Albrecht Muth hospitalized, in critical condition, following hunger strike

Albrecht Muth, the eccentric German charged in the 2011 beating death of his elderly Georgetown wife, has been hospitalized as a result of a hunger strike, sources familiar with the case said Friday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because Muth’s case is pending in D.C. Superior Court, the sources said Muth was removed from the D.C. jail and has been in critical condition at a local hospital as a result of his hunger fast. It is unknown whether his trial, scheduled to begin March 25, will proceed.

“Death is imminent” said a message left on a reporter’s voice mail by someone who sounded like Muth.

Muth, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the August 2011 death of his wife of 22 years, Viola Herms Drath, then 91. Authorities said Muth beat and strangled his wife in their Georgetown home.

Muth, a German native who has maintained that he is an Iraqi general, has repeatedly told officials that he did not kill his wife and that Drath’s death was the result of an Iranian hit that was intended for him. Muth is facing life in prison.

At a hearing in December, Judge Russell F. Canan ruled Muth was competent to stand trial, despite a lengthy stay and repeated examinations by doctors at St. Elizabeths, the District’s psychiatric hospital. Muth had been a patient at the hospital for 10 months until Canan ruled him competent and ordered him discharged in December. Muth’s attorneys argued their client was not competent.

Muth had gone on at least two previous fasts. In August, he had to be taken from St. Elizabeths to a hospital for treatment. At that time Muth told doctors he was commanded to fast by God and the Archangel Gabriel. That fast left Muth weakened with hypotension, hypoglycemia and dehydration.

Calls to Muth’s lead attorney Dana Page of the District’s Public Defender Service were not returned.

At Muth’s most recent hearing in December, the judge warned Muth that he would not tolerate any actions that would result in a further delay of the trial due to mental evaluations or fasts. Muth then told the judge that there will be “no trial” in March. Muth did not elaborate before marshals led him out of the courtroom.

A D.C. jail spokesman declined to comment on Muth’s condition.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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