Arons' marital turmoil under public scrutiny Testimony reveals private acrimony of 33-year partnership

July 26, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

In the year since Potomac developer Ruthann Aron was charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, the various slights, hurts and humiliations revealed about their marriage have shattered the public image of a happy 33-year partnership.

These days, as Aron is tried for the second time, it is impossible for anyone in court to pick up those sharp-edged remnants without inflicting new cuts.

There is the anniversary card to Dr. Aron that arrived at his office in a bright pink envelope with two figures embracing and wearing party hats on the cover.

"I was just thinking how very much I love you," the printed message read. Below it, a hand-scribbled note by Mrs. Aron added, " when we're on vacation cause you're mean and negligent and rejecting the rest of the time. R.A."

Or the undated note Dr. Aron wrote his wife on a pharmaceutical note pad advertising the drug "Tolerex, an effective solution for intolerance." His message read: "I am going to have an affair if I want to & if you don't like it you can shoot yourself in the head."

Whether Ruthann Aron acted out of cold calculation or mental illness in her alleged murder-for-hire scheme, the case has pushed her apparently hellish marriage under a public microscope.

There seems to be no limit to the acrimony. On Friday, she filed a $25 million medical malpractice suit claiming her husband wrongly prescribed medication that led to her mental impairment. That was a counterclaim to his $7.5 million filing against her in June claiming her attempt on his life caused him severe mental anguish.

The Arons' lawyers have described the trials as "gut-wrenching" and "excruciating" for their clients. Bad enough to go through the anguish once, but even worse to experience it again after the first trial ended in a hung jury.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came last week with the testimony of the couple's son, Josh, a 26-year-old New York stockbroker who came to town for his court date and stayed with friends rather than with either parent. The couple's daughter, Dana, has not testified in either trial.

A good mother, says son

Josh Aron described Mrs. Aron as a good mother who needed psychiatric help. He characterized her demands for expressions of love and attention from her family as extreme. His parents' marriage was both destructive and supportive, he said.

At one point, a prosecutor asked whether he considered his father to be a truthful person. "I couldn't say," he answered.

And his mother? Josh Aron asked whether "truthful" meant someone who told the truth all of the time or most of the time. He didn't wait for a reply.

"I'm a truthful person. I tell the truth," he added. The prosecutor let it go.

Mrs. Aron, described by many as extremely private and distrustful, often shields her face with her hand or buries her head in her arms as the details of her life are held up for public scrutiny.

"I am paralyzed"

One undated note suggests a despairing Ruthann Aron, as she writes to her husband, son and daughter, in part: "I am paralyzed from the hurt by the three of you. I am moving on. You deprive me of the love, as I understand it, warmth and respect I feel that I have begged, cajoled and threatened to ask that you recognize my needs and wishes to no avail. You treat me as though I am a crazy bitch."

Both sides have a story, and each is making sure the jury knows it.

Dr. Aron had the capacity to be quite cruel, the defense argues. He engaged in a yearlong affair early in his marriage, moving out on his wife and 5-month-old daughter, the couple's first child. He bought his wife a book on how to commit suicide for Mother's Day, and he taunted her with threats of abandonment because he knew that's what she feared.

Ultimately, the defense says, Mrs. Aron was too mentally ill to know what she was doing June 9, 1997, when she put $500 down on a $10,000 fee to have her husband killed.

Prosecutors say that her behavior was self-serving and vindictive and that she plotted her husband's death in chilling fashion. For years, she had made it clear he didn't measure up.

In a note to her husband in 1984 giving him her definition of success, she wrote: "In urology, if you made (salary) of $250,000 per year, I would view that level as successful. Ruthann Aron."

She ordered her husband out of their bedroom in 1993 and he stayed out. After one argument at the house in 1995, she pulled a gun and threatened to shoot him.

On that occasion, they had fought about money. Mrs. Aron retrieved a $20 bill from her husband's wallet and tore it up as they stood in the kitchen. When she pulled out a second $20 bill he pushed her, in what he testifies was the only time he resorted to physical violence against her. The shove caused her to fall through the double doors and onto the dining room floor.

Odd family scenes

Some scenes from the Aron family album border on the merely peculiar.

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