The man charged with killing his 91-year-old wife last month in her Georgetown home abused her and at times threatened to “kill all Americans,” according to evidence presented Friday during a hearing.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Albrecht Gero Muth, 47, Viola Drath’s husband, held until trial after new allegations surfaced during the nearly four-hour hearing that Muth had threatened to bomb their Georgetown neighborhood.
Judge Gerald I. Fisher ruled that there was “ample circumstantial evidence” connecting Muth to Drath’s Aug. 11 death. The judge also said that Muth held “prior animosity” toward his wife of 22 years and would benefit financially from her death.
Muth is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Drath, whose body was found in the second-floor bathroom of her home in the 3200 block of Q Street NW. Muth called police and told authorities that his wife died from a fall, but a medical examiner ruled that she had been strangled and beaten.
According to interviews and police documents, Muth pretended to be an Iraqi general and cultivated government, military and media connections while living, unemployed, on a $2,000-a-month allowance from his wife.
Before testimony began Friday, Muth stood and told Fisher that because he was born in Germany and was a military officer, his incarceration in the D.C. jail “violated the Geneva Convention.” Muth also demanded the right to wear his army uniform during the hearings.
“I’m an officer in a foreign army, and I have rights as an officer,” he told the judge, clipping his words. Muth sometimes smiled and shook his head during the hearing, passing notes to his attorneys while clad in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.
Muth said he had been threatened by other inmates and guards and feared for his safety. Attorneys said Muth was already in protective custody and was isolated from other inmates for 23 hours each day; for one hour, he was allowed into an area with other inmates. Fisher said he would look into Muth’s requests. The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
The new allegations against Muth came from James Wilson, one of the lead homicide detectives investigating the case. Wilson said that Drath spoke with a lawyer about having Muth removed from her will about nine months before her death. She also solicited help from various people to have Muth deported because he repeatedly threatened and abused her and had threatened to “kill all Americans,” Wilson said.
In April, Wilson said, Drath told a witness that her husband had planned to “bomb Georgetown,” where they lived.
Wilson’s testimony was based on interviews with at least nine witnesses. One told authorities that he saw Muth berate and swear at his wife and shove her into a door in their home this year. Another said Drath told him she was “afraid” of her husband, Wilson said.
A witness who contacted detectives after Muth was arrested told authorities that Muth often bought drugs from him and asked him to rob his wife as she walked through Georgetown. Muth burst into laughter as Wilson related that story.
Muth allegedly told the drug dealer he wanted Drath “done” because she had stopped giving him money, said Wilson, who said the witness was in jail on drug charges and had asked whether the government could help him with his case in exchange for testimony.
Wilson also discussed a document that Drath’s daughter says he handed her the day her body was found. The document, purportedly signed by Drath, said he was to get as much as $200,000 from Drath’s estate at the time of her death and that he was to be allowed to live in the house for at least 90 days. Drath’s daughter told police the signature was forged, but Dana Page — one of Muth’s attorneys — implied that the daughter could have forged the document to discredit Muth.
Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner revealed four cases of domestic abuse against Muth, three filed by Drath and one by an associate of Muth’s. Muth was convicted in only one case. Kirschner also indicated that Drath at one time filed for divorce but never followed through with a separation.
Under cross-examination by Page, Wilson said at least one witness contacted authorities after seeing a poster in Georgetown seeking information about Drath’s slaying.
Page also said that the house was open to visitors for a few days between the time Drath was found and her death was ruled a homicide, suggesting to Fisher that someone could have entered the home to conceal the movements of an intruder before it was declared a crime scene.