The husband of a 91-year-old woman found dead in Georgetown Friday has been taken into custody in connection with her death, News4's Pat Collins reported.
Albrecht Gero Muth, 47, aka Count Albi, according to the arrest warrant, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Viola Herms Drath, a long-time journalist and contributor to the Washington Times.
Drath was found dead in her Georgetown rowhouse on Q Street early Friday morning.
Police said they originally responded to the report of an unconscious person and when they arrived at Drath’s home they found no signs of life and pronounced her dead. But by Saturday, D.C.’s Chief Medical Examiner ruled that Drath’s death was a homicide.
Muth, who was Drath’s second husband, listed the cause of her death as “head trauma from a fall” in an obituary submitted to the Washington Post. But investigators said Drath’s injuries are inconsistent with a fall.
The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and blunt force injuries, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Drath suffered bruising and abrasions to her neck, a bruised scalp, fractured neck cartilage, petichial hemorrhages in both eyes, broken ribs, and a torn thumbnail.
When executing the search warrant for the rowhouse and Muth's body, several small scratches were found on the right side of his forehead and one was found on the left side of his forehead, according to the affidavit. He claimed to have walked into a kitchen door, but authorities believe the scratches are more consistent with being scratched by another person. When told of DNA evidence, Muth twice said he kissed Drath Thursday night and said he touched her hand when he found her on the bathroom floor, though he had previously told police he hadn't touched her at all when he found her.
Muth told police he had left the house about 4 p.m. Thursday, returning about 9:45 p.m., according to the affidavit. He said he didn't see her that night, as he slept on a couch in the basement because it was too warm upstairs and Drath didn't like air conditioning. He said he left the house again Friday morning to take a walk and returned about 7:50 a.m. Then he checked for Drath, found her unconscious on the bathroom floor and called police.
According to the affidavit, Muth insisted that if Drath's death was a homicide, there must have been an intruder, but investigators found no evidence to support that.
A next-door neighbor reported hearing a faint cry followed by a "sinister" laugh between 3:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., according to the affidavit. That neighbor asked another neighbor if it could have been him playing with his baby but learned the baby had slept through the night.
When asked about the age difference between Drath and himself, Muth called it "a marriage of convenience," police said. He said he didn't have a formal job and was supported by Drath, who gave him a monthly allowance of $2,000, which had recently been decreased to $1,800.
Police also learned of a letter dated Thursday and presented to Drath's family by Muth. It said she wanted Muth to receive $150,000 if anything happened to her as well as an additional $50,000 if her estate was worth more than $600,000, according to the affidavit. The letter bore Drath's signature, but a witness well-acquainted with Drath's signature said that wasn't hers. That witness also said Muth asked the family if he could continue to receive $2,000 per month.
Before Muth's arrest Tuesday, Collins tracked him down outside of a bar on Wisconsin Avenue and attempted to get him to comment on his wife's death, but Muth refused and threatened to call police.
In an e-mail exchange with Collins earlier in the day, Muth wrote "I do not know what happened to my wife, that is a matter for the Polcie [sic] to determine is it not???"
Muth, who married Drath more than 20 years ago, claims to be an Iraqi general and is known in Georgetown for often wearing a colorful military uniform, Collins reported.
According to court documents, Muth was charged with assaulting Drath in 2006 -- hitting her head with a chair, pounding her head into the floor several times and sitting on her for five to 10 minutes, News4's Pat Collins reported. Those charges were dropped.
A witness told police of a pattern of physical and verbal abuse over the course of the marriage, according to the affidavit. That included an incident when Drath said Muth had thrown his food at her and assaulted her. There was soup in Drath's hair, broken furniture, and dishes tossed and turned.
In 1992, Muth pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge for attacking Drath and was sentenced to a year's confinement.
In January 2008, he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly hitting Drath a with a wooden chair, but the case was dropped when Drath refused to go forward with it.
According to the Post, Drath was born in Germany in 1920 and was a longtime correspondent for Handelsblatt Newspaper. She later immigrated to the United States after marrying her first husband, a U.S. Army colonel, and worked as a college instructor and contributor to the Washington Times.