Aron tried to poison husband, state alleges She doctored chili with drugs, judge told

Ruthann Aron, who faces charges in a failed murder-for-hire plot, may have already tried once before to kill her husband by spiking his chili dinner with a "potentially lethal mix" of powdered drugs, the state alleged yesterday.

Montgomery County District Judge Cornelius J. Vaughey denied bond and a request from Aron's attorney that she be transferred to a private mental hospital after the prosecution outlined its case -- bolstered with new revelations about ammunition purchases, an assumed name, missing guns and the alleged poisoning attempt.


"We have ample probable cause that [Ruthann Aron] spoke the truth when she said if she didn't get someone else to do it, she would do it herself," said Deputy State's Attorney Matthew Campbell.

Ruthann Aron's attorney, Barry Helfand, called the prosecution's allegation of an attempted poisoning "preposterous" and said it would be "impossible to prove."


During a search of the Arons' Potomac home, police recovered an unlabeled plastic medicine vial containing a mixture of powdered narcotics, tranquilizers, analgesics and antihistamines, Campbell said.

Barry Aron believes that his wife put a similar concoction into his favorite meal of chili on either April 24 or May 8, Campbell said.

"The state has "probable cause to conclude that the defendant attempted to murder Doctor [Barry] Aron herself with a potentially lethal mix of drugs," Campbell said.

Barry Aron told prosecutors he saw his wife sprinkling a white powder -- which at the time she said was sugar -- into the chili.

Campbell said Barry Aron thought the chili tasted strange and bitter and apologized to his wife for not being able to finish his meal. He told prosecutors he could not remember whether Ruthann Aron also ate the chili.

Barry Aron, who was drinking wine with dinner, passed out in his easy chair shortly after the meal and slept for more than 14 hours, awakening with a "horrific hangover," Campbell said.

At Shady Grove Adventist Hospital where Aron, a urologist, works, two colleagues noted his glassy-eyed state and urged him to get a urinalysis, Campbell said.

Aron, 56, decided against the urine test, the prosecutor said, after talking to Ruthann Aron, who suggested he might have had an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the chili.


A pharmacologist consulted by the prosecution said Barry Aron's symptoms were consistent with an "ingestion of the combination of drugs," such as those found in the vial, Campbell said.

The Arons had been estranged for more than four years, living separate lives in separate quarters of their Potomac home, Barry Aron has said.

In recent months, he said, he had told his wife that he wanted a divorce, but had agreed, at her insistence, that they postpone their official separation until after her planned run for Montgomery County Council next year.

In his argument, Campbell noted that Barry Aron's recent requests for a divorce came about a month before the alleged poisoning attempt.

Ruthann Aron, 54, a Montgomery County developer and a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, was arrested June 9 after she allegedly dropped off a $500 down payment toward $10,000-a-head slayings of her husband of 32 years and lawyer Arthur G. Kahn.

Ruthann Aron told an undercover police officer posing as a hit man that she wanted Barry Aron's death to look like an accident but that Kahn, who had testified against her in a defamation trial, could be killed in the course of a robbery, Campbell said.


Helfand reiterated his plea to transfer Ruthann Aron to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, where he said she would be treated in a locked ward.

"I do not believe there are poisons, weapons and bullets at Shepherd Pratt," said Helfand, who derided the prosecution's contention that his client had planned her husband's murder.

"They say she had the bullets, the guns the 'vial of poison,' " said Helfand. "If she had really wanted to kill her husband, she could have done it at any time, and she didn't do it."

Since her arrest, Helfand said, Ruthann Aron has been diagnosed by a defense psychiatrist as severely depressed and is taking medication. He suggested also that her condition is not a recent occurrence.

Ruthann Aron was brought to court for the hearing, but Helfand asked that her appearance be waived. He later said he thought parading her into court in shackles and a prison jumpsuit would have been too humiliating for her.

Looking slight and pale, with her hands cuffed in front of her, Ruthann Aron was returned to the Montgomery County Detention Center in a sheriff's van.


Describing a Ruthann Aron far different from the calculating killer depicted by prosecutors, Helfand said he believes his client is mentally ill.

"She is always crying to me," said Helfand. "She is very, very down. She keeps saying, 'Barry, please get me out of here.' "

Campbell said Aron's computer showed she had been visiting the Palladin Press web site since March 1996. Palladin manuals on how to make gun silencers from packing peanuts, lawn mower mufflers and plastic soda bottles -- and those materials -- were found in Aron's car and home.

Helfand suggested that Ruth-ann Aron had visited the Palladin Press site to do First Amendment research for her defamation suit against Republican rival William E. Brock III.

Aron also had recently bought two boxes of .38-caliber bullets at a gun shop in Chantilly, Va., for a pistol that prosecutors say was Ruthann Aron's favorite gun and is still unaccounted for.

Campbell also testified that Ruthann Aron rented a post office box under the alias "A. Andrus" and obtained instructions for making false identification.


Pub Date: 6/21/97