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Md. Woman To Claim Insanity in Plot

February 25, 1998

BALTIMORE (AP) _ When former Senate candidate Ruthann Aron goes on trial, prosecutors will use her own words to try to prove she wanted her husband and a rival lawyer dead.

Prosecutors have tape recordings they say show her arranging to pay $20,000 for the two murders.

According to court documents, they have more: instruction books and material found in her car for making a silencer; a list of her intended victims’ names and identifying information; the trench coat, wig, dark glasses and floppy hat she wore when leaving a $500 down payment at a hotel desk.

``Maybe I just lost it,″ Ms. Aron told police shortly after her arrest in June.

She will offer the legal version of the ``maybe-I-just-lost-it″ defense in a trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville. Jury selection began this morning.

The wealthy developer has pleaded not criminally responsible _ the equivalent of an insanity defense _ in the alleged plot to kill Dr. Barry Aron, who was planning to divorce her, and Arthur Kahn. Among other things, her lawyers are expected to argue she was a victim of child abuse.

``If I’m on a jury I’m thinking, `Hey, this is not a crazy person. She ran for the Senate,‴ said Byron L. Warnken, professor of criminal and constitutional law at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

On the other hand, he said, the jury might think ``this behavior is so bizarre, she must be crazy.″

Ms. Aron, 55, could get life in prison if found guilty of solicitation to commit murder.

Before she was arrested there was little outward evidence of anything wrong.

She and her husband of 32 years lived in a $700,000 brick home in Potomac. Ms. Aron, who had a law degree from Catholic University, started a development company in 1984 and got involved in local politics, joining the county planning board in 1992.

In 1994, she ran in the Maryland Republican primary, losing to former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock, who lost the general election to Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

After the campaign, Ms. Aron sued Brock, claiming he defamed her by saying she had been convicted of fraud. Ms. Aron had reached out-of-court settlements with former business partners after civil juries ruled against her, but was never convicted of a crime.

She lost the defamation suit. When a judge dismissed her request for a new trial, one of Brock’s lawyers commented: ``I’ve never seen such a disgruntled loser in all my life.″

Kahn had represented one of her former business partners and had also testified against her in the Brock case.

According to investigators, she wanted the attorney’s killing to look like a robbery and her husband’s slaying to look like an accident.

Her lawyers are expected to call nine doctors and psychologists to establish her mental state.

``Ms. Aron’s mental illness is probably one of the most complicated I have seen,″ said defense attorney Judith Catterton. ``She has brain damage and some biological problems. On top of that, an acute episode of depression. There is not any way to talk about her without coming to understand really her whole life, in particular her childhood, which was horrible.″

Prosecutors also contend Ms. Aron tried to kill her husband in April by lacing his chili with drugs. That case will be tried separately.

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