Psychiatrist testifies Aron felt 'murderous rage' Mental health issue raised in murder-for-hire trial

July 17, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

A psychiatrist who treated Ruth-ann Aron in the 1970s testified yesterday that Aron harbored an intense rage toward her father, whom she considered brutal and abusive, and fantasized about killing him.

Asked to describe her level of rage, Dr. Nathan Billig replied, "At the risk of being melodramatic, I would say a murderous rage."

Billig's testimony took most of the opening day of defense testimony in Aron's trial on murder-for-hire charges.

The one-time U.S. Senate candidate is accused of orchestrating a scheme to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and a lawyer who had opposed her in a lawsuit.

The first trial ended with a hung jury. The case is being retried before Judge Vincent Ferretti Jr. in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville.

Yesterday's testimony was the first evidence presented to support Aron's claim that she was mentally ill and unable to distinguish right from wrong.

Billig said Aron, who was in her early 30s when he treated her, suffered from borderline personality disorder. He found her grappling with intense anxiety, fear of abandonment, a preoccupation with death and "chronic feelings of emptiness and worthlessness."

He did not prescribe medication.

He said Aron's anger toward her father spilled into her relationships with other men, particularly her husband. Her feelings were often confused, and men were "mixed objects" in her life, he said.

Despite her fantasy about murdering her father, Billig said he never worried that she would act on it. He did not consider her psychotic.

Her relationships could be fragile, and she often responded to stress by lashing out, he said.

"Life was like a war to her -- every interaction, every relationship was a battle to be fought," Billig said.

He said it was not necessarily unusual that she would feel deep self-doubts and achieve a list of impressive accomplishments: degrees in microbiology and law, aspiration to high public office, and a highly successful career earning millions as a developer.

People can appear very self-possessed during a court case or a big business deal, Billig said, "and their life may be a shambles in all other ways."

A string of psychiatrists and psychologists is expected to testify for the defense when the trial continues Monday.

Other defense witnesses yesterday described Aron's demeanor at more recent events.

Martha Handman, a Gaithersburg lawyer, testified that she met Aron at a mediation seminar in spring 1997 and described the developer as "probably the most abrasive person I've ever met."

"I don't think she had a clue how people perceived her," Handman said. "She was very abrupt, abrasive, almost dominating people when she talked to them, as if she knew everything."

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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