After more than four years of an estranged marriage, sharing the same Potomac home but living separate lives, Barry Aron broached the question with his wife a few months ago. He wanted a divorce.
Ruthann Aron said yes, with one condition. She would give her husband of 32 years a divorce, provided he stayed with her through her planned run for the Montgomery County Council next year. Barry Aron agreed.
And then, in a bizarre story that has become all too familiar to Barry Aron, a Montgomery County police officer arrived at his office last week with the news: Ruthann Aron -- former U.S. Senate candidate, lawyer, developer, microbiologist and mother of two -- had been arrested on suspicion of trying to hire a hit man to kill him.
Speaking for the first time since his wife's arrest, Barry Aron, a prominent Montgomery County urologist and transplant physician, provided a candid account yesterday of their life together and offered a glimpse of a possible motive for her actions.
"This is a Greek tragedy, and those are very thick books, and this is not a story that lends itself to 30-second sound bites," said Barry Aron.
"This is not a story about spousal abuse. This is not a story about infidelity. This is a very complicated, tragic set of circumstances."
His overriding emotion, he said, is sadness, tinged with an "ongoing concern for my safety."
"The material the state's attorney has shared with me about the case is very frightening," said Aron.
A competent, aggressive developer who moved easily in Montgomery County political circles, Ruthann Aron, the state's attorney alleges, was wearing a floppy hat, wig and trench coat disguise when she dropped off a $500 payment toward the $10,000-a-head murders of her husband and an attorney, Arthur G. Kahn.
Kahn and a second lawyer whose name was on a list found in Ruthann Aron's possession had testified against her in her defamation suit against William E. Brock III, her opponent in the 1994 Republican Senate primary.
Ruthann Aron had gone to Montgomery County businessman William H. Mossburg Sr. to request his help to find a hit man, police allege.
Mossburg, who had supported Aron's political campaign, alerted authorities, who wired an undercover police officer to meet with Aron and get her demands on tape, according to the state's case.
In a chilling note, Aron said, the day she allegedly chose for his murder was their daughter's wedding anniversary.
Ruthann Aron's gun collection has been a much-ballyhooed aspect of the case, but Aron said an assault rifle police seized was "never fired, never opened."
She did wear a holstered gun about the house when she was at home alone and afraid, he said.
Attorney Barry Helfand, who is representing Ruthann Aron, declined to comment on Barry Aron's assertions.
At the time of her arrest, Aron said, his wife was "at the top of her game," eagerly preparing a run for the County Council, anticipating the marriage of one of their children.
"There is," Barry Aron said, "a tremendous sense of waste in all this."
Aron declined to discuss specific points of the case during an hourlong interview in his urology office, where model train cars compete for wall space with posters of the male anatomy.
Rather, he painted a picture of a relationship that had "its ups and downs, its good times and sorrows."
Aron is known for insisting upon delivering biopsy reports in person and always seeing his hospitalized patients, even on weekends.
Throughout the interview, he talked about the times he had supported his wife and how, even now, he wants to see her get help.
"This is your worst nightmare come true," he said, "and I'm going to get on with my life, and I hope she has an opportunity to put her life back together."
Although Aron declined to say whether his wife was being treated for a mental condition, he said he believes she needs to be evaluated for mental illness. He supported a failed defense motion that she be transferred to a private mental hospital.
Ruthann Aron remains in the Montgomery County Detention Center, where for a time authorities maintained suicide-prevention measures. Her case has not gone to the grand jury and no plea has been entered.
Barry Aron characterized their marriage as a "good working relationship," despite the emotional distance and the separate bedrooms they had maintained since March 1993.
They attended social and public functions together and regularly shared dinner.
On the night before Ruthann Aron's arrest, he said, she had suggested they have lobster at home. He declined the lobster -- which she ate -- and opted for turkey burgers.
Although divorce had been discussed intermittently, Barry Aron said, it wasn't until late last year and again earlier this year that the conversations became focused.
"There came a time I said, 'Enough is enough,' " Aron said.
His wife agreed to end the marriage, he said, but she "did not think it was in her best interest" to do so before her council bid.
Last week, Helfand said in court that Ruthann Aron told a jail employee her husband had abused her. Barry Aron has denied the allegations. Yesterday, he said he can think of only one time that they had even had rough physical contact.
During an argument within the past year or so, Aron said, his wife threw a red shoe at him in the morning. He returned that evening to find her rifling his wallet. As he tried to grab it from her, he pushed her and she fell backward onto the carpet, he said.
He stressed that despite their differences, he has tried to support his wife in her business and political ventures.
Upon learning of her arrest, Barry Aron said, "I was dumbstruck. My first concern was, 'Is Ruthann OK. Has she been harmed?' "
Pub Date: 6/18/97