What's Wrong With the Intruder Theory – pt. I

Things That Just Don’t Add Up.

From the start the three Swann Street defendants – Dylan Ward, Victor Zaborsky and Joe Price – have “…categorically and adamantly denied…any involvement with (Mr.) Wone’s death.”   Rather they offer what’s come to be known as “the intruder theory.”   In short: questioned by police the night of Mr. Wone’s murder, all three told some variant of the same story with these ingredients:  having left Mr. Wone alone at the second floor guest room, hearing a door chime, having possibly left the back door open, hearing a series of muffled grunts from Mr. Wone’s room, and discovering Mr. Wone prone on his death bed (see original Ward indictment, “Legal Documents” tab.)  No other signs of any disturbance were reported either in the house or at the back gate, nor were any sounds of someone running or fleeing the house.   Certain of their innocence, all three have repeated that the only solution to the puzzle, as implausible as they admit, must be an unseen and unheard intruder who stabbed Robert Wone and fled.

Leaving aside claims of innocence, the “intruder theory” presents some challenging hurdles to credence.  Tomorrow  we will examine the scrubbed crime scene and the physical realities of 1509 that argue against this theory.  Today, perhaps the most troublesome hurdle:

The time line. These are the time posts we know.  One witness reports last seeing Mr. Wone “…around 9:15pm at the Farragut North Metro station.” Shortly after, around 9:30pm, Kathy Wone  reports Robert phoned, apparently as he walked to his RFA office, to check in and confirm his plans for staying with his friend Joe Price that night, ending the call telling his wife “…I love you.”   The Washington Post reports the next time post about 10:15pm, “…which was about when he left his Radio Free Asia office the night of the killing, according to a colleague.” The defendants all report Mr. Wone arriving around 10:30pm, with Price, Wone and Ward moving to the kitchen to talk.  (Mr. Zaborsky’s statement suggests he was already sleeping in the third floor bedroom at this time.)  The three made small talk, “…about his wife.  We talked about our friend Lisa.  We talked briefly about his job.  Joe talked about the shower breaking…it was just chitchat,” Dylan told investigators.   The next definitive time post is around 11pm or 11:30pm, when a neighbor reported hearing a scream come from 1509.  At 11:49pm, Zaborsky phoned 911 from the third floor bedroom, saying “an intruder” had stabbed a guest in their house.  Just over 5 minutes later, around 11:54pm, two emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, finding no signs of life with Mr. Wone.

So what’s wrong?  What’s right?  Put aside the scrubbed condition of Mr. Wone and the room and the time it would take to remove the blood and other evidence.  Put aside questions as to where Mr. Price found the knife (he has made conflicting statements, saying he found it at Mr. Wone’s side and in his chest.)  Put aside the fact that the knife found (from the first floor butcher block) does not match the wounds, and that no fibers from Mr. Wone’s shirt were found in the wounds as would be expected.  And put aside the mysterious nineteen minutes that pass between the latest report of the scream (around 11:30) and the 911 call (11:49.)

Even still, it strains credence to believe that – at most – within a 79 minute period all that had to have transpired could have.  A guest – an old friend – is greeted at the door and enters (perhaps 2 minutes), moves to the kitchen for a glass of water and small talk about a variety of subjects including arrangements for the night (15 minutes, guessing),  upstairs to show the guest his room, bathroom, and towels and say good-nights (3 minutes?), Ward and Price retire while Wone changes out of his work clothes, takes a shower, dries off, attends to prepping for sleep (putting his mouth guard in, etc.), changes into sleep-tee and takes to bed (I shower fast and I can’t get this done faster than 20 minutes if I try.)  All this leaves a total of only about 20 minutes, tops, until the latest report of the scream and – we presume – the first discovery of Mr. Wone’s murder.

Twenty minutes: for an intruder to enter, go upstairs, both stab Mr. Wone as well as administer six small puncture wounds, somehow sexually stimulate Mr. Wone with the end result of the coroner finding the victim’s own semen in his rectum, allow enough time for the victim to continue living for a period after the stabbing (see coroner’s report) and for possible suffocation, flee the scene silently through the back door (this time not setting off the chime) while Price and Zaborsky upstairs hear muffled grunts and run downstairs – seeing or hearing no-one – to find Mr. Wone on his bed, ultimately leading Mr. Zaborsky to scream.   Try as I might, I cannot see how this makes any sense, even presuming the absolute best of the defendants.

For the record, I would like to see the actual witness statements from 9:15pm and 10:15pm beyond just media reports.  I would also like to know if RFA has a log of Mr. Wone’s last appearance there.  Also, Mr. Wone was not driving his car that night; did he walk?  Cab?  Without knowing these things directly, I am left wondering if Mr. Wone didn’t phone his wife at 9:30 just before going directly to Joe Price’s house, expanding the amount of time significantly for events to transpire.

Posted by Doug

19 comments for “What's Wrong With the Intruder Theory – pt. I

  1. David
    02/18/2009 at 12:29 AM

    Don’t the timeline and variety of things that are alleged to have happened in that short amount of time just as easily if not more strongly favor the defendants’ theory? That is, how could anything OTHER than a premeditated scheme by some other party have taken place in such a short amount of time? There wasn’t time in the recognized timeline for something accidental to happen and then be followed by a sloppy cover-up (and I find it difficult to imagine that the housemates would have intended to kill Wone in any event). But if it were intentional and premeditated, no doubt it would have been done with more finesse. As I see it, if one accepts the narrow timeline, nothing but a meticulous assassination designed to implicate the housemates makes any sense. And yet that seems really weird.

  2. David
    02/18/2009 at 9:12 AM

    A comment on the blog editing…I like the hyperlinking to sources of allegations or facts, but the editors might want to create their own bibliography and hotlink from entries to it, and then have hyperlinks from their source list to the original web sources. That way, if the link to an outside site breaks, the viewer here can still see at least the basic source reference. Also, caution as to sources within sources. A newspaper reporting that an investigator said something might be best listed as an investigator quote (as reported by). Again, the suggestion is geared to making the site easier both for understanding the case and possibly contributing something to it.

  3. L.
    02/18/2009 at 7:28 PM


    If it were “a meticulous assassination designed to implicate the housemates” – why have the 3 men not implicated possible suspects?

    If they were being set up – they would definitely have a list of people.

  4. Piet
    02/27/2009 at 8:57 AM

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the most likely scenario. 2 of the housemates are into some pretty heavy S/M (according to the original affidavit). 1 gets the brilliant idea that such a small guy would be easy to drug or otherwise overcome and dominate. Once he’s bound and sexually assaulted, perhaps he is not fully under and/or partially wakes up, leading the perpetrators to get the further brilliant idea that they need to murder him in order not to get in trouble. So they smother him and then stab him (at which point he is unable to move at all, otherwise the wounds wouldn’t be so “neat”) to make sure he is dead and not just “under”, clean the body (stupid decision), reclothe him (an intruder wouldn’t have stripped him to kill him, they must have been thinking), then clean themselves up (their friend is dead in their home and they decide it’s a good idea to “shower up” before paramedics come?? again, from the affidavit). I believe just 1 of the roommates is responsible for the actual murder, but all three are obviously covering it up in a terribly, horribly twisted sense of defending a loved one. And therefore they are all guilty. I didn’t know Robert, but I would be very happy to see all three of these monsters spend the rest of their lives in jail, contemplating what they did that night to a decent man, his family, and friends.

  5. TK
    04/07/2009 at 9:00 AM

    I’m troubled by the shortness of the timeline as well, considering all that must have transpired, whether it was an intruder or the resident(s). I have to say that it crossed my mind as well that when Wone called his wife he was actually on his way to Swann St. But supposedly there were witnesses at RFA, and if he didn’t go there and lied to his wife… it’s something that could come up at a later point.

    I also find it strange that he made the arrangements to stay at Swann St. ‘several days in advance.’ It seems a bit unusual that someone would be planning to work late on one particular weeknight days in advance. There’s also the possibility that Wone was the one who screamed, not Zaborsky, which could extend the timeline somewhat later. Still, cleanup would have to have been pretty frantic. But bloody sheets could have been disposed of or even in the dryer when the EMTs arrived; my impression is that the house was not searched until quite a bit later.

    Even granting that an intruder did kill Wone, the idea that he would then clean up the scene, wash Wone and change the sheets (all without waking anyone else and in the time window) is beyond incredible.

  6. Anonymous
    04/07/2009 at 9:15 AM

    He was doing a CLE class that night that didn’t end until after 9. He had also wanted to meet the night shift at RFA. According to his wife, he wanted to spend more time with friends after leaving the high pressure corporate firm world, so it was a way to kill 3 birds with 1 stone. Oakton is not that close and I could personally see making a plan to crash with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while when I registered for the CLE. According to Kathy Wone, there was another friend that he considered staying with, maybe also a W&M alumn, can’t remember. He had never stayed with Price before, according to everyone’s accounts, but they had thrown him a bday party at the Capitol Hill house, they had definitely stayed quite friendly.

    • TK
      04/07/2009 at 11:18 AM

      According to Google Maps, it’s about a half hour drive from downtown to Oakton (mostly on 66W); and by evening most traffic would have cleared out. A lot of DC area residents spend twice that on a commute each way, every day.

      • 06/05/2009 at 8:16 PM

        that never sat right with me either. it’s not that far, especially if you are married and do the trip daily. we need to see e-mails on days up to the night in question for context here.

        the comments on this thread are wonderful, so many pointing to ward, assisted (later?) by price, while the Ma’am (Victor) got her beauty sleep.

  7. Anonymous
    04/07/2009 at 11:54 AM

    Not saying it was impossible to travel home, just that IMHO, I could see crashing with a friend who I was also trying to find time to see. I could see sequencing together the evening CLE (which he attended with another friend/colleague and also grabbed dinner with), swinging by the office to meet the night shift which was a priority for him, then walking or cabbing over to Price’s place to chat and crash. I think the fact that he was considering possibly crashing with another friend, according to his wife, speaks to trying to fit several things into a night in town. I wouldn’t be surprised if Price had issued a standing invite and that he urged him to stay over on Swann Street that night. Makes more sense to me that it was planned in advance.

    • CDinDC
      04/07/2009 at 12:17 PM

      I think all of that sounds completely logical…..except for the fact that Robert arrived at Swann Street too late to socialize. If the timeline is correct, he went to bed moments after arriving. Doesn’t connect with what his intentions were.

      Maybe Robert intented to stay up later…..get in a good hour or so of conversation with his old pal. He could have stayed up later and not been too tired in the morning as he could get a bit more sleep than usual since he was staying in the city. Maybe he intended to come back downstairs after a shower, but that intention was preempted.

  8. Anonymous
    04/07/2009 at 2:47 PM

    Maybe he intended to socialize but upon arrival they urged him to get ready for bed or said that they were turning in? Whatever they needed to have happen to get their plan underway? If their statements were truthful I agree with you that it wasn’t much time to socialize, but I’m not sure that we can infer his intentions from what Price & Co. said happened, I mean, he didn’t go there planning to be murdered either. His wife made a statement that part of his plan for the night was to spend time with Price.

    • CDinDC
      04/07/2009 at 3:11 PM

      Anonymous says: “His wife made a statement that part of his plan for the night was to spend time with Price.”

      Exactly, his intentions were to spend time with a friend, and I’m basing basing my conjecture on what his wife said. Not the trio’s version of what happened.

      by the way, are you the same “anonymous” that posted “He was doing a CLE class that night….” If so, do you think you could come up with a screen name? It’s hard to know who we’re dealing with…..anonymous could be 10 different people.

    • Just Another Friend
      04/07/2009 at 3:48 PM

      Orr maybe he intended to socialize, but when he arrived Joe and/or Dylan was already hopped up on something, making socializing (at least, the kind of socializing Robert had imagined) difficult, so he just turned in.

      • CDinDC
        04/07/2009 at 4:03 PM

        Gooood point.

  9. DC Sleuth
    04/07/2009 at 4:19 PM

    That’s a good point, JAF.

    Anyone know if Robert was aware of Joe’s drug use? I could imagine that Joe could have kept that hidden from work/school related friends, but wonder if anyone who knew them happens to know.

    I really wonder what Robert’s opinion of and relationship with Ward was like – if Joe and Victor threw a birthday party for him they must have all socialized at times.

  10. Concernednetizen
    06/05/2009 at 2:09 AM

    I don’t think Wone showered at all that night until defendants showered him, put him in his tee shirt and put his teethguard in his mouth. He was attacked and incapacitated the minute he stepped into the house, i.e., 10:30 p.m. This gave the defendants over an hour to rape, kill and then clean up. I think Wone was fatally stabbed w/in the first 1/2 hour of his being in the house which gave defendants nearly 45 minutes to clean up and coordinate their stories.

    The rape/murder couldn’t have happened unless the basement tenant’s absence was assured. I wonder when she told defendants she would be out that night. Could the defendants have suggested she absent herself because they were planning on having a houseguest? Or did she say she would be gone at which point defendants invited Wone over?

  11. jmdrwac
    06/05/2009 at 1:34 PM

    Let’s see: the intruder broke into the house, stole nothing, disturbed nothing, wandered to a remote part of the second floor, killed a houseguest and took the time to put the houseguest’s own semen in his rectum.

    Folks, that just did not happen. It’s not even worth speculating about.

    A lot about this evening is a mystery, but there are two things we can know for sure: 1) an innocent young man was killed and 2) an intruder did not do it.

    • Mike
      06/05/2009 at 8:48 PM

      Call me crazy but if I find a dead friend in my house and think there is an intruder I am not going to be despondent. I am going to running around that house with a baseball bat. Or a huge knife of my own. Anyone crazy enough to break into your house and kill someone could definitely stick around to kill some more people. I would not just be sitting in that room in my underwear. I would be searching the house ready to defend myself. Angry as hell and ready to catch the perpetrator. I would also relay how freaked out I was to police. Tell them I have no idea if the person is still in there etc. The reason they weren’t scared out of their minds and looking for a means to defend themselves is because they knew exactly who did it. And they knew the exact circumstances of how it happened.

  12. Dario
    06/06/2009 at 2:04 AM

    I haven’t read every comment on this site, but I wonder if anyone’s raised the possibility of a fifth person being in the house that night: not an intruder, but a friend of the three housemates (maybe a playmate of Dylan Ward’s). He might have been there the whole evening, and slipped out right after the stabbing, taking the knife, syringe and other evidence with him. Since he was a visitor (like Wone), the housemates would naturally have used him to dispose of the evidence (taking a gamble that no one had seen him enter the house). It would explain a few things, such as the speed of the clean-up and the disappearance of the murder weapon.

    Of course, it doesn’t explain the planting of the decoy knife: the only possible reason for that would be if the real murder weapon were hidden on the premises or nearby. Besides the timeline, that may be the case’s most puzzling feature.

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