'She was born into my hell,' Aron's mother says at trial She admits abusing her children

March 13, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

In an emotion-packed 50 minutes of testimony, Ruthann Aron's mother told of a cycle of pain and abuse that began with her own alcoholic father and ended with her daughter's tumultuous marriage.

"She was born into my hell, but she married into hers," said Frieda Singer, fighting back tears.

Aron, 55, is being tried on charges she hired a hit man last year in an unsuccessful attempt to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and lawyer Arthur Kahn. Her lawyers have conceded her guilt, but contend she was mentally ill and unable to know right from wrong.

At one point, Singer nodded at her daughter sitting 20 feet away in the courtroom, and said, "I'm the one who should be sitting there, not her. If not for me, she wouldn't be there."

Singer, 78, told a Rockville jury yesterday of a family in which violence goes back generations.

She said her father fled to America from his native Romania after he crushed the skull of another man with the head of an ox.

As a child in New York City, Singer said she hated being with her father. He forced her to wait for him at the brothel he frequented and often destroyed household furnishings during drunken rages.

"This is a man I wanted to love because he was my father," the white-haired woman said, her voice quivering.

Singer said she thought she had escaped her awful life when, at 22, she married David Greenzweig and moved from the family home.

But her elation was short-lived.

Singer went on to tell a story of alienation and abuse that in some ways echoes the story that lawyers defending Ruthann Aron have told of her adult life.

In a small voice that jurors sometimes strained to hear, Singer talked about her 40-year marriage to David Greenzweig that ended in divorce in 1982, and her daughter's 33-year marriage.

Greenzweig was a house painter before he moved his wife and two young children from Brooklyn north to Grahamsville, N.Y., to work in construction.

Greenzweig was often away on jobs and the rest of the family was forced to live in a barn because no one would rent to Jews.

The Greenzweigs bought a diner, where David and Frieda worked 12-hour shifts.

Greenzweig was a "very, very abusive man" who would slap his family or take a coal shovel "and whack them good," Singer said.

And, after long hours at the diner, Singer admitted that she, too, beat her children with "a favorite strap" and a pipe.

"I was overworked and overtired," she said. "It was the only way I could calm myself down and bring them to tears so that we could hug and share our misery."

Aron, visibly shaken, crumpled against the shoulder of her lawyer and stayed there during the bulk of her mother's testimony.

Singer also talked briefly about the alleged sexual abuse that Aron's lawyers contend contributed to their client's fragile mental state.

The mother said she knew her husband was sexually abusing the young girl, even though her daughter never mentioned it.

"I saw him fondle her breasts," she said. "He said he wasn't doing anything. It was an accident."

Greenzweig was killed in 1994 during a robbery at his home. A handyman was convicted of the crime.

During her marriage to Greenzweig, Singer said, she turned to pills and Scotch and moved to a separate bedroom because she couldn't stand the sight of her husband. But she said she worried about her children -- Ruthann and her younger brother, Neil.

"With a nutty mother and a brutal father, what kind of a home is that?" she said.

Like her mother, Ruthann also found an escape -- Cornell Univer- sity -- where she met Barry Aron, a medical student. The two married in 1965 and Barry Aron began his residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

But the Arons separated in 1970 shortly after the birth of their daughter. Singer moved in with Ruthann to care for the baby while her daughter worked.

After the couple reconciled and moved to Maryland, Singer said, she became convinced that the bruises and welts that she noticed on her daughter were not caused by accident as she claimed.

"She [Ruthann] knew that I knew what was going on," said Singer, angrily shaking her finger at her daughter. "She knew that I knew Barry Aron was abusing her."

Her testimony contradicted that of Barry Aron, who said he only assaulted his wife once -- during a fight on Halloween 1995 in which she fell. The fracas ended with Ruthann's pointing a gun at him and threatening to kill him.

On a recent Mother's Day, Singer said, Barry Aron gave his wife a how-to book on suicide, "Final Exit."

Barry Aron has said his wife bought the book.

Singer said she loved her son-in-law Barry Aron "with all my heart, but he scorned me, and you know what they say about a woman scorned."

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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