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D.C. police arrest husband, 47, in death of journalist wife, 91

August 17, 2011 |  7:10 am

Police in Washington, D.C., have arrested the 47-year-old husband of a 91-year-old German-born journalist found dead in her home last week. Albrecht Muth was arrested Tuesday and was expected to appear in court Wednesday on a charge of second-degree murder, according to a police spokesman quoted by the Associated Press.

Handcuffs Muth's arrest was the latest twist in a mystery that began with the discovery of Viola Drath's body Friday in the home in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood that she shared with Muth. The pair had been married for 21 years. Initial reports indicated that Drath had died either from natural causes or after a fall, but the medical examiner said her injuries indicated the death was a homicide. Other circumstances also were suspicious, including the fact that there were no signs of forced entry into the home.

Suspicion fell upon Muth, who has also gone by the name Shaikh Ali Al-Muthaba and who in the past claimed to have been a senior commander in an Iraqi militia loyal to an anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose forces have battled to drive American forces from Iraq. Writings on Muth's website, which has not been updated in more than a year, include purported interviews with him in his role as the militia commander, plus opinion pieces on the U.S. military's involvement in Iraq.

Various news organizations in Washington, including the AP, the Washington Post and the local ABC affiliate, have reported being in email contact with Muth in recent days and that he had denied wrongdoing. "We're agreed, there is a killer out there," the AP quoted Muth as writing in an email to the news service Tuesday, in which he said he had spoken with police about his wife's death. To a local TV reporter, he wrote: "I am in no way linked to my wife's death."

Drath, who was born in Germany, was a correspondent for the German newspaper Handelsblatt, wrote columns for the Washington Times, wrote several books and was a member of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. She was also known for hosting lively dinner parties that brought together members of the diplomatic and military corps as well as young journalists she was mentoring.

Muth was Drath's second husband. Her first, Col. Francis S. Drath, was a German military colonel. The couple lived in Nebraska after leaving Germany and came to Washington in 1968. He died in 1986.

News reports say Drath had sought orders of protection against Muth during their marriage, most recently in 2006. That case was dropped when Drath decided not to pursue it.

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 -- Tina Susman in New York

Photo: File

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