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Man convicted of killing 91-year-old wife sentenced in Washington to 50 years imprisonment

A German man who masqueraded as an Iraqi general and other eccentric characters was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison for the murder of his 91-year-old wife in Washington.

Albrecht Muth was convicted in January of killing his wife, Viola Drath, a German writer and socialite. She was found dead in the couple's row home in Washington's posh Georgetown neighborhood in August 2011.

Muth told police that he found his wife of 20 years dead in a bathroom, but an investigator concluded Drath's death was staged. Prosecutors said Muth, who was decades younger than his wife, beat and strangled her and then moved her body.

Muth, now 49, did not appear physically in court on Wednesday for his sentencing but attended via videoconference from a hospital, the same way he attended his trial. Muth has been intermittently fasting, and that has left him unable to sit or stand. On Wednesday, he lay in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling for much of the hearing, with a blanket partially obscuring his face.

His lawyer, Dana Page, read a statement on his behalf in which he said he was innocent and blamed his wife's death on agents from Iran who were trying to kill him, a claim he has made before.

"I did not kill my wife," he wrote.

But D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan said the evidence of Muth's guilt was "overwhelming." He said Muth, who has adopted various personas over the years including pretending to be a European count and an Iraqi general, is "nothing more than a common domestic serial abuser." Canan's sentence means Muth would be older than his wife was when she died if he were ever to be released from prison.

Prosecutors, who said Muth deserved a life sentence, argued at trial that Drath endured years of physical and verbal abuse before her death. They introduced evidence that Muth had previously punched Drath, choked her, threatened to kill her and hit her with a chair. Muth pleaded guilty to assault after one 1992 incident, but Drath declined to press other charges.

Prosecutors said Muth, who had no steady employment of his own, lived on a $2,000 monthly allowance from Drath that was reduced to $1,800 shortly before Drath's death. After her death, prosecutors said, Muth produced a phony amendment to Drath's will which purported to leave Muth with up to $200,000 of his wife's estate.

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Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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