Days before Drath’s death, she feared her husband, witness said

Viola Herms Drath, the elderly Georgetown socialite who was beaten to death in 2011, told a friend days before her death that her husband had threatened her and that their marriage had become “intolerable,” according to new documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.

Prosecutors preparing for the first-degree murder trial of Drath’s husband, Albrecht Gero Muth, outlined much of their case against Muth in documents filed over the weekend.

Muth, 49, faces first-degree murder charges in the Aug. 12, 2011, death of his 91-year-old wife. He has been on a hunger strike for more than two months, and he is listed in serious condition at a Washington area hospital. A German native who claims to be an Iraqi general, Muth has argued that he is innocent of his wife’s slaying and that her death was the result of an Iraqi hit.

Despite’s Muth’s health, a D.C. Superior Court judge has ordered attorneys and prosecutors to prepare for a trial date of March 25.

In the new documents, prosecutors outlined three prior arrests of Muth during his 22-year-marriage to Drath. In the first, in 1992, he was convicted of punching his wife in the face and ribs and throwing her to the floor. He was sentenced to a year in jail and a year of supervised probation.

A second incident allegedly occurred just four months after the first, and another took place in 2006. In the third, Muth allegedly pounded Drath’s head against the floor and sat on her so she couldn’t call police.

In those two cases, Drath refused to cooperate with authorities, so prosecutors dropped the charges. But she grew increasingly frustrated and fearful, prosecutors said in their latest documents, to the point that she reached out to friends days before her death. She allegedly said she planned to divorce him and kick him out of her spacious Georgetown home. During one lunch meeting with an unnamed witness, Drath allegedly confided that life with Muth had badly deteroriated, according to the documents.

The witness also told prosecutors that Muth threatened Drath’s grandson, who at the time was an active-duty soldier overseas. And Muth had coerced Drath into signing a document giving him access to one of her bank accounts, the witness said. Muth had allegedly complained that his $2,000-a-month allowance was not “sufficient.”

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

Prosecutors outlined additional details about what they say occurred in the hours before Drath was killed. On the night before her death, Muth was out drinking with a friend he had met through a Craiglist personal ad, they said. Muth became more belligerent over the course of the evening, the friend later told authorities. The friend took Muth home about 10:30 p.m. Another witness told authorities about hearing a woman’s faint cry and then a man’s laugh from inside the home in the early morning hours of Aug. 12.

About 8 a.m., Muth called police and reported that he had found his wife dead on the bathroom floor. An autopsy revealed multiple rib fractures, multiple abrasions on her neck, face, scalp, inner lip and abdomen, a fractured hyoid bone — a bone in the neck — and hemorrhaging in the eyes, a condition often associated with suffocation.

In their documents, prosecutors again outlined Muth’s alleged attempt a few months before Drath’s death to hire a drug dealer to kill his wife and make it look like a robbery gone bad. Details of this alleged conversation were initially revealed during testimony by a D.C. homicide detective during Muth’s 2011 preliminary hearing.

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 slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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