Aron jury hears tape of arrangements made to have two men killed Businesswoman haggled over price in talks

March 04, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Ruthann Aron's taped voice filled a Rockville courtroom yesterday as she made arrangements to have two men killed, dickered over the price, and spelled out their names.

With jurors reading along from bound transcripts, prosecutors played for the first time recordings made last summer of the former Potomac businesswoman talking to Montgomery County police Detective Terry Ryan, who posed as a contract killer.

Aron's lawyers have acknowledged their client took out contracts on her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and a Baltimore lawyer, Arthur Kahn, but say a mental disorder made her incapable of knowing right from wrong.

As court opened yesterday, it appeared the proceedings might end in a mistrial. Aron's lawyer made the motion based on potentially prejudicial testimony late Monday by William Mossburg Jr., a former Rockville trash hauler who put Aron in touch with Ryan.

He had blurted that he heard Aron hired a hit man only after her attempts to poison Barry Aron with tainted chili had failed.

When questioned by defense lawyer Barry Helfand yesterday, Mossburg said he was only joking with state psychiatrists who were questioning him. "A bad joke here seemed like a good joke there," Mossburg said.

With the motion for a mistrial pending, testimony resumed.

In six audiotapes played yesterday, Aron sounded alternately cheerful, businesslike and suspicious as she spoke first to Mossburg and later to Ryan.

"If you want to read about someone in the obits," Aron says on June 7 in her first call to Ryan. "Is that too blunt?"

Ryan replies, "That's not too blunt at all."

Aron inquires about making the killings look like accidents.

"Does it have to be an accident?" Ryan asks.

"Yeah," Aron responds, then pauses. "Doesn't have to be, but preferred."

Aron agrees to Ryan's request for $10,000, plus expenses, but then talks him down from a $1,000 down payment to $500.

While the tapes played, Aron assumed a familiar courtroom pose: head bowed, eyes closed, knuckles tapping her forehead.

Jurors watched her intently, at one point asking Helfand to move an easel for a better view.

After Aron took out the contract on Kahn, who testified against her in a civil lawsuit, she called Mossburg for reassurance.

"The only thing I'm worried about, from both of our points of view, how do we know this guy isn't some kind of undercover kind of crazy?" Aron asks. "You know, I watch too many movies."

"I don't trust the government at all," Mossburg replies.

"Well, you know I don't either, my dear. You're talking to a kindred spirit."

"I remember when you was telling me about all the crooked judges," Mossburg says.

"They still are," Aron responds on the tape, triggering laughter in the courtroom.

Later, Ryan directs Aron to put a $500 down payment in a padded mailing envelope, mark it "Universal Systems" and deliver it to the front desk of the Washingtonian Center Marriott in Gaithersburg.

A hotel manager then testified that on June 9, he took an envelope marked "Universal Systems" from a woman in a floppy hat, long trench coat and sunglasses and delivered it to the front desk.

Pub Date: 3/04/98

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