Retired Navy pilot tries to kill wife, ends up paralyzed and in prison

Henry Herbig

There was no mistaking what retired Navy Captain Henry Herbig IV planned to do to his estranged wife and stepdaughter once he arrived at their house in September 2019.

His gruesome plans were laid out in extensive notes he left in his car before heading in disguise to the stepdaughter’s Virginia Beach house and viciously attacking the two women, according to a court document.

Henry Herbig Pool/WAVY-TV

But Herbig never got a chance to fully carry out his plan of murdering them both, dumping their bodies, and using chemicals to help speed up the decomposition process.

The then 65-year-old man was shot once in the back by his stepdaughter while he was attacking her mother with a wrench. The bullet struck Herbig’s spinal column, leaving him paralyzed below the waist.

On Monday, a sheriff’s deputy wheeled Herbig into Virginia Beach Circuit Court on a gurney, his head elevated at one end, and parked him next to the defense table. Though covered in a blanket, he appeared much thinner than at the time of his arrest, and spoke in a barely audible voice.

Herbig pleaded guilty to three charges: armed burglary with intent to commit murder, aggravated malicious wounding and malicious wounding.

Circuit Judge Les Lilley then sentenced him to 15 years, which was the term prosecutors agreed to in exchange for his pleas. State sentencing guidelines had suggested he serve between seven to 16 years in prison.

“Obviously, judge, we took into consideration his present condition, which was a direct result of his actions that night,” Prosecutor Paul Powers told Lilley. “The victims are in full support of the agreement.”

Both women were in the courtroom for the plea and sentencing, but declined to comment afterward.

Herbig, now 66 and a former Navy pilot, has been held without bond in the city jail since his arrest. He said nothing during Monday’s court hearing other than “yes” in response to the judge’s questions.

Herbig’s wife had filed for divorce a few months before the incident, according to a stipulation of facts entered into evidence. She left their home in Pace, Florida, and moved in with her daughter in the Dam Neck area of Virginia Beach.

The night of the assault, the two women were watching television when the stepdaughter went to let her dog out into the backyard, according to the stipulation.

Herbig, who had driven to the house from his home in Florida, was waiting by the door, dressed in all black and wearing a mask.

He rushed in when his stepdaughter opened the door and struck her in the head, causing her to fall to the floor and lose consciousness. He chased after his wife and began striking her on the head and face as she tried to defend herself.

The stepdaughter awoke to her mother’s screams, got her gun and fired once. She was preparing to shoot again when Herbig spoke for the first time and the women recognized his voice, the stipulation said.

When police and paramedics arrived, they found Herbig lying in a hallway with a long, metal wrench and a wood baton next to him. Photographs from the scene also showed a wig and fake beard lying on the bloody floor. A loaded handgun was found in a pocket of his tactical pants, and a series of looped zip ties hung from a belt loop.

The stepdaughter suffered a gash to her head that required staples to close. Herbig’s wife was hospitalized for several days with significant facial injuries. Her hand was broken and her arm was fractured in two places. She needed multiple surgeries and suffers from vertigo, the stipulation said.

Detectives searched Herbig’s car, which was parked in front of a house next to the stepdaughter’s, and found extensive notes detailing his plans, the stipulation said.

The notes mapped out his route, including specifics such as avoiding toll roads, stopping at “Mom and Pop” hotels that wouldn’t keep extensive records, and using cash instead of credit cards to avoid leaving a trail.

They also outlined what supplies he would need, and detailed step-by-step how he would abduct and murder the women. He also wrote how he planned to dispose of their bodies in the city’s Pungo area and use chemicals to aid in their decomposition.

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