Viola Drath, slain Georgetown woman, had sought protection against husband, documents show
By Josh White and Allison Klein,
Viola Drath, a popular 91-year-old Georgetown socialite who was found slain in her home Friday, had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with her much younger husband, court documents show.
Drath obtained several protective orders against Albrecht Gero Muth during their 21-year marriage, according to D.C. Superior Court records. In 2006, Drath told police that Muth had become violent during an argument, attacked her with a chair, sat on her and held her captive in her home, the records show. Drath was 86 at the time; Muth, 42. The case was dropped when Drath decided not to pursue it in court as the trial approached.
Although authorities initially thought Drath had died in her Q Street bathroom of natural causes, an autopsy Saturday determined that she had been killed. Muth said in an e-mail Monday that he thinks he is the lone suspect in a D.C. police homicide investigation: “There being to them no one else who could have done it. . . . I take no issue, [I’m] the first one to look to, so look, and then look beyond.”
As of Monday evening, police had not announced any arrests in the case.
Muth wrote that he found Drath’s body at 8 a.m. Friday. Paramedics were called to the scene shortly thereafter. Authorities said that Drath was found on the floor of a bathroom and was declared dead at the scene.
In e-mail messages to family members that Muth forwarded to The Washington Post, Muth said he was in the couple’s Georgetown townhouse, in the 3200 block of Q Street NW, from 9:45 p.m. Thursday until he found his wife’s body — except for a brief midnight walk and for an hour early Friday.
He said in the e-mails that Drath had died sometime after 7 p.m. In a separate obituary e-mailed to The Post on Saturday, Muth wrote that Drath had “sustained a head injury from a fall.”
In the obituary submission, Muth listed her date of death as “August 11” — Thursday — a day before he said he found her body. Muth said that another member of Drath’s family had included those facts, based on what the medical examiner had told them. Drath’s relatives declined to comment about the investigation or Muth.
A medical examiner ruled the case a homicide Saturday, but the office had not released the cause of death. Police have said that Drath’s injuries were not consistent with a fall and that there was no forced entry to the house.
Police detectives and technicians were at the home Monday and were continuing to interview family members.
In an e-mail that Muth appears to have sent to government officials and forwarded to The Post, he said he was planning to speak with police officials to convince them of his innocence and to get them to “look for the killer . . . and bring all assets at my disposal to their side towards that end.” He communicated with The Post only through e-mail and declined requests for a telephone or face-to-face interview.
D.C. Police Assistant Chief Peter Newsham said that no arrests were “imminent.”
When they married two decades ago, Muth was in his mid-20s, and Drath was about 70. Muth said in an e-mail that it was a “marriage of convenience” with “clear terms.”
Early in the marriage — 1992 — Drath sought a protective order against him, and she did so again in 2002. Court records did not provide details of those orders.
After his fight with Drath in 2002, Muth sought to live with Donald Davis, with whom he was involved in a romantic relationship at the time. Davis said Monday that Muth and Drath “got in a huge fight” and that Muth was kicked out of the Q Street house.
“When I first met him, I had no idea he was married,” Davis said. “We dated for a while.”
Things soured with Muth, who Davis said was penniless and working at an area hotel as a desk clerk. After Davis asked him to leave Davis’s apartment, Muth began threatening him, Davis said. Court records show that Davis got a protective order against Muth in 2004. “He said he was going to have me killed and said I should be careful when I get into my car,” Davis said. “I took that seriously.”
Muth, in court papers, denied threatening or harassing Davis but acknowledged “romantic relations” over five years. Davis said he had had no contact with Muth since 2004. Muth said in an e-mail that his wife’s protective order was a result of Muth’s leaving her for Davis, and said that Davis likewise filed a protective order against Muth when he left Davis for his wife. Muth said both of those protective orders were “unjustified.”
In May 2006, Drath brought domestic violence charges against Muth, alleging that he had been drinking and became incensed at a comment during an argument in their library, picked up a chair and hit her over the head with it.
Muth “then threw the Complainant [Drath] off the sofa onto the floor and pounded her head into the floor several times and sat on her for between five and ten minutes while yelling at her,” an arrest warrant affidavit says. “When the Defendant [Muth] got off the Complainant [Drath], he refused to let her leave the house to notify the authorities.”
The 2006 domestic violence case Drath brought against Muth was dropped because she declined to cooperate in court, according to a police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the homicide investigation.
Muth, a German native who uses the name Sheikh Ali Al-Muthaba, received an undergraduate degree from American University in 1991. He claims to be a brigadier general in the Iraqi Army with connections to groups in Iraq, and in e-mails to friends and Washington insiders obtained by The Post, he mentions connections high in the U.S. government.
Several people said that Muth often said he was a Washington and Iraqi insider but that they were unsure of his pedigree and access.
One friend of Drath’s who went to dinner at the Q Street house noticed Muth wearing an odd military uniform that seemed to have been custom-made for him.
Neighbors said Muth dressed strangely, sometimes strolling around the neighborhood in a military uniform consisting of khaki pants and a red jacket and carrying what appeared to be a marching baton and a cigar. Laura Bowling, a marketing consultant who lives across the street, said she saw him walk around in the outfit at least once a month since she moved to the area four years ago.
Staff writers Keith L. Alexander, Jenna Johnson, Clarence Williams and Victor Zapana and researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.