David Kluttz, 38, pleaded guilty last week to the Dec. 7 abduction of an Alexandria lawyer who was seized from his home and taken to a freshly dug grave on the west side of town. Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel presented the case to Judge Circuit Court Judge J. Howe Brown, who accepted the plea agreement and set a sentencing date of Aug. 23. Kluttz could receive a maximum of life in prison plus 44 years.
Kluttz pleaded guilty to a seven-count indictment. The commonwealth dropped five counts and agreed not to pursue additional counts on this matter in the future. Judge Brown said he will take into consideration Kluttz's documented mental problems and lack of prior criminal record.
"It's my decision," Kluttz told the judge.
The commonwealth's case against Kluttz portrayed the 38-year-old man as the mastermind of a bizarre kidnapping plot, a conspiracy that involved three men who entered the lawyer's house posing as federal agents. They drove a Volkswagen SUV with strobe lights and a United States government license tag. According to court documents, the vehicle was registered to Kluttz with a North Carolina address.
The evidence presented in court last week portrayed Kluttz as the ringleader of a protracted effort to defraud an elderly woman. Kluttz's efforts were complicated when the Alexandria Circuit Court appointed Kenneth Labowitz to represent the woman Ñ and growing legal tension between Kluttz and Labowitz spilled over into violence.
ELOISE O'CONNOR was an elderly woman who lived in a condominium at Watergate at Landmark. Kluttz was her neighbor at the complex, and he often stopped by to talk to O'Connor and her 75-year-old nephew, Frederick Baruday. O'Connor and Baruday asked Kluttz to remodel the condominium's out-of-date kitchen, and he installed a new kitchen counter and a new floor. He made other repairs to the house with the agreement that when the house was sold, he would share in profiting from the growing value of the condo.
But that's not what happened.
Instead, an Alexandria court declared the elderly woman was incompetent to manage her money, stocks and estate Ñ a net worth of $1 million. Kluttz was furious that his remodeling work at the Watergate might go unrewarded, so he tried to obtain the deed to the condo. He also changed O'Connor's will to give him possession of the condo after Baruday's death. Protective Services noticed several unusual bank statements Ñ typical signs that an elderly person is being defrauded Ñ and reported their suspicions to the Alexandria Police Department.
On Jan. 13, 2004, Kenneth Labowitz was appointed by the court to serve as a legal guardian to O'Connor. He sought a declaratory judgment from the circuit court to void the fraudulent will and quiet the title to her condominium.
But the hearing never happened.
Kluttz was furious that his plan to inherit O'Connor's property had been thwarted, so he contacted an Alexandria real-estate agent to try to sell the condominium. He intended to make the sale before the court date, but legal wrangling over the O'Connor estate prevented a quick sale.
That's when Kluttz conceived of his kidnapping scheme. Records indicate that during October and November, he purchased several weapons from Potomac Arms. He also collected the kind of equipment that would be necessary to impersonate a federal officer: physical restraints, law-enforcement badges, body armor, ammunition, guns, communications devices and military-style clothes.
He enlisted a team to execute the plan, including Baruday and Aubrey "Mike" Berryman, a 26-year-old Fairfax man who pleaded guilty last month to similar charges. Baruday has a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 18.
KLUTTZ'S PLANS unfolded at 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 7, as Labowitz and his wife were asleep at their home on Argyle Drive. Baruday, Berryman and Kluttz arrived at the house in a Volkswagon SUV with its strobe lights flashing Ñ the vehicle's federal license plate gave the operation an air of authenticity.
The men knocked loudly on the door. Patti Rounsevell, Labowitz's wife, answered the door Ñ and she was confronted by three masked men bearing arms.
"We are federal agents and have the right to come in and search the house," one of the men told Rounsevell according to court records.
The three men then forced their way into the house and demanded to see Labowitz. Each was armed with a newly purchased handgun. Kluttz carried a rifle with a drum magazine. The men told Labowitz that he was under arrest for bribing a federal agent with $75,000. He was then placed in handcuffs. Although the men were masked, he recognized one of the voices.
"It's Kluttz," Labowitz told his wife, according to testimony taken at the preliminary hearing. He then turned to the masked man. "Mr. Kluttz, you are making a mistake."
Rounsevell tried to stop the men from abducting her husband but she was subdued by Berryman, who shocked her with an electronic stun gun. After she had become incapacitated, Baruday, Berryman and Kluttz forced Labowitz into the SUV and sped away.
KLUTTZ DROVE erratically as red and blue lights flashed across the dashboard. He sped down Quaker Lane, then onto Shirlington Circle toward Interstate 95. After several minutes, they arrived at the Watergate condominiums. He parked the SUV in the garage Ñ where Alexandria police would later confiscate the vehicle.
The men took off their masks and forced Labowitz toward a wooded area near the garage. Fearing for his life. Labowitz resisted. He broke free and tried to escape. He ran several feet but tripped, injuring his shoulder. The men led him toward the wooded area.
"David said he wanted to show me what he had prepared for me," Labowitz testified to the grand jury. "It was my grave."
Kluttz repeatedly struck Labowitz with a flashlight, and Berryman shocked him 10 to 12 times with the Taser.
"You kill him," Kluttz reportedly told Baruday. "I don't want to kill a Jew."
Unable to open the holster that held a Glock 27, Baruday unsheathed a knife and came after Labowitz. He swung the knife several times, but Labowitz managed to fend away the attacks with his feet. While Baruday was being repeatedly kicked by Labowitz, Berryman fled the scene.
Kluttz then held his handgun to Labowitz's face and told him to drop the O'Connor case, which was scheduled for a hearing the next day.
"I know where you live and I know where your family lives," Kluttz told Labowitz. "I can come kill you anytime."
"Take the handcuffs off," Labowitz demanded.
"Drop the lawsuit," Kluttz responded.
Labowitz agreed to drop the case and again asked that his handcuffs be removed. Kluttz was in the process of removing the handcuffs when police sirens began wailing in the distance.
Kluttz fled, but Baruday continued to attack Labowitz with a knife. Alexandria Police officers, who had been summoned by neighbors who had seen the events from a nearby balcony, arrested Baruday and summoned a helicopter to transport Labowitz to the hospital.
Klutzz was arrested in his Watergate condominium early the next morning, where police were waiting for him.