Hunger Strike, Spies, Iranian “Hits”: A Look Back from Georgetown Patch at the DC Murder that Made International Headlines

Albrecht Muth, 47, who claims to be an officially unofficial agent of the Iraqi military, will spend the new year at DC Jail, where he is on a hunger strike and awaiting indictment in Georgetown’s first murder in five years.

Muth is suspected in the August 2011 strangling death of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Drath, a German-born journalist known for entertaining high-ranking US officials—including Supreme Court justices—in her home.

Muth’s outrageous claims in court—that his Geneva Convention rights are being violated, that he has refused to wear underwear because it is not part of his military uniform and, most recently, that his wife’s murder was a plot by Iranian agents—have shown a less-than-flattering light on a neighborhood where discretion and quiet good taste are the rule.

The first hint of the Georgetown disturbance was reported just after 8 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 12, police first responded to a call for an unconscious person at the couple’s home on the 3200 block of Q Street in Georgetown. That person was identified as Drath and later declared dead.

On Friday, just after 2 p.m., Muth sent a brief email to about 40 friends and neighbors informing them of his wife’s death. “I am sad to advise that my dear wife of nearly 25 years passed last night. Funeral arrangements are pending,” he wrote.

Saturday just after 4 p.m., Muth sent an obituary to The Washington Post, listing his wife’s date of death as Thursday, Aug. 11, a day before he reported having found her body.

On Saturday, Aug. 13 the Deputy Medical Examiner determined that Drath’s death was a homicide, caused by strangulation and blunt force injuries. On Sunday, Aug. 14 police searched the victim’s Georgetown home for evidence. On Tuesday, Aug. 16 police arrested Muth on suspicion of second degree murder.

Muth was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Aug. 17 and held without bail. He maintains his innocence.

In the days prior to his arrest, Muth wandered through Georgetown, sleeping in a local park and asking for money—he had been locked out of his home when it became a crime scene. Ed Solomon, the owner of Anthony’s Tuxedos, had been to a party at Drath’s home just days before her death. He told Patch that Muth came to his store asking for money twice and had mentioned spending the night in Montrose Park.

Prior to his arrest, Muth told investigators that his marriage to Drath was a “marriage of convenience.” He received a monthly stipend from his wife and, according to prosecutors, does not hold a steady job.

Throughout their marriage, Drath secured several protective orders against Muth, according to statements made by witnesses in the charging documents and confirmed in D.C. Superior Court records.

She sought a protective order against him in 1992.

Muth told the Post that in 2002 after Drath kicked him out of her home because of another altercation, he moved in briefly with Donald Davis, a man with whom he had a romantic relationship.

Davis told the Post that he later sought his own protective order against Muth; Davis said Muth had threatened him when their relationship did not work out.

According to a 2006 warrant for Muth’s arrest, Drath told police that in May 2006 her husband had attacked her with a chair and prevented her from leaving her home to seek help. He was charged in D.C. Superior Court with the simple assault, but Drath later dropped the case against her husband before the trial.

Muth had a reputation among his neighbors for his eccentric behavior. He was frequently seen walking through the neighborhood wearing what appeared to be full military uniform. One woman told local news station WUSA9 that neighbors called him “Colonel Mustard.”

Since his arrest, Muth has raised a series of concerns and complaints ranging from being denied his uniform while in prison, to having his Geneva Convention rights violated, to declaring that his wife’s death was part of the Iranian plot that also targeted the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.

In the courtroom he has been impatient, argumentative and prone to outbursts. In his initial hearing he made the unusual, though legal, request to have the entire five-page charging document read aloud. At his arraignment and against the judge’s advice, Muth strongly objected to a section of the charging document that indicated he was financially dependent on his late wife. He claimed to be employed.

In his next court appearance, a preliminary hearing in September, an agitated Muth accused the court of denying him his rights under the Geneva Conventions. He argued that as a “serving officer of a foreign army” he was entitled to his uniform and rank. He claims to be an Iraqi military officer, though the Iraqi Embassy has denied any affiliation with Muth.

In a rebuttal filed in court later that month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered evidence that Muth was not, in fact a member of the Iraqi military, and that even if he were, he would not have protections under the Conventions in a domestic court for a non-military offense.

Muth filed his own hand-written rebuttal weeks later. He claimed that all of his work on behalf of Iraq was “officially unofficial” and “external to official channels.”

At a November status conference, Muth asserted his right to represent himself, though he intends to maintain the public defenders’ office for legal support. He continued to link himself with the Iraqi military and alleged that his wife’s death was a “hit” orchestrated by agents of Iran because of Muth’s role in the Iraqi military; he linked her death to the plot against the Saudi Ambassador.

At the end of the Nov. 18 court appearance Muth asked the judge to note two last items: That if he were to die in D.C. prison that his body be release to the military, and that effective Sunday, Nov. 20, he would begin an “unlimited fast.”

The D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) confirmed on Dec. 21 that had Muth just entered into the second month of that “unlimited fast” or hunger strike. According to DOC, he is “monitored daily by medical staff, receives daily meals, nutritional supplements as well as nutrient rich fluids.”

His trial is scheduled for October 9, 2012.

Story courtesy Shaun Courtney

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