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Half-century-younger husband's murder trial starts

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 9:24 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — A German man who masqueraded as an Army general was accused by a prosecutor at his murder trial on Tuesday of choking his elderly wife to death, searching online for escape plans and claiming to be entitled to part of the socialite's estate even though she had disinherited him.

Albrecht Muth's lawyer said during opening statements that his client is innocent and that prosecutors have no evidence linking him to the death of the 91-year-old victim.

Charged with first-degree murder, Muth could face life in prison if convicted.

“Albrecht Muth didn't kill his wife. The government has their theory, but that's all it is — a theory,” attorney Craig Hickein said. “And they can't prove that he did it because he didn't.”

Muth, 49, is standing trial 2 12 years after Viola Drath, a German journalist and playwright, was found strangled and fatally beaten in the couple's row home in Washington's posh Georgetown neighborhood.

The death brought an end to a marriage marred by Muth's angry outbursts, occasional acts of violence and side relationships he had with other men, prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said.

Muth pleaded guilty to assaulting Drath in 1992, and she called her grandson in 2006 to report that he had attacked her and dumped a bowl of soup on her head during a fight, Kirschner said.

“This murder was a very long time coming,” he told jurors in D.C. Superior Court.

The unusual relationship — the couple wed in 1990 — united a socialite well-known in diplomatic and political circles with a fellow expatriate nearly half a century younger.

Muth latched onto Drath's social connections, inventing various personas for himself — including false claims of being a brigadier general in the Iraqi army. He was known to stroll the neighborhood in a purchased military-style uniform. Drath's daughter, Fran Drath, testified that Muth, curiously, was wearing an eye patch when she met him.

Those eccentricities continued even after Muth's arrest. His self-imposed bouts of starvation for what he says are religious reasons have resulted in long hospital stays and his absence from the trial. He fought unsuccessfully to wear a military-style uniform to court and to subpoena former CIA Director David Petraeus as a potential witness.

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