Psychological Exam Ordered In DC Socialite Killing

Published February 15, 2012 4:00AM (EST)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A German-born man charged with killing his much-older socialite wife in Washington was ordered transferred to a mental hospital on Tuesday for a competency screening after a doctor said he was delusional.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Russell Canan also ruled that Albrecht Muth, 47, was temporarily incompetent for trial, pending a complete evaluation at St. Elizabeths Hospital.

Muth is charged in the August strangulation and beating death of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Drath, a German journalist and socialite.

Detectives said Muth had visible scratches on his forehead after his wife's body was found in the bathroom of their home in the city's fashionable Georgetown neighborhood, where the couple was known to regularly entertain guests. They also said Muth presented her relatives with a forged document that claimed he was entitled to a portion of her estate after her death.

Muth has denied wrongdoing, and has suggested he was arrested because he was the only convenient suspect.

The case has taken a series of odd turns since his arrest.

Muth, who claims to be a brigadier general with the Iraqi army, has asked for the right to wear his military uniform at trial — though the Iraqi Embassy says he has no connection to the government or the military. He tried in November to fire his court-appointed attorneys, but a judge says he's no longer physically or mentally capable of representing himself.

Muth, who had been intentionally starving himself while in jail, also was recently hospitalized and has missed his last several court appearances. His condition has improved as he has temporarily resumed eating, but he has declared his plans to go on a 40-day fast, said Maria Amato, a lawyer for the D.C. Department of Corrections.

"He thinks that he is chosen like Moses and Jesus, that he will be protected in his 40-day fast," Amato said.

Nader Marzban, a doctor who has been meeting with Muth, called the defendant delusional. He said Muth claimed to see the Archangel Gabriel and that Gabriel tells him what to do. He said Muth at one point questioned whether the doctor was even an actual person, saying he wanted to shake him "because I'm not sure if you're real or an illusion."

Marzban said Muth at first claimed not to know why he was in jail, but then revealed, "They say I killed my wife." Muth told Marzban that he was not concerned about his case.

"He said, 'God will take care of that. I don't need to worry about that.'"

Prosecutors have said they expect Muth to be indicted by a grand jury next month.


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By Salon Staff

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