New York Times: The Worst Marriage in Georgetown

The New York Times today outlines Albrecht Muth‘s varied eccentricities and how Washington entertained, or believed, them nearly until Muth was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife at their Georgetown home.

Muth, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in Viola Drath‘s death. Prosecutors say he strangled his 91-year-old wife, then reported finding her dead of an apparent fall.

Muth’s incredible claims of being an Iraqi general, a count, an East German spy, and an insider in elite international circles have at times overshadowed his apperances at DC Superior Court. Doctors have determined that he has mental illness and that he is not fit to stand trial at this time, though his mental health could be restored. He has spent at least several weeks of his incarceration on hunger strike, and was, at least once, admitted to the hospital due to starvation.

A grand jury indicted Muth on first-degree murder with special circumstances that the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” and that Drath, the victim, was “especially vulnerable due to age.” Because he has not been determined to be competent for trial, Muth has not been formally charged in the case.

Describing Drath as a near-helpless victim of a much younger eccentric social climber, the Times on Friday called Muth’s and Drath’s coupling “the worst marriage in Georgetown.”

Muth, in other words, perfected the methodology for his social Ponzi scheme. For parties, he would start with bait. He theorized that Drath’s ties to Nebraska’s representatives in Washington — Senator Chuck Hagel, in particular — would bring in other politicians. Muth would also approach military officials attached to the embassies, who he knew were often lonely figures in town; he understood that their attendance would help him attract foreign-policy columnists. “The whole Western alliance was represented,” according to Roland Flamini, a former Time correspondent. In a 2010 e-mail to Drath, Muth explicitly detailed his approach: “You meet someone of import, check him out, determine [if] he can be of use, you make him yours. At some point you must decide whether to run him as a useful idiot, he not catching on as to who you are and what you do.”

But the marriage was far more dangerous to Drath than simply altering her social life, the Times said.

From their first date, Viola and Albrecht enjoyed provoking one another. At night, they would lie in their separate beds, arguing in German. But every so often, their disagreements would escalate. In 1992, Muth was convicted of beating Drath, the beginning of a rap sheet that hardly reflects the many lesser occasions of abuse. Once when they were staying at the Plaza Hotel, he threw her clothes into the hall and locked her out of the room. “He has all my credit cards,” she told Gary Ulmen on the phone, who rushed to the hotel and lent her cash to buy a train ticket back to Washington.

Twenty years later, Drath is dead and Muth is biding his time at St. Elizabeths. Of the investigation into Drath’s death, the Times says,

It took the police four more days to collect the evidence to arrest Muth. During that period, they forbade him from entering his home, now a crime scene, so he slept in a Georgetown park wearing a perfectly tailored houndstooth blazer. Muth never had much money — he received an $1,800 monthly allowance from Viola — but he dressed as if he had means. When he stood before a judge in a preliminary hearing, he wore his orange jumpsuit with an upturned collar, an unlikely touch of St. Tropez in Superior Court.

Read the full story from the New York Times, The Worst Marriage in Georgetown, here.

Muth is due back in court July 26 for an update on his mental health status and, if he is determined mentally competent, arraignment.

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