Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ruthann Aron: A Deadly Campaign


Book Cover: Hit Man
Book Cover: Hit Man

As the police monitored Ruthann during the call, they were surprised that she didn't exhibit the slightest apprehension after just having ordered the murder of her husband. They knew that she needed to be stopped immediately. While walking from the phone to her red SUV, the police moved in on Ruthann and arrested her for two counts of solicitation to murder. While she was being whisked away to the police station for questioning, investigators immediately began gathering more evidence, beginning with a search of her vehicle. In it they found a red wig, a stolen Virginia license plate and lawn mower components (two mufflers) often used by criminals to make silencers for guns.

During a search of her home, investigators found, on Ruthann's home computer, links to Paladin Press's website that sold sinister how-to books, one of the most popular titles being Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. A sales receipt from the company was also discovered at her home that included the titles, How to Make a Disposable Silencer and The Hayduke Silencer Book: Quick and Dirty Homemade Silencers, plus a book on disguises, all allegedly sent to a mailbox Aron rented under the name 'A. Andrus,'" Vick reported. In Ruthann's bedroom investigators made another startling discovery :a suspected "hit list," including the names of Barry Aron, Arthur Kahn and "Alexandria lawyer John E. Harrison who represented a client in a lawsuit against her and who also testified for Brock in the defamation case," Duggan and Perez-Rivas reported in The Washington Post. Furthermore, officers confiscated from her room an assault rifle, as well as other firearms belonging to Ruthann, but took several months to find her .38 caliber Colt revolver and 9mm pistol that were hidden away in a gym bag and storage box in her bedroom closet.

Book Cover: Final-Exit
Book Cover: Final-Exit

Investigators also uncovered a small prescription vial containing a white powdery substance, discovered in the pocket of a jacket hanging in Ruthann's closet. Tests revealed that the powdery substance was actually a deadly drug cocktail. Investigators speculated about the drug concoction and whether Ruthann was planning to use it for suicidal purposes or to poison someone. Vick reported that the discovery might explain another book detectives found, entitled Final Exit, in Ruthann's possession. The book was "a how-to manual published by the Hemlock Society, which promotes euthanasia and suicide." Allegedly, Barry had given it to Ruthann after an earlier suicide attempt when she found out about one of his affairs.

What investigators didn't know at the time but would later find out was that earlier that year, Ruthann made a batch of chili, Barry's favorite dish. While eating the meal he immediately realized that it tasted unusual. Barry then slipped off into a deep sleep, only to awaken fourteen hours later with a severe headache. Even though forensic tests revealed no signs of the drug mixture in Barry's system, it did not prevent Ruthann from getting an additional charge of attempted murder. She later pleaded not guilty, likely knowing that the charge would be difficult to prove because of a lack of evidence.

Conversely, the two counts of solicitation to murder against Ruthann, which carried a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, were charges backed up with an enormous amount of evidence. On the advice from her lawyers, Ruthann made a bold move and chose the most uncommon and controversial course of action, which was to plead "not criminally responsible." It was the state of Maryland's version of the insanity plea.

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