Dr. Barry Aron told a Rockville jury that his "blood ran cold" after police told him last summer to sit down for some bad news: His wife of 30 years had tried to have him killed.
For 4 1/2 hours yesterday, Aron testified about his relationship with Ruthann Aron -- their courtship, his yearlong affair, their reconciliation and the "tumultuous" recent years.
Aron, a prominent Montgomery County urologist, said he was proud of his wife and tried to be supportive, even after she ordered him to move out of their bedroom in early 1993.
He showed his concern by working tirelessly in her 1994 campaign for the U.S. Senate as a fund-raiser, confidant and trouble-shooter.
"She didn't really want a divorce. She didn't really want me to move out of the bedroom," Aron said. "She wanted me to win her back. I wanted to make her feel good about herself."
But just the opposite happened, he said.
On Halloween night in 1995, as the Arons squabbled about finances in the kitchen, Ruthann Aron opened Barry Aron's wallet and tore up a $20 bill. She pulled out a second bill.
"That was the limit of my tolerance," said Barry Aron, who described wrestling the wallet away from his wife and pushing her through the double doors leading to the dining room.
She fell heavily onto her back and appeared stunned. As Barry Aron tended to her, she stood and went upstairs to her bedroom.
Barry Aron said he followed and unlocked her bedroom door. What he then saw made him quickly back out.
"She was sitting on the bed with a gun in her hand. I said, 'I came up to say I'm sorry.' She said,'If you come into this room I'll shoot you.' "
Sitting 20 feet away in the courtroom, a calm Ruthann Aron took notes and glanced occasionally at her husband.
Barry Aron's testimony came on the fourth day of his wife's murder-for-hire trial and follows testimony from a police officer who posed as a hit man and a Rockville businessmen who acted as a go-between with the would-be killer.
Her lawyers have acknowledged that she took out contracts on Barry Aron and a Baltimore lawyer, Arthur Kahn, but say she had a mental disorder that rendered her not criminally responsible for her actions.
Barry Aron also testified that he found a copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine open on the coffee table in their Florida condominium, with classified ads for telephone monitoring equipment circled in ink.
When he questioned his wife about having "that hit man magazine," she brushed him off, saying guns interested her.
The soft-spoken doctor said he knew nothing of defense claims that Ruthann Aron had been sexually abused by her father, but that she had told him about her father's verbal abuse.
Barry Aron also denied a defense claim that he had belittled his wife's intelligence.
"I married her because she was bright, witty and quick," he said.
Ruthann Aron could be tough and single-minded, he testified, but as a politician she had a major weakness, one he tried to remind her of as she contemplated a run for the Senate.
"I don't think that politics is a place for a person who is exquisitely sensitive, and Ruthann is exquisitely sensitive, " he said. "She's got to swim with the sharks and that's very dangerous."
His prediction came true when Ruthann Aron lost the 1994 Republican primary and was "devastated" by tactics used by her opponent, William E. Brock. In the final days of their race, Brock told reporters she had been convicted of defrauding partners, a criminal offense, rather than a civil infraction.
Barry Aron urged his wife to sue Brock to clear her name, and promised to pay her legal expenses.
Ruthann Aron's defamation case was going well until Kahn, a Baltimore lawyer who represented Aron's partners in the fraud suit, testified against her.
Kahn took the stand against Ruthann Aron again yesterday, telling the jury he never liked her, but liked her even less after she tried to have him killed.
The flamboyant attorney sparred with defense lawyer Barry Helfand about his motive for testifying against her, with Kahn finally saying: "I didn't think she had any business running for the U.S. Senate."
During his cross-examination of Barry Aron, Helfand raised questions about the doctor's character. He pressed Aron on why he prescribed numerous medications, including painkillers, for his wife.
Aron said his wife suffered from kidney stones, fluid retention and bowel difficulties and that he kept medicine in the house and in a travel case to treat flare-ups.
Helfand also asked why Aron wrote to his superiors in the Air Force in 1972 asking to have his transfer to California rescinded because of his wife's deep depression.
Aron said he exaggerated the severity of his wife's postpartum depression after the birth of their second child so that he could stay at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington and she could remain near her mother.
"She was having a rough time with the kids," he said. "I wanted to make it as easy on her as I could."
Pub Date: 3/05/98