In Defense of Christina Korbe: Editorial Writing

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When writing an editorial, a journalist chooses a stand-point on a particular issue and argues for their point with respect and consideration for the opposing viewpoint.

In the case of Christina Korbe, I have found very little news coverage or editorial writing that favored her.  Almost every pieve of news I have read about Korbe puts her in the negative spotlight.  It is the duty, as journalists, to write from every angle, every side, of the story.  In Korbe's case, I have only read one angle--repetatively.  And it's bad. 

In order to redeem all the newswriters out there, I present the other side of the story.  Christina Korbe's side of the story. You may agree.  You may disagree.  But, as a citizen of the United States, Korbe deserves at least one editorial in her favor.  It's her right.  It's a journalist's duty.


Here is a case where I would have written an editorial coming to the defense of Christina Korbe.  I will present clips from newspaper articles as well as my own commentary/summary:

Following the fatal shooting of FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks (Nov. 19, 2008), many were ready to throw Christina Korbe into prison for life, or better yet, end her life with a lethal injection.  She was the woman who pulled the trigger, ending Hicks's life. 

In the year since Hicks's death, Korbe was tried for his murder.  She did not receive the death penalty.  Her case is still pending.

The incident occured when Sam Hicks entered the Korbe residence in the early morning (while it was still dark) to serve a warrant to Robert Korbe on drug charges. 

Hicks "led a team of agents in breaking down the front door and charging into the home" when he "was shot by the drug suspect's wife, who told police she thought he was an intruder, authorities said" (Woman charged, jailed).


The following is from "Woman charged in agent's death jailed" found in the Tribune Review the day after the incident (Nov. 20, 2008):

According to the criminal complaint:

Korbe and his wife were in bed when officers surrounded the house on Woods Run Road, knocked on the door at 6:03 a.m. and announced themselves as police officers with a warrant for Robert Korbe's arrest.

The bearded Hicks watched through a door window as Robert Korbe ran through the house. Hicks ordered other officers to break down the door.

The officers, repeatedly announcing themselves as police, rammed the door a number of times before it broke. Hicks was the first one inside.

Other officers saw him make a quick left turn as he entered and then heard a single gunshot. Hicks shouted, "I'm hit!" and fell to the ground.

He was dragged outside by other officers, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived.

Christina Korbe called 911 at 6:05 a.m. and told emergency dispatchers that she believed her home was being burglarized and that she shot an intruder with a .38-caliber handgun. She was still on the phone when officers ran upstairs and took her into custody.

She told police that after her husband ran downstairs, she grabbed a gun from the bedroom closet, stood at the top of the staircase, reached around the corner and fired a single shot down the stairs. She said she did not know that those who broke down the door were police officers.

Robert Korbe said when the front door window was broken, he knew it was the police, so he ran into the basement to retrieve cocaine from a file cabinet and flush it down the washtub. He ran out the back door, where he was arrested."


In all the reports surrounding this case, no one took the side of Christina Korbe.  For the sake of seeing this issue from every angle I will try to argue that she was unjustly punished.  If I were writing an editorial piece on this case from her stand-point, I would write something like this: 

Imagine it's a cold November night, perfect for sleeping.  You're curled up in your bed, safe and sound with your children sleeping softly in the next room.  At 6:30 in the morning, before the sun has even peaked it's rays above the horizon, your front door is smashed in and you are wrenched from your sleep.  You look for your husband in the bed next to you so he can go find out what's happening.  He isn't there.  Your heart is pounding.  Someone is breaking into your home and you can't find your husband.  

You know there is a shot gun kept in your room.  It was put there in case something like this would happen, but you never truly thought it would.  You grab the gun and creep to the head of the stairs.

As you peer down, you see a figure in the darkness climbing the stairs.  The door to your children's bedroom is at the head of the stairs and you panic.  My babies!  You have to stop this intruder.  You have no other choice.  Your chidlren are in danger.  You fire the gun.

Now you may say, "Big deal.  Jeanine is exagerating here to make a point.  What a bad editorial writer she is, slanting views and all."  But isn't that what most editorial pieces do?  Don't they usually slant the view to either favor or degrade the subject?   

I will also reply with this:

From "'Take care of my babies,' suspect pleads":

But she said her sister "Chrissie," the youngest of six children, was concerned about safety in her home because someone broke in several months ago while the family vacationed in Florida. Township police could not be reached to verify that a break-in occurred.

"They stole a motorcycle. And (the Korbes) thought people had been stealing firewood from the backyard for a while," Wakmunski said.


You don't think I have some case here in defense of Christina Korbe?  She was concerned about her family from the start because there home had been burglarized before.  She kept a gun in her home (for which she received child endangerment charges)* to protect her family in case the intruders came again.  When Hicks knocked down the door early in the morning, what was she supposed to think? 

What would YOU have done?

Christina Korbe was protecting her children from what she thought was an intruder.  She did not kill Hicks in cold blood.  She does not deserve life in prison.

* I have received alot of hate mail telling me that the break-ins at the Korbe home was staged by Robert Korbe so he could falsely claim the theft on his insurance (insurance fruad).  I never heard anything about that in this case.  If you have a link to a news article where I can read it for myself, I will entertain the notion and comment here.



Here is an article I found supporting Korbe.  It's by Jerome L. Sherman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  The Fatal Shot: Was Christina Korbe Protecting Her Two Children?


Most recent news about the case: Federal "Taint Team" Oversees Admisibility of Evidence in Korbe Case (March 30, 2010)


For more reader comments on this blog, 

follow these links to blogs that have quoted me:  

Mike302000- In Defense of Christina Korbe 

The Accurate Reloading Political Crater 


This blog was originally written for Dr. Jerz's News Writing class at Seton Hill Univeristy.

Copyright 2009. Jeanine M O'Neal 


dfajslk said:

"In the year since Hicks's death, Korbe was tried for his murder. She did not receive the death penalty. Her case is still pending."

She has not been tried yet. Get facts straight first. She is presumed innocent.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

According to most news sources, she has been tried and is serving a life sentence in prison. Because I am not part of that case I have no idea whether the information I recieved is faulty. If it is, it is. But don't come attacking me because of it. Blame news reporters!

acaringmom said:

It's a classic case of the Shaler Hillbillies turn to cokehead murderers. Simple as that.

BTW, I do not snuggle next to my cokehead husband on a cold winter's night with video cameras throughout my house, a solid steal door and a gun in my bedroom drawer. You know why? Because I DON'T HAVE ANY REASON TO!

Jeanine O'Neal said:

To acaringmom:

Um... wow. Did I ever say you do those things? No. Did I ever say Christina Korbe did those things? No. I really don't understand your rage. Perhaps if you expressed it better I could talk to you about this.

acaringmom said:

To further add, I believe they hired someone to rob their home (while on vacation) to collect insurance. They might have forgotten being in a coke fog and all.

Did you hear the prison tapes? That is HER and if anyone says that she's scared, it's BS. That is her personality and she is where she belongs.

The kids need a better caregiver who will be there for them and can teach them some morals and values.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

I do not know if she was a coke addict. I don't even know if her husband was. All that I (and the public) knows is that he was involved in some sort of drug ring. So, I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions about whether or not she is a drug addict.

Even if she was doped up (while sleeping I highly doubt it), someone barged into her home with a gun. I know if I was jolted from my sleep and heard someone breakign into my house, I'd grab my gun too.

acaringmom said:

My rage comes from being a mom and not understanding how someone could put their children in such danger.

My rage also comes from someone who would defend such trash.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Okay, your first point is well taken.

Your second point however: I didn't ask you to read my blog that I wrote for class.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

I must note though, just because she might have been a bad parent for putting her kids in a dangerous situation does not mean she should be tried for murder.

PghGirl said:

I don't understand the point of defending this woman's choices. Loaded guns aren't child-safe, nor was the mirror with coke on it on top of her dresser. You can't have it both ways & say she was only trying to protect her kids even though she "may" have been a bad mother. You can't refuse to protect children in their own home from your own bad habits but justify murdering someone else in defense of your family.

In addition, she & her husband were woken up in their beds by the police. Her husband hollered out to her that he was flushing the stash AFTER he had already spent a significant amount of time speaking to the officers through the door. Neighbors acknowledge that he was screaming at them through the door & the police were screaming back (or using a bullhorn or some such, I don't recall).

It defies logic that she could have slept through all of that & never heard the countless announcements of law enforcement PLUS didn't hear anything her husband yelled to her or to the cops. And the so-called fear of intruders protecting my family stuff was total bull because they arranged for a friend to "rob" them while they were on vacation to illegally collect insurance money.

I have a friend who lives nearby & heard much of what happened that morning. But aside from the information about the yelling (provided by my friend), everything else is public record & can be verified in multiple news sources.

If this is satire, great job but otherwise, why encourage needless violence? We have enough problems in the world without people championing crime & making excuses that blame everything except the person who did wrong.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Wow. I like what you wrote PsychGirl. If you could get me some links to this information I'd gladly appreciate it. If what you say is true (and we weren't there so we can only speculate that this is truly what happened) then it changes my view point on this whole matter. Thanks for commenting. You've enlightened me.

PghGirl said:

Hi Jeanine. Thanks for your response. I'm writing a book about crime & have followed this story closely since it's local. Most of what I referenced came from the Post-Gazette & Trib, although this was a national story so I have used other sources. I have my bookmarks on another computer but will come back & post some of the links very soon.

Also, if you do a search on the PG site, you'll also find some interesting letters to the editor from Korbe's family members (not sure if they wrote to the Trib too but I'll check my notes). Great example of an editorial, though, even if we don't necessarily agree on everything.

Julie said:

You are sadly misled on your "editorial." You know nothing of this family. They are a local crime family who are drug lords / pushers / sellers involved in a very violent drug ring. That is the lifestyle that Mrs. Korbe CHOSE to place her innocent two children in to. A lifestyle of drug money, violence and God knows what else. You know NOTHING of this family or what they were capable of. The husband was a convicted drug seller,leading a very violent drug gang who brutally beat innocent people for looking at him sideways. You know NOTHING of this family. You shamefully write defending a woman who KNOWINGLY clothed her children, fed her children with DRUG MONEY. HOUSED her children with drugs kept right under the very home they "innocently" slept in their warm,snug beds. Don't paint this woman as a victim. Because she is not. She CHOSE to bring children in to this world, in a world and home filled with drugs. In to a home where money was accumulated at the expense of other people. God knows how many people died of drug overdoses because of the drugs her family sold. So, when the FBI comes a-knocking on your door in the wee hours of the morning, there is a dam good reason. Furthermore, the man that was MURDERED was a kind, loving father. He is the VICTIM. His WIFE IS THE VICTIM. His innocent son, who slept in a DRUG FREE home, who will grow up without a father: he is the victim here. And yes, Christina Korbe's two little girls are the victimes. But the real difference is : she CHOSE for them to be victims the moment she WELCOMED them in to a life of drugs.

Anonymous said:

You asked for evidence.

Mrs. Korbe's Jailhouse Tapes, online

Look at the PA Courts website portal and you will find the following in regard to Mrs. Korbe's husband:

CP-02-CR-0016693-1991 Aggravated Assault, Reckless Endangering.

CP-02-CR-0014251-1995 Possession Controlled Substance, Aggravated Assault, Reckless Endangering.

CP-02-CR-0014605-1995 Resisting Arrest, Disorderly Conduct, Aggravated Assault, Reckless Endangerment.

CP-02-CR-0012403-2008 Possession Controlled Substance, Aggravated Assault, Reckless Endangering.

Insurance Fraud-the"supposed break-in":
The following information was released by the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania:

United States Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan announced today, February 12, 2009, that two Allegheny County men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on charges of mail fraud in relation to the submission of insurance claims to the Liberty Mutual insurance company.

The two-count indictment named Ronald Burkarth, age 50, and Robert R. Korbe, age 39, as the defendants.

According to the indictment, in August of 2008, Korbe was insured by Liberty Mutual in a homeowner's insurance policy and a motorcycle insurance policy. The indictment further alleges that, on August 26, 2008, Korbe contacted local police and Liberty Mutual to report that a burglary had occurred at his residence while he and his family were away on vacation, and that his motorcycle and various other personal items had been stolen in the burglary. The indictment also alleges that the insurance claim was fraudulent, in that Korbe and Burkarth agreed that Burkarth would take the motorcycle from Korbe's residence while Korbe was away on vacation so that Korbe could report it stolen to Liberty Mutual after Korbe returned home. As a result of Korbe's insurance claim, Liberty Mutual paid Korbe approximately $29,000.

Jeanine O'Neal said:


Thank you for the evidence websites. I'll look at those soon.


I understand your anger. But, when you want to write an argument to me based on what I know, make sure you know the facts too. Otherwise, your argument is just as ill-founded as mine. :-)

Benjamin Hicks said:

With all due respect, I do not see your point at all! I think that you are blinded by your own sense of justice and lack common sense. It is funny how others can comment on something so unrelated to their own lives.
And, you should really not talk about things that you do not understand . . . at all! I am not angry with you, but after seeing your posts, I could not help but feel how unfocused you are in trying to defend this woman. A very true maxim that I have come to believe is that: we all get what we deserve. If you wish to waste your time writing about things you have no involvement or understanding about, then by all means. Its your right. And please do not fool yourself with your your own rhetoric: You make the call: This is what I offer. Take what you may...

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Mr. Hicks,

I'm sorry if I've offended you (or anyone else) in any way by writing this blog post. I was taking a Newswriting class at my college and we were learning about editorial writing and how one of its purposes is to show the enitre story from all perspectives. Since the perspective if the citizens of Pennsylvania (which is for Sam Hicks and against Christina Korbe) was already done by the media, I chose to show a perspective that had not been shown.

I don't agree with what I wrote, that Korbe is innocent. But that's the burden of trying to show every angle possible. You say I'm blinded by my sense of justice, and perhaps to those who believe in "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" my idea of justice is warped. But I believe in the kind of justice that shows every angle of an issue, no matter how much of a "scum bag" the culprit might be.

Also, my caption "This is what I offer...etc." is in no way related to this article. In fact, I've been trying to change it but this blogging program is being difficult.

Finally, I would just like to apologize for having offended you. That wasn't my intention when I innocently (and naively) posted this blog. And for your own piece of mind, I don't support Korbe. My prays go out to Sam Hicks and his family.

Jeanine O'Neal

As Jeanine's journalism professor, I'm impressed that she is continuing to address the issues raised by her editorial, long after the course has ended and her grade has been posted. Law students do mock trials, and pilots fly simulated airplanes, and athletes play scrimmages, in contexts that are much more private than the work that professional lawyers, pilots, and athletes do. But students who learn about journalism do student journalism, and student bloggers post on real blogs, where their work can be found, and critiqued, by people in the real world.

Jeanine could have chosen to complain about the cafeteria food or some petty university rule, but instead she took a risky stance in order to test her writing skill. Since the Korbe case is still pending, Jeanine was demonstrating an understanding of "innocent until proven guilty," and I emphasized the very real risk that a guilty person might have a conviction overturned if a reporter biased the jury pool by writing, during the trial process, as if a defendant had already been proven guilty.

Yes, part of the lesson she learned is that if you pick a risky topic, and you choose to write about it on your blog, then chances are you'll hear from people who disagree.

Jeanine could have chosen not to post the critical comments, and she could have chosen to delete the whole blog entry. I'm proud of her for continuing to respond on this thread.

Jim Woo said:

Article on Korbe's insurance fraud----you are truly a dumbass

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Mr. Woo,

The article you posted said that Mr. Korbe was charged with fraud. It said nothing about Christina Korbe being charged. If you are going to call me a dumbass get your head out of yours and give me some relevant evidence.

Have a splendid day :-)

Benjamin Hicks said:

Ms. o'Neal,
Thank you for your apology! I also apologize for maybe being a little judgmental towards you before I knew all the facts. I actually realized after I reviewed your blog, I had more of a sense of what was going on. I do understand the purpose of showing both sides, but in this case, it hits a little too close to home. Yes, those people are "scum bags". I say this not because Sam Hicks is my brother, but he was one of the most talented and decent people I have ever known. To be honest, I really do not care about the Korbe's, or even what happens to them. They chose their lives and left there negative mark on this world. And, you did not offend me. I was really just curious as to the perspective of someone who could find innocence in the Korbe's. Anyway, thanks for caring and writing me back. Take care and good luck with Journalism.

Best regards,

Benjamin Hicks

George Waksmunski said:

Thanks for the editorial. It was more accurate than almost anything other than the WTAE news video "Inside the Korbe Home". Check that out. The blood thirsty responses are uninformed and ignorant. Chrissy has a pristine criminal record. Nothing in over 20 years. She is not a murderer. The raid lasted for a total of 3 minutes from knock to shot to 911 call. Bob did not yell anything to chrissy. She was on the second floor he was on the first running to the basement away from her. I have the affadavits. There is no testimony anywhere that bob yelled to her. He was to busy running away from her and down the steps to the basement. Bob himself on the television news that day said "they shot there own man. None of us that day ever thought it was chrissy. She isnt capable of murder. He was going to court the next day. Why raid the place. I am part of Chrissys family. They were not violent. Bob is capable of violence but I never seem him start trouble. It was dark and law enforcement did not follow protocol. Now we have county officers being fired for lying under oath in this case. Im not saying they didnt yell police at some point but for how long and when. The key is did chrissy hear it. With glass breaking, her yelling out, consciousness returning , chaos and confusion- what did she hear. . Nothing because she would not have shot anyone she identified as police. 3 minutes at 6 am. you gotta be kidding me. As far as the tapes. She was tortured and terorized in police custody. They are irrelevant and biased. We all get angry when we are fighting for our life and the government is executing a bloodthirsty witchhunt of revenge.

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