Jurors heard opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of Albrecht Muth, the 49-year-old man who dressed as an Iraqi general before his arrest, has claimed his wife’s murder was an assassination by Iranians, and has fasted for over a year, unable to attend his own trial.
Muth, 49, is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances in the death of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Herms Drath, who was found on August 12, 2011 beaten and strangled in her Georgetown home.
Francesca Drath, daughter of Viola Drath, took the stand Tuesday to tell jurors about Muth. Francesca Drath admitted that she did not see her mother as frequently in the years before her death because of her dislike of Muth, though she was still allowed to visit the family home.
According to Francesca Drath, Muth was a “prolific” emailer. In the months before Viola Drath’s death, Muth was in communication with Francesca Drath and her sister about how Viola Drath’s possessions would be divided when she died, Francesca said. On July 19, 2011, she told him that “we’re not going to be concerned with your list anymore,” referring to the possessions. In court, Francesca Drath pointed out that her mother was still alive at the time.
Francesca Drath told jurors that after her mother’s passing, Muth asked her for his monthly allowance of $1800. Muth also produced a letter that indicated Viola Drath gave him permission to live in the house for the next three months.
Muth also refused to sign documents for his wife’s memorial, including documents for her cremation, Francesca Drath testified. “I think he was worried about his ability to pay,” she said. Francesca Drath added that Muth did not engage in the funeral process, though he wore “mourning” garb.
William Boltz testified Tuesday that in May 1990, he met Drath when she contacted him to write a prenuptial agreement between herself and Muth. Boltz told jurors that the agreement mainly ensured that “Muth would not have claim to Drath’s estate.”
The agreement was signed without event by both parties and their lawyers, according to Boltz.
Boltz didn’t hear from Drath again until June 5, 2006, he said. On that occasion, Drath asked Boltz for help in obtaining a legal separation, Boltz said. According to Boltz, a legal separation is usually necessary in cases where custodial rights are a factor; but a legal separation would have allowed Drath to prevent Muth from entering her home. But Drath was “afraid that he might come back.” Boltz explained.
When it came time to serve Muth with the separation agreement, Muth “disappeared”, said Boltz.
Boltz testified that he attempted to contact Muth’s mother in Germany and old friends.
“We couldn’t find anyone who knew where he was,” Boltz said.
In August 2007, Drath was considered legally separated and a court gave her permission to serve Muth “by publication”, Boltz said.
For three weeks, two newspapers published the necessary documents every day. In January 2008, Boltz informed Drath that they could finally schedule a hearing for her divorce. Drath responded in an email, telling Boltz not to “do anything further until you hear from me,” he testified.
Boltz told jurors he never heard from Drath again.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.