Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ruthann Aron: A Deadly Campaign


Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville, Maryland
Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville, Maryland

Attorneys for the prosecution, headed by Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell, compiled an impressive amount of medical data, as well as physical evidence, in their case against Ruthann. They hoped that the fifteen tapes of Ruthann openly soliciting the murders of Barry Aron and Arthur Kahn would be the most persuasive evidence that might help them win their case. It all depended on the ten women and two men that made up the jury in one of the more riveting political trials in U.S. history.

Ruthann's murders-for-hire trial, presided over by Judge Paul A. McGuckian, began in the last week of February 1998 at the Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville, Maryland. Shaver and Ruane reported that the 120 potential witnesses lined up to testify "read like a Who's Who of Montgomery County politics," including such propel as "County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, State's Attorney Robert L. Dean, several Montgomery County planning commissioners with whom she served on the Planning Board, Montgomery Sheriff Raymond M. Knight and two General Assembly delegates." Ruthann's main supporter, her mother Frieda Singer, was also present and was on the list of those expected to testify.

County Executive Douglas M. Duncan
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan

On February 26th, the jury heard opening arguments, followed by prosecution testimony from several police investigators and Mossburg. During his testimony, Mossburg told the jury how Ruthann tried to employ him to carry out the sinister task she had in mind. He said that she complained about how a lawyer deceived her and that she believed in "an eye for an eye." Mossburg also talked in detail about his collaboration with investigators and the taped conversations between him and the accused that led to her arrest. To support his statements, the prosecution played the tapes for the jury. Hearing Ruthann coldly discuss hiring a hit man to kill two people undoubtedly influenced the jury and caused some damage to the defense's case. The question was, how much?

The defense team launched back, claiming that they never refuted the fact that Ruthann tried to hire a hit man but claimed that the authorities "entrapped her" and "encouraged her to go further than she intended," Shaver reported. Defense attorneys then made a surprising revelation, suggesting that Ruthann's vulnerable mental state that led her to commit the crimes was caused by childhood sexual abuse by her father and a brain injury known as temporal lobe encephalopathy, which is believed to affect one's impulse control. It was the first time the shocking information was disclosed, and it provided some insight into her hatred for her father and desire to kill her husband.

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