in with her tennis pro boyfriend, into the house John Korabik shared with his father.

The new couple the ex-stripper and the tennis pro tried to paint Chicago red.

"They were carrying on and having a great time together," John Gorman said. "They would go out drinking, hit night spots. They were living the high life."

But how long could that last? Without her husband, Debra had no money, and Korabik didn't even have a real job.

Meanwhile, Werner Hartmann was trying to get his affairs in order. He had two life insurance policies, one for $150,000 with the Prudential Insurance Company, and a $100,000 policy with another company. Both listed Debra as beneficiary.

Werner called both of his insurance agents and asked them to make his daughters the beneficiaries of his two policies. He also purchased an additional policy from his Prudential agent, one with a $250,000 death benefit, also in his daughters' names.

A form soon came in the mail from Werner's other insurance company and he changed the beneficiary on that policy from Debra to Stephanie and Eva. But something got mixed up with the Prudential policies. The change-of-beneficiary form never arrived, and when the new policy came in the mail, it also listed Debra as the beneficiary.

Both Prudential policies had double indemnity coverage, meaning if Werner died from an accident or worse, the policy payout doubled. So if Werner died from other than natural causes, the beneficiary would get $800,000 tax free.

What Werner Hartmann didn't know was that the Prudential mix-up was no accident. He was being fattened up for the slaughter.

The Kill

When Werner discovered the mistake with his Prudential insurance coverage, he called his agent and again asked him to change the beneficiary on the policies. Agent Harvey Loochtan said he would take care of it. He promised to get the amended forms in the mail to Werner right away, but he never did.

Loochtan was playing his own game, and it involved Debra Hartmann.

Debra had started spending more time with Werner and her stepdaughters. She and Werner were even having civil discussions about the terms of their divorce, or so Werner thought. Then, during the first week of June 1982, Werner overheard part of a sinister telephone conversation between Debra and John Korabik.

"He told me that he overheard his wife and her boyfriend plotting to kill him," recalls Richard Colombik, Werner's tax attorney.

Werner told several friends that he suspected his wife was plotting to kill him. He even tried to hire a bodyguard, but he refused to report the threat to the police. He said he wanted to handle things himself.

On June 8, Werner left work shortly after 7:00 p.m. He told Vasiliki that he was meeting Debra at home to iron out the final details of their divorce. Debra got to the Northbrook house shortly after Werner, and they talked while he took a shower. Then she left.

At about the same time, Vasiliki was finishing for the day at the store, and she decided to take her daughter Eva out for dinner. They were surprised to find Debra waiting for them at Pinocchio's Pizza Pub. They asked her why she wasn't meeting Werner to finalize their divorce. Nonchalantly, Debra said she had just left Werner at home. He had been in the shower, and they had agreed to meet later that night.

After dinner, Debra suggested they all got out together for drinks and dancing. Vasiliki was surprised.

"She did not like me," Vasiliki said. "That we were together that night was very strange."

Strange or not, Vasiliki and Eva accompanied Debra out to several clubs for a night of drinking and dancing. The three of them stayed out until two or three o'clock in the morning. Vasiliki then returned to the store, where she'd been staying since coming back to work for Werner. Debra drove Eva home to Northbrook.

When they arrived at 4:30, they found Werner Hartmann's body.

The First Investigation

Police found no sign of a break-in at the Hartmann home. Other than the spent .45-caliber shell casings and Werner Hartmann's body, shot through with more than a dozen bullets, there was no sign of an intruder. So the investigators focused on Werner's family.

Uncovering motive unravels the mystery surrounding most killings. A murder happens for a reason, and if investigators can figure out why a person was killed, they can usually figure out who did the killing.

In the Hartmann case, detectives didn't have to look far. The person with the biggest motive for killing Werner Hartmann was lying on the floor of their office, asleep.

"When this thing first broke it made a huge splash," recalls former Chicago Tribune reporter John Gorman. "It was a front-page story. It was in a north suburb that doesn't have any murders; there was a millionaire involved; it was a big house: it had all the elements."

Investigators found out fairly quickly about Debra and her boyfriend, John Korabik. The insurance policies were also no secret. Debra started filing her claims almost as soon as her husband was in the ground, but insurance policies aren't proof of murder.

Weeks passed; nothing happened. The investigation stalled. Korabik moved into the big house in Northbrook.

Werner's daughters were frustrated. They had no doubts about who had been behind the murder of their father.

"It was so clear me, and to family, and to friends of my father," Stephanie Hartmann said. "It was just so clear to everybody that she was behind this. What was taking so long?"

But "knowing" who did it and proving who did it were two different things, and in the case of Werner Hartmann's murder they were far apart.

"The Northbrook Police Department simply could not put a case together as to who pulled the trigger," said prosecutor John Farrell.

Money, Money, Money

Although Debra had been quick to file insurance claims after her husband's murder, the two companies that had insured Werner Hartmann's life weren't paying, at least not until Debra Hartmann, the beneficiary of the three policies, which totaled $1 million because of the double-indemnity clauses, was cleared of any involvement.

Debra filed suit against both companies.

In the meantime, there was another shooting at the house where Werner had been murdered.

On Sept. 23, 1983, police again responded to the Hartmann residence. This time they found John Korabik shot in both thighs, but alive. Korabik told the cops that he'd shot himself by accident. Debra was home at the time of the shooting, but claimed she'd been in another part of the house when the shots were fired. The story seemed thin to the investigating officers, especially given that Korabik had worked in a gun store and was considered a firearms expert.

Soon after the shooting, Debra and Korabik broke up.

In January 1984, a year and a half after Werner's murder, Debra settled her suit with the insurance companies for at least $450,000, although some sources reported the settlement sum to be as high as $700,000. In any event, Debra now had a big chunk of cash, but she had been piling up debts and was forced to sell the Northbrook house. She moved into a much more modest single-story home, but soon hired a carpenter to add a second level, a cathedral ceiling, a skylight, and a grand spiral staircase. After completing much of the work, the carpenter walked off the job because Debra wouldn't pay him.

She also bought a Mercedes-Benz, complete with a personalized Illinois license plate that read Debra 2.

A Break in the Case

In 1985, ATF agents were investigating a suspected illegal gunrunner named Ken Kaenel. A small-time hood with a felony conviction on his record, Kaenel was trying to sell undercover ATF agents illegal guns and a stolen car. The agents were certainly interested in the guns, but not so much in the car. Stolen cars were outside of the agents' normal jurisdiction, but they had a buddy in the Illinois State Police who worked stolen cars, Trooper Dave Hamm.

During one of the undercover meetings, Kaenel bragged to two ATF agents that while he'd been firing a fully-automatic MAC-10 in his basement, the gun had become a "runaway," meaning even when Kaenel released the trigger the gun wouldn't stop firing.

"He lost control of a MAC-10, and it rose up on him and put a few slugs up in the ceiling," ATF Special Agent Jim Delorto said.

When Trooper Dave Hamm heard the recorded conversation with Kaenel, he remembered something about an unsolved Chicagoland murder that involved a MAC-10.

"It was an unusual gun," Hamm says. "You don't see too many of those out there."

Hamm also found out that Ken Kaenel lived with John Korabik, still a suspect in the Hartmann murder.

At the conclusion of the undercover operation, Agent Jim Delorto and Trooper Dave Hamm arrested Kaenel. On the drive to jail, Kaenel offered to rat on everyone he knew. He said he could get the lawmen stolen guns and hot cars if they would help get him out of his current criminal charges.

Hamm looked at Kaenel. "Kenny, that's not exactly what I had in mind."

"What do you want," Kaenel said.

"Tell me how Werner Hartmann died."

The small-time hood's mouth fell open. "How'd you put me with that?"

Kaenel's question answered Hamm's suspicions.

The ATF agents and the state trooper got a search warrant for the house Kaenel shared with John Korabik. In the basement ceiling they found .45-caliber slugs that matched the gun used to kill Werner Hartman nearly four years earlier.

Kaenel initially agreed to cooperate. He wore a wire and met with Debra at her new house, but the investigators sensed a double-cross and parked closer to Debra's house than Kaenel expected. Through a window, they saw Kaenel gesturing to Debra that he was wearing a wire and signaling for her not to say anything incriminating.

When pressed, Kaenel refused to wear a wire and meet with Korabik.

The new lead appeared to be just another dead end, but Delorto and Hamm weren't willing to give up.

"Once you get your juices flowing toward successfully solving a murder case, you want to stay with it," Hamm says. "It turned out to be our job to finish it up, and that's what we did."

Back to the Beginning

"Solving this puzzle would take some good old-fashioned detective work," Dominick Dunne says, "so investigators went back to the beginning and followed the only thing Debbie ever cared about the money."

ATF Special Agent Jim Delorto went to the Northfield Police Department to review the original murder investigation.

"You have to establish what the motive of the murder was," Delorto says.

In reviewing the case file, which comprised three boxes of reports, documents, photographs, and evidence, the ATF agent noticed something no one else had: Werner's signature on the most recent insurance policy was a fake. That led Delorto to a question no one else had asked: How had Werner Hartman paid for his second Prudential life insurance policy?

"I wanted to see what check he wrote, and when it was dated," Delorto says, "and there was none."

Delorto and Hamm checked John Korabik's financial records and discovered he had used his own credit card to make Werner Hartmann's $450 insurance premium payment.

Why, investigators drily wondered, would the cheating wife's boyfriend pay for the husband's life insurance policy? The ad hoc team looking into the four-year-old murder of the stereo king of Chicago thought they already knew the answer to that question.

"A picture started to emerge that this was basically an insurance fraud," Delorto says. An insurance fraud hinging on a murder.

"Double Indemnity"

The investigators next turned their attention to Werner's Prudential insurance agent, Harvey Loochtan, whom they suspected might have been involved in the plot.

Sure enough, telephone records showed a phone circle: Debra to Loochtan, Debra to Korabik, and Debra to Kaenel; then Kaenel to Korabik, and Korabik to Loochtan. Investigators uncovered an entire series of calls before and after Werner's murder.

The investigators decided to interview Harvey Loochtan. "We chose Harvey because he was the weakest personality in the group," Delorto explained. "He was a ball of mush. When it hit the fan, he gave it up."

According to Loochtan, Debra had learned that Werner intended to cut her out of his existing insurance policies and replace her with his daughters. He had also ordered a new $250,000 double-indemnity policy and was planning to name Eva and Stephanie as beneficiaries on that policy as well.

Not long after Debra learned about the policy changes, she showed up at Loochtan's office with $3,000 in cash and a determination to enlist the insurance agent's help.

"She, with some money along with some sexual favors, convinced him to change the beneficiary of the policy to her," John Farrell said.

Then Debra and her boyfriend, John Korabik, hatched the plot to kill her husband. They brought Ken Kaenel, who was living with them at Korabik's father's house, into the plan because he was a career criminal. According to Kaenel, they offered him $50,000 to kill Werner. Kaenel later claimed he refused the contract because the gun Korabik gave him to do the job with malfunctioned when Kaenel test-fired it in the basement of their house.

"In Billy Wilder's film Double Indemnity, a plotting wife takes up with a handsome insurance agent," Dominick Dunne explains. "Together, they cook up a scheme to kill her husband for a big payout. It seemed like Debbie Hartmann had taken a page right out of Raymond Chandler's script."


If Debra Hartmann took her plan to murder her husband from the pages of a movie script, then federal prosecutors took their plan to charge Debra and her fellow conspirators from the pages of history.

In the 1930s, Chicago crime kingpin Al Capone wasn't charged with murder, corruption, or trafficking in illegal booze; he was charged with, and convicted of, the much less sensational crime of income tax evasion.

The feds couldn't get Scarface Al for his most heinous crimes, but they could get him for his ancillary transgressions. And he went to prison for it.

Half a century later, the successors of those Prohibition-era federal prosecutors developed a similar plan for Werner Hartmann's killers.

In January 1989, a federal grand jury in Chicago charged Debra Hartmann, John Korabik, and Ken Kaenel with dozens of counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with their conspiracy to murder Werner Hartmann and divide the proceeds of his insurance policies. The three of them each faced up to 25 years in prison.

"Conspiracy to commit murder in this state is about 25 years," Delorto says, "and we were going to get at least that much time for the insurance fraud and the mail fraud."

Trooper Dave Hamm agreed with prosecution's plan.

"The net result would be they're convicted and go to the penitentiary," Hamm says.

One advantage prosecutors got from filing mail and wire fraud charges instead of a murder charge was that they wouldn't have to prove exactly who killed Werner, only that the three defendants used his murder to further their fraud scheme.

Prosecutors also had a star witness, Harvey Loochtan, who had agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and testify for the government.

On the first day of the trial, Debra strode into court all smiles, confident, wearing a long mink coat, a pink sweater, a short skirt, and high heels. She looked exactly like what she was an ex-stripper.

The trial lasted three weeks. The jury deliberated just three hours.

The verdict for all three was guilty.

Even after the jury read its verdict, though, Debra Hartmann continued to smile, evidently hopeful of a light sentence.

But the sentences were anything but light.

The judge handed Debra Hartmann 22 years in prison, Ken Kaenel got 20 years, and John Korabik was sentenced to 16 years.

ATF Agent Jim Delorto, who, along with Dave Hamm, worked so hard on the case for so long, was happy with the result.

"To do it the right way and make them pay for that crime, it was very rewarding," he says.

In Werner Hartmann's case, as in that 1944 movie, justice could be delayed but not denied.

"At the end of Double Indemnity, the lovers' perfect murder plot unravels, and they get their just desserts," Dominick Dunne says. "I guess Debbie Hartmann never saw the movie through to the end."



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