“There was nothing horrible that he could do that could distract her from being amused by him,” Ladd said. “I think she always thought she had control because she had the money.”
Muth began calling himself an Iraqi general and threw parties at their home and across Washington, luring dignitaries to strangely formal affairs at which the attendees would sing patriotic songs.
While Drath really was connected to Washington politics — she worked to form a Blue Star Mothers chapter in Washington to honor U.S. soldiers and served on the White House Commission on Remembrance, among other public-service roles — friends said Muth rode her coattails.
Friends said they knew that Drath had kicked Muth out of their home several times, at one point breaking off their relationship for years when Muth left her for a man. When that relationship ended — with a protective order — Muth came back, and Drath took him in.
“She said, ‘Betty, I get so lonely, and he’s company for me ever since Francis died,’ ” said Betty Gookin. “She couldn’t face living alone. She was very, very vulnerable even though she was a sophisticated, educated, intelligent woman. She was aware that she was not in a good situation, but somehow the other feeling was stronger.”
The Gookins said they ultimately broke off ties to Drath because they felt uncomfortable being around Muth and were appalled by the violence.
“We backed off,” Richard Gookin said. “It was hard for us. I feel I let her down, because she was such a dear, dear friend.”
In recent weeks, Drath told some friends that things were improving with Muth. It was something she said often, they recalled. Some were concerned for her well-being. She was sharp, in wonderful physical shape for her age and apparently trapped.
Friends said that Muth separated Drath from her family and that Muth was barred from some family functions. In e-mails Muth forwarded to The Post, he sparred with Drath’s children and grandchildren about her health and how to care for her.
In court papers, police wrote that Muth told them that his monthly stipend of $2,000 had recently been lowered to $1,800, and he allegedly asked a family member of Drath’s if he could continue to receive the allowance after her death.
On Friday, six hours after he told police that he found Drath, Muth wrote an e-mail to about 40 people, with the subject line “Viola,” Solomon said.
“I am sad to advise that my dear wife of nearly 25 years passed last night. Funeral arrangements are pending,” he wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Post.
At that point, authorities had yet to determine when she died.
On Sunday, Muth walked into Ed Solomon’s bridal and tuxedo store in Georgetown and asked to borrow money, saying he was the prime suspect in his wife’s slaying, Solomon said. He said he couldn’t get into the house because it was a crime scene, Solomon said, and had been sleeping in Montrose Park.
Muth also asked Solomon if he had noticed that Drath was having trouble with her knee, and Solomon said no, he’d seen Drath effortlessly walking up and down the stairs. The day before, Muth had sent an obituary to The Post saying that Drath’s cause of death was head injuries sustained in a fall.
“It’s sad,” Solomon said. “Few of us live to be 91 with so much life and so much to give. She had a right to live and follow her dreams and her charities. She had dreams, and that’s the tragedy in this.”