Half-century-younger husband's murder trial starts
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 21⁄2 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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Murder charges dropped against sergeant who shot 2 unarmed Iraqi boys
- First Ebola case in U.S. confirmed in Dallas
- Dallas hospital confirms 1st Ebola case in U.S.
- Secret Service chief endures blistering glare of Congress’ questions over White House breach
- New York City mayor boosts city’s living wage to $13.13
- Medical marijuana use to get court test in Colo.
- California becomes 1st state to ban plastic bags
- 2 FBI employees killed on Ohio River near Cincinnati
- Figures show uptick in carbon emissions
- Pentagon review puts Gitmo transfers on ice
- Feds say $100M in data hacked