Aron Tells of Changes in Wife's Behavior
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 1998; Page D01
It was only after Montgomery County politician Ruthann Aron was arrested on charges of trying to have him killed that Barry Aron realized his volatile wife of 30 years had become "uncomfortably calm" two weeks before his slaying allegedly was to be carried out, the Potomac urologist testified yesterday.
She no longer got angry when his patients' emergencies called him away from dinner, he said. And rather than continue to protest when he again told her he wanted a divorce, he said, Ruthann Aron simply shrugged her shoulders and said, "Okay, then."
Barry Aron testified that he also has come to understand other changes in his wife's behavior late last spring: How she made certain that he followed their routine of writing down all of his appointments on their kitchen calendar. How she would call him out of the blue and ask his whereabouts. How she refused to let him use their red Jeep Cherokee, insisting that he drive his taupe Acura Legend -- the same one that she described to the supposed hit man in secretly taped phone calls.
John Harrison, an Alexandria lawyer who was allegedly the third man on the defendant's hit list, also testified.
Ruthann Aron, a former Montgomery Planning Board member and onetime U.S. Senate candidate, is charged with soliciting only her husband's and Kahn's murders.
Perhaps most damaging to the defense were Barry Aron's assertions that his wife had once threatened him with a gun after a physical argument and that never in all their years of marriage had she mentioned that her father sexually abused her.
Ruthann Aron's attorneys have said that, while Aron indeed tried to hire a hit man, she was legally insane at the time. Aron cannot be held responsible for any crime, her attorneys say, because she suffered mental illness stemming from a previously undisclosed brain injury and the fact that her father molested her as a child.
Barry Aron said his wife described her father, David Greenzweig, as a "bullying man" and said he "yelled and screamed a lot" while she was growing up. The two had a "strained" relationship, Barry Aron said, but that didn't stop them from visiting her parents regularly.
Even during extensive marriage counseling, he said, she never mentioned that her father had molested her. Her father was bludgeoned to death during a robbery in New York in 1994.
Hints of Ruthann Aron's history of depression -- a key element in the defense -- also surfaced yesterday, as Barry Aron revealed that he once used his wife's diagnosis of depression to avoid being transferred when he was in the Air Force. Defense attorney Barry H. Helfand questioned him about a letter he wrote in 1972 asking that his family not be transferred to a California base because his wife was suffering "severe postpartum depression" and had undergone two years of "intensive psychotherapy."
Barry Aron said yesterday that his wife never took antidepressant drugs and that she was depressed only because "she was having a rough time with the kids." The letters, he said, were "a little bit exaggerated" to avoid being transferred. Helfand, however, also quoted from a psychologist's 1972 letter that described Ruthann Aron as "depressive, apprehensive and susceptible to self-destructive impulsive actions."
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys also asked Barry Aron about a time in late 1995 when his self-described "roller coaster" marriage turned physical. Barry Aron conceded that he pushed his wife while they struggled over his wallet during an argument. She fell backward through a set of doors, and after lying on the ground pretending to be unconscious, he said, she went up to her own bedroom and locked the door.
When he opened the door with a key to apologize, he said, his wife was sitting on her bed holding her favorite .38-caliber Detective Special revolver. "If you come in," he quoted her as saying, "I'll shoot you."
Jurors also heard yesterday from Kahn and Harrison, who had represented Aron's former business partners in two lawsuits in which Aron was accused of stealing money in real estate deals. Aron's Republican opponent for the 1994 U.S. Senate nomination, William E. Brock III, cited those fraud allegations in campaign ads. After Brock beat Aron and she later sued him for defamation, the two lawyers testified against her.
Yesterday, both men immediately identified their names and home addresses on scraps of paper shown to them by prosecutors and described as Aron's hit list.
Asked by Helfand whether he "disliked" Aron, Kahn answered: "I disliked her. I disliked her even more after I found out she tried to kill me."
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