Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

January 17, 2014

German man convicted of killing socialite wife

WASHINGTON — An eccentric German man who pretended to be an Iraqi army general and often boasted of his political and diplomatic connections was convicted Thursday of killing his 91-year-old socialite and journalist wife.

A jury deliberated for about half a day before finding Albrecht Muth, 49, guilty of first-degree murder in the August 2011 beating and strangulation death of Viola Drath. The German writer was found dead in their row home in Washington’s posh Georgetown neighborhood.

The jury also found that the murder was especially heinous and cruel. Muth faces a maximum punishment of life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on March 19.

“Justice has been served. It’s been a long wait,” one of Drath’s daughters, Connie Drath Dwyer, told reporters after the verdict. She said her mother, who had covered topics ranging from politics to fashion as a journalist, had been in excellent health and would likely have lived several more years had she not been murdered.

Prosecutors argued that Muth had a long history of verbal and physical abuse directed at his wife, including a conviction for assaulting her in 1992, and was motivated by inheritance money.  Muth claimed Drath died in a fall, but authorities ruled her death a homicide because of her severe injuries and investigators settled on him as a suspect after finding no signs of forced entry and concluding no one else was inside the home at the time.

The killing captivated Washington because of Drath’s longtime connections to the city’s diplomatic and social circuits. There were also revelations about the couple’s unconventional marriage — she was nearly a half century older — and Muth’s erratic behavior, which included assorted personas he adopted. Prosecutors said they were part of an elaborate web of lies.

“He was a good little con man,” prosecutor Glenn Kirschner told the jury. “He had some fraud working.”

Jurors heard about how he masqueraded as a brigadier general in the Iraqi army, strolling around his neighborhood smoking cigars and sporting a uniform he purchased. He wore an occasional eye patch and called himself a “Count” and a spy. He displayed a store-bought military certificate in his home even though he had no military background and the Iraqi embassy disavowed any connection to him.

The strangeness continued during the buildup to trial, when he sought to subpoena former CIA director David Petraeus as a potential witness, claimed to be receiving visions of the archangel Gabriel and demanded to wear his uniform during court appearances. He delayed the trial with intermittent fasting that left him hospitalized and, doctors said, too weak to appear in for trial.

A judge ruled Muth was deliberately manipulating the justice system and permitted him to follow the proceedings via videoconference. He did not testify.

Muth’s lawyers argued that no physical evidence connected him to the killing and said the case against their client was circumstantial.

But prosecutors cited repeated verbal and physical abuse toward his wife. Besides his assault conviction, they said he once threw soup on her head, berated her as an old woman whose best years were behind her and confided to a friend years before her death that he wished he had killed her.

They said Muth, who had no steady employment of his own, lived on a $2,000 monthly allowance from Drath that had recently been reduced. They said he made a bogus claim to a portion of her estate even though she had specifically left him out of the will.

The couple wed in 1990 following the death of Drath’s first husband and lived together in their row home in Georgetown, where they routinely organized dinner parties for dignitaries and other guests. Drath wrote often on German affairs for publications including The Washington Times and Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, and socialized in diplomatic circles.

But the marriage was one of convenience, Muth told homicide detectives during an interview played to the jury. They fought often, Drath said she planned on leaving him and Muth pursued several affairs with men, including one who eventually sought a protective order against him.

On the morning of Aug. 12, 2011, following a night of heavy drinking, Muth called police to report finding his wife dead inside a third-floor bathroom of their home.  

He said she had fallen, and investigators initially treated the death as one of natural causes. But the medical examiner’s office concluded within days that it was a homicide. Prosecutors contended at trial that Muth killed his wife in another room, moved her body into the bathroom and staged the positioning of the corpse.

During their investigation, detectives seized on a phony amendment to Drath’s will that Muth presented to her daughter after Drath died. The daughter, Francesca Drath, said the document — which purported to leave Muth with up to $200,000 of his wife’s estate — struck her as peculiar since the signature did not appear to be her mother’s and Muth had earlier been left out of the will.

Investigators who searched Muth’s laptop computer after the murder found Internet searches for flights to Iceland, extradition arrangements with Mexico and crossing the Canadian border.

“You could have seen it coming a mile away,” Kirschner, the prosecutor, told the jury about the murder. “You could have seen it coming two decades away.”

 

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results