The Washington Post

Health deteriorating for man accused of killing wife, Viola Drath

The medical condition of a man who is accused of beating his wife to death in Georgetown has deteriorated in recent days, authorities said, and the judge overseeing his murder trial says he is no longer fit to represent himself.

Albrecht Gero Muth, 47, is charged with second-degree murder in the August death of socialite Viola Drath, 91, his wife of 22 years. During a Thursday hearing, D.C. Superior Judge Russell F. Canan said that if Muth’s circumstances don’t change, “he will be in a grave situation — if he isn’t already.”

During a hearing on Feb. 3, attorneys said Muth — who has been on a hunger strike — was hospitalized last week. On Thursday, hospital officials said he was released Wednesday and returned to jail, only to be rushed back later that day.

Details about Muth’s condition were discussed privately at the judge’s bench, and Canan ordered the discussion temporarily sealed.

Muth stopped eating two months ago and has refused treatment. In a Jan. 12 letter to Canan in which he cited “my faith,” he wrote that “under no circumstances whatsoever am I to be given any medical treatment!” When he began his fast, Muth said he wanted his remains to be sent to an Army “liaison” if he died in jail.

Albrecht Gero Muth (Sandy Schaeffer-Hopkins/MAI)

Canan also that Muth, who fired his attorneys in November, can no longer represent himself. He will be represented by attorneys from the District’s Public Defender Service.

“Mr. Muth is mentally and physically incapable of representing himself. His right to represent himself is suspended,” Canan said. At a November hearing, the judge had tried to dissuade Muth from representing himself but ultimately relented.

Prosecutors have said that Muth, who was born in Germany, pretended to be an Iraqi general and had a long list of fabricated credentials that included East German spy, CIA operative, Albanian count and Arab sheik.

Drath’s body was found in a second-floor bathroom of the home that she and Muth shared in the 3200 block of Q St. NW. Muth called police and said his wife died from a fall, but a medical examiner ruled that she had been strangled and beaten.

In November, Muth told Canan he believed Drath’s death was a “hit” ordered by Iranian agents.

Viola Herms was born in Dusseldorf in 1920. She studied English and wrote plays, meeting U.S. Army Lt. Col. Francis S. Drath in Germany after World War II. They soon married and moved to Nebraska. They moved to Washington in 1968, and she became a correspondent for a German newspaper.

Col. Drath died of cancer in 1986, and Viola Drath married Muth in 1990.

Muth and Drath had a tempestuous relationship. In 1992, he was charged with domestic assault and served time in jail; he became romantically involved with a man, moving into his apartment, 10 years later after another alleged attack.

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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