Aron 'mixed up' her father, husband Defendant transferred rage, psychiatrist says

March 07, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

A psychiatrist who treated Ruthann Aron 20 years ago testified that when he read of her arrest last summer, he remembered the "intense rage" she felt toward her father, a rage she often transferred to her husband.

Dr. Nathan Billig, the opening witness for the defense, said Aron suffered from a "quite serious" form of mental illness and would go down "the worst path" when faced with adversity.

Aron's lawyers say their client was mentally ill last June when she took out contracts on her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and lawyer Arthur Kahn, who had testified against her once and was poised to do it again.

The prosecution wrapped up six days of testimony in the murder-for-hire trial by finishing its far different portrait, of a vindictive woman who would stop at nothing.

But Billig, who practices in Washington, told the Montgomery County Circuit Court jury that Ruthann Aron was "fragile."

He said he treated Aron from August 1974 to February 1978, a period when her husband was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base just outside Washington.

Aron suffered from "incapacitating" anxiety that prevented her from leaving the house for long periods, a fear of abandonment and an inability to control "intense anger," he said.

"She hated her father and thought about murdering him. She wished he would die," Billig said. "She often mixed up [her father and Barry Aron] in terms of her rage."

fTC Ruthann Aron's father was murdered in his home in upstate New York during a 1994 robbery. A handyman was convicted of the crime. Aron's father left her nothing in his will.

Billig said Aron told him she was afraid of being alone as a child, and sometimes when her parents were working 12-hour shifts at the diner they owned, the girl would carry a sharp knife around the house.

Billig was unable to corroborate defense claims that Aron was sexually abused by her father, but he said, "it is probably significant" that she told him she had stopped liking her father at age 5 or 6.

That is the age defense lawyers say Aron's father began a 10-year assault on his daughter.

Prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell asked Billig how his mentally ill patient could be going to law school, raising two children and carrying on an active social life in Potomac.

"That was the veneer," he replied. "Inside was a shell of a person."

Aron, 55, was a Potomac developer who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1994.

Before beginning their case, the defense team asked Judge Paul McGuckian to acquit Aron of the murder solicitation charge involving Kahn. They argued that while she plotted to have him killed, she never made the agreed $500 down payment, choosing instead to pay for her husband's death first.

"This case includes a test," said attorney Judith Catterton of the $500. "We have a hurdle that she was told to hop and she did not hop that hurdle."

McGuckian denied the motion, saying it was not necessary to make a down payment to trigger the act of solicitation to commit murder.

Prosecutors contend that Aron turned to a hit man after she dropped the idea of killing the two men herself. To make their point, they ended their presentation by entering into evidence all of the materials that could show she meant to commit the murders and flee: several revolvers and ammunition; books on constructing silencers and the materials to do it; pamphlets on creating phony identification papers; and a license plate from a Virginia car.

Prosecutors also presented materials connected with hiring the hit man: $2,000 in $100 bills; pieces of pink paper in her handwriting with the names and addresses of her intended targets; and another paper with the telephone and pager number of the undercover police officer who posed as the hit man.

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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