An eccentric German man who pretended to be an Iraqi army general and often boasted of his political and diplomatic connections has been convicted of killing his 91-year-old socialite wife.
A jury deliberated for about half a day before finding Albrecht Muth, 49, guilty of first-degree murder in the August 2011 beating and strangulation death of Viola Drath. The German journalist found dead in their row home in Washington's posh Georgetown neighbourhood.
Prosecutors said Muth was motivated by inheritance money. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in March.
Muth said his wife died from a fall in the bathroom, but authorities said her injuries were not consistent with someone who had fallen. The killing captivated Washington because of Drath's longtime connections to the city's diplomatic and social circuits. There were also revelations about the couple's unorthodox marriage and Muth's erratic behaviour.
Jurors heard about how he masqueraded as a brigadier general in the Iraqi army, strolling around his neighbourhood in a uniform he purchased. He also displayed a store-bought military certificate in his home even though he didn't actually have a military background.
Muth occasionally wore an eye patch and said before trial that he was receiving visions of the archangel Gabriel. He delayed the trial with intermittent fasting that left him hospitalised and, doctors said, too weak to appear in court.
A judge decided to hold the trial anyway, ruling that Muth was deliberately manipulating the justice system. Muth participated by videoconference, but did not testify.
Muth's lawyers argued that no physical evidence connected him to the killing and said the case against their client was circumstantial. Prosecutors cited a pattern of verbal and physical abuse toward his wife, including a conviction for assaulting her in 1992. They said Muth, who lived on a $2,000 monthly allowance from Drath that had recently been reduced by $200, was motivated by money and made a bogus claim to a portion of her estate.
Drath was a playwright and columnist who wrote often on German affairs for publications including The Washington Times and Handelsblatt, a German newspaper.
In 1990, following the death of her first husband, she married Muth, who was nearly a half-century younger. The couple lived together in a row home in Georgetown, where they routinely organised dinner parties for dignitaries and other guests.
Muth also became romantically entangled for several years with a man who eventually sought a restraining order against him in 2004.
On the morning of August 12, 2011, following a night of heavy drinking, Muth called police to report finding his wife dead inside a third-floor bathroom of their home.
He said she had fallen, and investigators initially treated the death as one of natural causes. But the medical examiner's office concluded within days that it was a homicide.
Detectives settled on Muth as the suspect after finding no signs of forced entry. They determined only Muth and his wife were home at the time of her death. They also said he presented Drath's daughter with a phony amendment to her will, even though Drath specifically left him out of it.
After killing Drath, prosecutors said Muth searched the Internet for information about extradition arrangements with Mexico, flights to Iceland and crossing the Canadian border.
Prosecutors said the eye patch and military uniform were part of a web of lies Muth spun about his professional career and connections.
One of Drath's daughters, Connie Drath Dwyer, testified that Muth had pressured her mother for money and insisted he be able to keep furniture upon her death. At trial, prosecutors presented graphic crime scene photographs of Drath sprawled dead on the bathroom floor with what one expert described as a large, bloody gash on her neck and another wound on the back of her neck.