Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ruthann Aron: A Deadly Campaign

Insane?

Ruthann Aron
Ruthann Aron

Ruthann's arrest stunned the political establishment, sending shockwaves that reverberated throughout the nation's capital and the outlying areas. Few could imagine that someone as successful and wealthy as Ruthann could be capable of planning anyone's murder, let alone that of her husband. Moreover, many were equally as shocked that her legal team was pursing an insanity defense, one that is rarely successful.

Montgomery County lawyer Robert H. Metz, who had close political ties with Ruthann, was astonished by her plea and was quoted in Vick's article as saying that she acted "absolutely normal," which was why "everyone was so surprised." Vick reported that most people who knew her agreed that she "was functioning at a high level in the weeks before her arrest, tending to her part-time position on the Planning Board while doing the spadework for a run at an at-large County Council seat — after a planned switch to the Democratic Party." Many who were closely following Ruthann's case were convinced that the evidence against Ruthann was just too strong and that her plea of "not criminally responsible" was a shoddy ploy at trying to escape life in prison. Few believed her lawyers could actually pull it off.

Ruthann Aron with her lawyers Barry Helfand, left, and Erik Bolog
Ruthann Aron with her lawyers Barry
Helfand, left, and Erik Bolog

Ruthann's attorneys, referred to by Shaver as "Montgomery County's version of the 'dream team,'" included Rockville, Maryland criminal defense lawyer Barry Helfand, Washington, D.C. lawyer Erik D. Bolog and Rockville lawyer Judy Catterton, a "former prosecutor who helped re-write Maryland's insanity law in the early 1990's." Their job was to convince a jury, mostly with the help of mental health care specialists that their client had a long history of mental illness that impaired her judgment and functioning, thus rendering her not accountable for her criminal behavior. At the request of her lawyers, Montgomery County District Court Judge Louis Harrington allowed Ruthann to be temporarily released from her jail cell to visit the psychiatric ward of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, to begin her evaluation. It would prove to be a daunting task that would require countless tests and interviews to determine her mental state over the years and leading up to her current condition.

Ruthann spent about a month at Suburban Hospital before she was transferred to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, Maryland, a state-run psychiatric facility, where she was evaluated for a further two months. Between the two facilities, Ruthann's diagnosis widely varied, ranging from minor to severe mental health issues, including Borderline Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression and Bi-polar Disorder. Despite the varying diagnoses, state doctors eventually determined that she was competent enough to stand trial and was well aware of her actions at the time she was methodically planning the elimination of her husband and Kahn.

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