Aron acted against type before arrest, psychiatrist says 'She was completely out of touch,' he testifies

July 23, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

In the weeks before her arrest on murder-for-hire charges, Ruthann Aron exhibited anything but her typical personality traits, a forensic psychiatrist testified yesterday.

Frantic, agitated and anxious, Aron was "swimming with ideas" and juggling as many as 20 projects in early June 1997 -- more than she could reasonably manage, medical experts said in Montgomery Circuit Court yesterday.

For someone who was routinely suspicious or even paranoid, it was unusual that Aron accepted at face value that a person she believed to be a hit man was who he said he was, testified Dr. Michael Spodak, who has a private practice in Towson. For someone who normally orchestrated big real estate deals, he said, her alleged plan to kill her husband and another man was bungled and sloppy.

An often emotional person, she smiled happily with a colleague on June 9, 1997, as they were photographed on the golf course a few hours after she dropped a $500 deposit for her husband's supposed killer at a Gaithersburg motel.

"This was a momentous decision, and there is nothing to indicate she was in touch with the momentous road she was going down," Spodak testified. "It suggests to me she was completely out of touch with the reality of life."

The "hit man" was an undercover detective tipped off to the plan, and Aron was arrested soon after leaving the golf course.

Spodak's testimony supported Aron's claim that she was mentally ill at the time and should not be held criminally responsible for her actions.

An alternative explanation, he said, might be that Aron was just inept at solicitation to commit murder. But considering her numerous accomplishments -- degrees in microbiology, education and law, her successful development business, and achievements on the county planning board and a respectable first run for a U.S. Senate seat -- he concluded that "she's not typically a bungler."

In 54 years, Aron had never before "tried to hire anyone to do anything to someone else out of vindictiveness or spite," Spodak said. The fact that her actions were uncharacteristic supports the contention that she was so mentally ill she didn't understand what she was doing, he testified.

Aron's first trial ended in March with a hung jury when one juror agreed the defendant's mental condition kept her from knowing right from wrong.

Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell grilled Spodak on the doctor's conclusions for more than an hour.

Holding up the picture of Aron on the golf course, he asked Spodak, "Isn't it possible she feels some degree of comfort at the prospect of having her husband dead?"

In other testimony, Dr. Lawrence Kline, head of the psychiatric unit at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, said his tests of Aron revealed that she suffers from manic depression, borderline personality disorder and brain dysfunction leading to extremes in emotion, loss of judgment, instability, and suicidal behavior.

The case continues today before Circuit Court Judge Vincent Ferretti Jr.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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