On April 7, the 14th Court of Appeals just might have brought closure to one of the longest-running and ugliest land disputes in modern Texas history. The case of Theresa Elizabeth Trojacek and Ronald David Ludwig vs. the Estate of Magnolia Kveton features bigamy, a May-December romance, greed, spousal abuse, simple murder, and child-killing.
The sad tale begins in 1979, when Ludwig, then a 24-year-old Katy veterinarian, met Kveton, who was described in a court document as then "almost ninety years old." The handsome young vet was willing to look past her age. He saw the fragrantly-named Magnolia Kveton for what she was really worth: Namely, 333 acres of prime, rolling, bluebonnet-strewn hills straddling the Austin-Colorado County line.
A romance developed, and Ludwig promised to marry Magnolia. Their engagement lasted quite some time. Undaunted by Ludwig's reluctance to tie the knot, Kveton started deeding over her land to him parcel by parcel in the form of six deeds executed over the next nine years.
There was one small problem. In 1984, Ludwig married Theresa Trojacek, a fellow veterinarian much closer to his own age. Their marriage would be stable until 1988, when Ludwig allegedly became obsessed with the idea that other members of Trojacek's family would be inheriting the family's 80-acre family farm in Ennis, just south of Dallas. Trojacek would later tell a courtroom that Ludwig broached the subject out of the "clear blue sky," and cursed her and berated her for not fighting harder for a piece of it.
These arguments continued and escalated over the next few months, culminating in one episode in which Ludwig was alleged to have choked and spit in the face of Trojacek. Not long after that, Trojacek sued Ludwig for divorce in Harris County. In those proceedings, Trojacek decided that she was entitled to half of Magnolia's land as part of the community property she had accumulated with Ludwig. And so news of her fiance's pre-existing marriage was broken to poor old Magnolia, who demanded that the deeds be rescinded to her.
Ludwig declined to do so, at which point Kveton, as a court document puts it, "intervened in the divorce proceeding." She accused both Ludwig and Trojacek of fraud and breach of fiduciary duties and requested that the land be returned to her. And then she died, no doubt just a little too late for Ludwig's taste. He would never get to be the country squire he so longed to be at this rate...
Kveton's estate continued the intervention in the Ludwig-Trojacek divorce, and a Harris County district court ordered that the Kveton intervention be severed from the main body of the divorce case.
Which, by the way, was not developing to Ludwig's liking, especially not the testimony of Trojacek's brother 31-year-old brother Joseph, a businessman who lived in Ennis. Neither did he care for what Joseph had to say during the couple's subsequent custody battle. On the day he was alleged to have choked and spit on his wife, he also told her that he would "take out" her brother and his five-year-old son. And on June 14 1990, after stalking them over a period of months, he did just that, blasting the boy and his father with a shotgun as they sat together watching TV on the sofa in their living room.
Steve "Rocket" Rosen hired on as Ludwig's attorney and won a mistrial the first time around, despite the fact that Ludwig had told an acquaintance words to the effect that shotguns were ideal murder weapons, shells that matched those used in the murders were found in his Katy office, and his shoulder was bruised in a manner that matched someone who had just fired a shotgun.
Ludwig wasn't as fortunate after the venue was changed from Waxahachie to Corsicana. In 1991, the violent vet was sentenced to life in prison.
Meanwhile, the Kveton land just sat there, apparently owned by Joseph's widow Katherine "Kitty" Trojacek. In 1993, she won a $50,000,000-plus civil judgment against Ludwig, and, as the court puts it, "acquired whatever interest Ludwig had in the 333 acres" as part of this settlement.
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And so it sat until 2007, when Kitty tried to sell some of this land. An Austin title company discovered that the Kveton estate had a lis pendens ("suit pending") notice dated 1992. Theresa Trojacek, not Kitty, requested that the estate terminate the notice. When the estate refused to do so, Theresa - who had admitted that she held no title to the land - threatened to sue, apparently on her sister's behalf.
In March of 2007, the Kveton estate asked that the Harris County divorce intervention be moved to Austin County and consolidated with the Estate's probate proceeding. These requests were granted, and Trojacek followed through on her threat to sue.
At the ensuing bench trial in the Austin County seat of Bellville, Trojacek's complex arguments were rejected because the court ruled that she quite simply had no legal standing to make any of them. The court also ruled that Ludwig had breached his fiduciary duties to Magnolia Kveton and restored the 333 acres to her estate. Each of those rulings was affirmed in the Houston court.
Which just might bring these sad matters to a close. Unless, of course, Kitty Trojacek decides to sue on her own behalf.