Man charged in socialite-wife's death in hospital

Associated Press Published: February 2, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — A German-born man charged with killing his much-older socialite wife missed a scheduled court appearance Friday because he's been hospitalized for an undisclosed medical problem.

Albrecht Muth said in November that he was refusing to eat and then told the judge in a letter last month that he was entering a more demanding phase of his hunger strike and would not accept medical help under any circumstances. At a routine status conference Friday, public defenders and a prosecutor said they had no information on his condition or whether his hospitalization was a result of his refusal to eat.

The 47-year-old Muth has said he wants to act as his own attorney, but Judge Russell Canan said that request might need to be re-evaluated depending on Muth's mental and physical health.

"If someone's intent on terminating one's life, that's an issue that needs to be of concern," he said.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. jail said she could not discuss Muth's medical condition.

Muth is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal beating and strangulation of 91-year-old German socialite and journalist Viola Drath at their home in the city's fashionable Georgetown neighborhood. He has denied killing her, and suggested to detectives that perhaps an intruder was responsible.

Immediately after her death in August, he submitted an obituary to the media saying she had died from head trauma resulting from a fall, but an autopsy determined the cause of death to be strangulation and blunt force trauma.

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