"We Need An Ambulance…"

What we learned from Victor Zaborsky’s 9-1-1 call

Among the new bits of information in last week’s Washington Post online series was, of course, audio of the 9-1-1 call Victor Zaborsky placed at 11:49pm on August 2nd, 2006.

As we’ve noted before, there’s no telling how any one of us would respond in a crisis situation until we’ve been there.  Perhaps because several of this team have faced life-or-death situations, we’re clear in not judging anyone’s response to immediate mortal threat.

The 911_call (Right click to open in new browser)

9-1-1 for Emergencies

9-1-1 for Emergencies

That said, several questions arise.  They are, in brief: the timing, the location, and the language of the call.

First the timing.  For long-time readers here, this won’t be new.  We wish the continuing question were as easily dismissed.

Victor phoned 9-1-1 at 11:49pm.  He also told MPD investigators – as originally reported in the affidavit for Dylan Ward’s arrest – that he screamed on seeing Robert Wone’s body.  A witness – W3 – corroborates this, unfortunately only placing the reference around the time of seeing Maureen Bunyan on the evening news.  Cross-referencing with WJLA’s schedules, that places the scream somewhere between 11 and 11:34pm.   As we have noted before, even in the best of circumstances, a curious length of time to pass before alerting authorities.

Second, the location.  In their statements to MPD, Joe Price clearly states that, upon discovering Robert’s body, he told Victor to go upstairs (to their third floor master bedroom) and phone the authorities.  Why upstairs?

One can assume two things:

  1. There was no hard-wired phone service in the house and the only phone they had available was a mobile upstairs, or;
  2. There were only a few hard-wired phone lines in the house, and one of them was in the master bedroom.

The first situation presents lesser concerns, as one could explain the need to run to the charging cell-phone to alert police.  OK, understandable in a crisis, one might say.  Still, as one clever reader pointed out: if Robert’s cell phone was at hand on the night table, wouldn’t that provide the first best option?

The second situation raises more concern.  It’s clear that if he is using a hard-wired phone, it’s wireless as we’re able to hear Victor move from third to second to first floors without break.   Why, then, did Victor wait so long on the third floor when being asked for details by the dispatcher on Robert’s condition?

The 9-1-1 call presents a clue in this issue.  The dispatcher never asks for Victor’s address – merely asks to confirm that they are, in fact, at 1509 Swann Street.  While calling 9-1-1 from a cell often provides the dispatcher with an approximate location, it isn’t exact.  Judging from the call, it seems as though Victor is using a wireless landline phone.

Which raises yet another puzzle.  If landlines were installed in the house, isn’t it natural to assume there would be one on each floor?   Perhaps even in the guest room, or Dylan’s room?  Was the third floor phone really the closest at hand?

Tomorrow, we dive into the meat of the call, examining what exactly was said, and what it may say about the events of that night.

– posted by Doug

49 comments for “"We Need An Ambulance…"

  1. 06/10/2009 at 8:35 PM

    “i am afraid to go downstairs” the drama queen acted, or cried; giving the performance of a lifetime all in an effort to keep her husband’s lover out of jail and/or the asylum.

  2. CDinDC
    06/10/2009 at 9:45 PM

    I wonder if Joe’s specific instructions to “go upstairs” was just Joe being Joe. Mr. Control.

    I have 3 phones in my phone. I can’t imagine telling someone (that is familiar with the layout of the house) to go to a specific location to call. I imagine I’d just say “call 911!!!” The other person would then go to the closest phone. I imagine I’d be too concerned with what was in front of me to rationalize what phone to use.

    Odd to me.

    • Bea
      06/10/2009 at 10:01 PM

      I still think it’s quite possible that Joe barking “go upstairs” may have to keep Victor from knowing more than he needed to know.

      • CDinDC
        06/10/2009 at 10:06 PM

        and obviously Victor didn’t know much at that point because he couldn’t give the operator the exact state of Robert’s condition.

        Unless, of course, he was going for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

        • Bea
          06/10/2009 at 10:23 PM

          Very possible, of course, and Victor just needed to be given instruction, his “meddling” was not that helpful, AND Joe wanted him upstairs so Joe and Dylan had more time to go over their story.

          But, most importantly, Best Actor in a Leading Role must go to Joe.

          • WH
            06/11/2009 at 8:54 AM

            I think it is possible Joe wanted Victor to not see what was going on, and therefore for him to go upstairs. But more likely it was already too late for that (i.e. Victor had pretty much seen it all). I think it is simply that Joe wanted Victor out of earshot so the 911 operator would not hear the conversation between Joe and Dylan (as they complete their clean-up of the scene), or any other background noise that could lead to suspicions of their guilt.

            • CDinDC
              06/11/2009 at 1:15 PM

              Victor indicated in his interview that he didn’t see Dylan until he came downstairs the second time. He also indicates Dylan said something to the effect of “What the *** is going on?” Seems like we would have hard Dylan if this is the case.

              • CDinDC
                06/11/2009 at 1:23 PM

                Actually, sorry, it was Price that said that when Dylan entered the scene from his room. Price asked Dylan “what’s going on…what the *** is going on” (or something like that). Seems we should be able to hear that on the 911 call if Zaborsky claims he saw Dylan for the first time when he went downstairs. AND Ward claims Zaborsky was downstairs when he came into the room.

  3. Nelly
    06/10/2009 at 9:54 PM

    Yep. Robert had a cellphone, and in 2006 I’m sure each one of the residents had his own cellphone. Not to mention, most people have at least one landline on each floor of their homes. Why did Victor have to go upstairs to the 3rd floor to make a ‘frantic’ call, with a friend supposedly bleeding to death at the moment? Probably so the cleaning and moving sounds, and Joe barking orders, could not be heard.

    • Basil of Silver Spring
      06/12/2009 at 5:17 PM

      I agree with your remarks, Nelly. And I think one person did it and the other two tried to help him clean up/cover up the scene and then make up a story that doesn’t convince anyone.

  4. CuriousInVa
    06/10/2009 at 10:24 PM

    I still (at least at this point) am of the opinion that Victor stumbled upon a murdered Robert and was told by Joe to go upstairs because a) Joe wanted to get things cleaned up and was (at least at that point) trying to hide from Victor that Ward, and possibly he, had committed the crime; or, Victor knew at discovery of the body who had murdered Robert and Joe was just trying to get him out of the room so he’d have as little actual knowledge as possible.

  5. AnnaZed
    06/11/2009 at 12:50 AM

    I have only just steeled myself to listen to this though it has been available for some time.

    Poor Robert to be surrounded with what I perceive as nothing but mendacity and self interest on the part of people that he thought were his friends.

    I am not inclined to hand out any acting awards either. The bit about “one of our knives” is pathetic to hear as the speaker finds himself unable to resit injecting this absurdity. Victor is hysterical and frightened alright, but I don’t think he is frightened of an intruder but hysterical and frightened for himself and his partner.

    My audio playback has a visual component to it and I can actually see the lines narrow and flatten out as his voice becomes flat and hollow when he talks about the knife, or says “male.” He can’t even say Robert’s name. I really find this thing very damning and until this point I honestly thought it was possible that Victor did not know what had happened and that he believed the intruder story himself ~ not anymore.

    In addition, I am not inclined to give the dispatcher high points. It seems that she doesn’t dispatch anyone until 1:27 into the conversation. I hope that I am wrong about that.

    Poor Robert, this thing is just awful beyond comprehension.

  6. Vince_S
    06/11/2009 at 4:04 AM

    Does anyone find it odd that VZ doesn’t refer to Robert by name, but by a pronoun? I guess that will be discussed tomorrow.

  7. Bea
    06/11/2009 at 5:03 AM

    I think SO much about what he says is “odd” – and awful, as in not identifying Robert, all the weird double talk and passive voice, and all the uses of “we”. I differ somewhat in the way I interpret the call. I do think he knows “something” but he’s not totally “in the know” about details – like saying the “intruder” left with the knife. I think he either knows that Joe/Dylan killed Robert (and may have assisted in the clean-up) or strongly suspects that they did, even if he’s been told by Joe that “something” happened and he’ll explain later (but here are the important details to remember when you’re questioned by police. . .).

  8. LAD
    06/11/2009 at 6:26 AM

    I did not have a very clear connection, so please correct me if I am wrong, but it sounded to me like when the 911 operator asked Victor if Robert was breathing Victor asked Joe/Dylan and then replied to the 911 operator that he was. If that is correct it seems to me that the fact that the EMS said he had been dead for more than an hour would be proof in and of itself. Also, if he WAS breathing that would mean he was still alive and there would be much more blood.

  9. LAD
    06/11/2009 at 6:32 AM

    Also, I noticed that when Victor was alone in the beginning and at the very end he was very hysterical. The only time his voice went “flat” was when he was in the room with Joe. It seems to me that it is indicative that he was being fed lines and that is why his demeanor changed. Just a thought…

  10. Somebody Knows
    06/11/2009 at 8:05 AM

    Perhaps the reason Victor was told to “go upstairs” was the belief that Victor’s talking/presence/state of mind would be a distraction from attending to Robert.

  11. galoon
    06/11/2009 at 8:25 AM

    In the affidavit in support of an arrest warrent for Dylan, the observations of the EMT (W1) upon arrival at the home don’t jive with the 911 tape. W1 states that Victor did not respond directly when asked “what’s going on?”, however W1 “overheard something about a stabbing” as Victor was speaking on his cell. Yet on the 911 tape, Victor, after saying the EMTs had arrived, can clearly be heard screaming for help and that the victim is on the second floor.
    It may not be much but wouldn’t that alone call into question the validity of all of the EMT’s observations?

    • Doug
      06/11/2009 at 9:24 AM

      Galoon – we address that exact issue in the second post, which will be going up Friday.
      – Doug, co-editor

  12. lost
    06/11/2009 at 11:17 AM

    Good observation Galoon. There is a discrepancy between what we heard on the recording and what the affidavit stated as Zaborsky’s initial reaction of the EMT’s arrival/entry into the house.

    The affidavit also wanted to tie 1) Zaborsky’s asking the 911 operator about the time (doing it for Pricer), to which the operator responded, “2354, 11:54” but Zaborsky relayed it to Price as “11:43,” and 2) Price’s mentioning later during the interview about the intruder breaking into the house “sometime between 11:10 and 11:43.” The affidavit inferred that Price had concocted a story with 11:43 as the ending time, was making Zaborsky say it to the 911 operator, and even offered it to the PD himself. I think this portion of the 911 call was rehearsed prior to the call.

  13. Corgivet
    06/11/2009 at 11:18 AM

    Maybe it’s just me….I just think the “intruder” is staged…if I thought for one minute someone had broken into my home, stabbed someone…my vocabulary would not include the word “intruder.”.just too contrived or smacks of an attorney caling some shots…I suspect Joe told him to say intruder to…over and over and over…

    • Basil of Silver Spring
      06/12/2009 at 5:22 PM

      Right, Corgivet! In an emergency situation, words like “intruder” (and other legal terminology) would not come to mind while I’m calling 911 for emergency help (and I’d think ‘help’ not ‘assistance’). The entire story is contrived. The only thing we do know for sure is that Robert Wone was murdered and 3 other adult males were in the house when and right after it happened. There is nothing to indicate any other person was there.

  14. lost
    06/11/2009 at 11:31 AM

    This was a wireless 911 call, and hence they would only have the approximate location, which could vary by 2 or 3 houses down/across the road, or so I think. Being a densely populated townhouse neighborhood, it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact address by triangulation alone.

    However, Zaborsky’s cell phone could have been GPS-equipped, allowing it to send more accurate e-911 data. Still, I’m suprised that the 911 operator doesn’t confirm the exact address of a wireless 911 call sooner. Not sure what their SOPs are.

    If the call was made from a landline or e911-capable VoIP, then the address would have automatically popped up on her screen.

  15. Fascinating
    06/11/2009 at 3:31 PM

    This is my first chance to listen to the 911 call.

    Wow.

    My first impression: Victor is clueless about the details of what’s going on.

    Also, it sounds like only Joe was in the room with Robert — at least as described by Victor on the call. Where is Dylan?

    Another thing: You cannot hear Joe or Dylan ‘coaching’ Victor, which is interesting. You’d think you’d be able to hear them. I could hear the EMT say, “What’s going on?”. But I couldn’t hear Joe. Hmmmm. Must have been cool as a cucumber.

    Victor’s demeanor changed much when he entered the 2nd floor room

    After the 911 operator has dispatched the police/ambulance and Victor is apparently in the room with Robert and Joe — and Joe is supposedly applying pressure to the wound …. Victor’s attention seems to be drawn away from the operator, because he keeps asking her to repeat what she said. Then, after a pregnant pause, Victor randomly throws out, “The person has one of our knives”. That sounds as if it was coached by Joe.

    I get the impression Victor is on the second floor looking out the window for the blue lights (at the “11:54” time check point).

    • Craig
      06/11/2009 at 3:45 PM

      Fascinating – You raise a good point. Notice Victor’s tense – “the person has one of our knives.”

      If Victor had indeed been in the guest room he would’ve seen the knife left at the scene (which of course authorities say was not the murder weapon).

      Shouldn’t Victor have said “the person had one of our knives”? Past tense?

      • David
        06/11/2009 at 4:25 PM

        And how would Victor know that it was one of their knives unless he had been downstairs to see that one of their knives was missing. You could assume that the knife was brought in by the “intruder.” So this debunks a central elements of his story that he was afraid to go downstairs since that would be the only way to know that it was their knife. Now, of course, he could have been told by someone (joe p.) that it was their knife. And how would Joe know unless he went downstairs. And if he went downstairs then Robert was left unattended even after being found, which would mean that his safety was not paramount in their minds.

        David, co-editor

        • Bea
          06/11/2009 at 5:13 PM

          Joe could have “recognized” the knife as “his own” (especially since he likely retrieved it himself) but that doesn’t necessarily mean Victor knew anything more than what Joe told him. I know there are others who think that Victor sounds like he’s giving the performance of a lifetime but I don’t. He may question the “intruder” theory but he may have known little at this point. When he “sees” that Robert was stabbed in the chest, this does seem like a surprise, and possibly the first time he’s witnessed him.

          • CDinDC
            06/11/2009 at 5:50 PM

            I just have to question why he became “hysterical” when the EMTs arrived. He went back adn forth between calm to weepy on the phone, and when he WENT outside he was calm. As soon as the EMTs were close enough, he got “hysterical”.

        • mr.ripley
          06/11/2009 at 5:18 PM

          “Ma’am, its going to be ok.” Falser words have never been spoken. The dispatcher sounds like a hoot! Not once does she realize she’s talking to a MAN. I howled when she referred to Joe as Victor’s “husband or otherhalf”! That bit of very dark humor aside (I apologize), this is a performance and not a good one. WOuldn’t knowing that the “intruder” had one of their knives require visiting the kitchen? That’s where I keep my knives. Someone else has said this, but upon findind some stabbed in your house, how many of us would first run around to see if a knives had gone missing? It would be the last thing on my mind.

          • 06/14/2009 at 8:38 AM

            i agree about the dispatcher; she does sound like a hoot. she was very professional. if only dylan had called!

  16. galoon
    06/11/2009 at 5:20 PM

    But if I saw a knife on a nightstand in my house I would know on sight if it was one of mine.

  17. aka: Karen Walker
    06/11/2009 at 9:31 PM

    I had a VERY close, longterm relationship with VZ for nearly a decade. This was in homophobic 80’s Oklahoma & silly me thought he was just a proper gentleman who kept physical expression to a chivalrous minimum. Naive, yes, but VZ was a smart, kind-hearted person & far from even realizing that there was a proverbial closet in which he dwelled. It is to be noted that VZ was a wanna-be thespian throughout middle school, high school & early college. When I hear the 911 call, I am hearing a desperate man conjuring up the performance of his life. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in many years, but his high (almost falsetto) voice is reminiscent of his days on stage — that is, it is not his natural voice. This is further evidenced by the recording of his outgoing office message which is abailable on YouTube.

    • CDinDC
      06/11/2009 at 9:44 PM

      As I said in another post “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.”

      I also said earlier that I found it very odd that his voice, tone, emotion escalated upon arrival of the EMTs. If he were truly upset, you would think he would have been “hysterical” during much of the 4-5 minute call. But instead he vascilated between weepy and calm. There was no outbursts of crying during the conversation with the operator.

      I have heard a variety of 911 calls released by the media (for various criminal events). The call didn’t sound like what I’ve heard in the past. Those other 911 calls the people very often were nearly breathless. Loud heavy breathing. Hard crying. Wailing. Speaking in a very unclear way.

      I just have one question, Karen Walker…..was Victor a pushover?

      • aka: Karen Walker
        06/13/2009 at 11:49 PM

        Re: the inquiries from CD & Anon…

        I wouldn’t call Victor a “pushover” per se, in general life situations like traffic or standing in a crowded line — I don’t think he would be easily intimidated or manipulated. However, he was very loyal to friends & family and this aspect of his personality combined with his kind heart, I can imagine how he might be strongly inclined to “do whatever necessary” to aid as a grand act of loyalty & love. To address Anon’s question, I’ll explain further that I could not have thought him capable of something so heinous, as the Victor I knew was kind, gentile & highly ethical. But it sickens me & saddens me deeply to say that it is my opinion that he is (at the very least) guilty of obstruction, tampering & concealing, and potentially guilty of the act of murder, based on the facts & the ridiculously implausible explanations of the trio. Reconciling this reality with the VZ I knew is nigh impossible. I don’t know how he can sleep well at night knowing that a grieving family is begging for answers & justice and that he could likely ease some of their pain by providing those answers.

        • Anonymous
          06/14/2009 at 12:04 AM

          I deeply, deeply appreciate your honesty and insight. And I share your agony, as I, too, desperately am trying to make sense of this tragedy. Really, thank you. Please continue to post, if anything helpful comes to mind. And if you have any connection to Victor, remind him of the kind, gentile, highly ethical man you knew. We don’t know all of the facts, so perhaps he still is. And he certainly has the ability to choose to be so in the future. I have to have faith.

          • Craig
            06/14/2009 at 12:23 AM

            Thanks aka KW. Wow.

            Anon – Robert was a friend of yours right?

            • Anonymous
              06/14/2009 at 12:26 AM

              Yes.

        • CDinDC
          06/14/2009 at 11:06 AM

          KW, thank you for your thoughtful answer to my question. I hope to see more of your insight here at wmrw.com.

    • Anonymous
      06/12/2009 at 5:31 AM

      Thank you for sharing your insights into Victor. I know it’s been a while since you’ve spoken to him, but I’d appreciate any other information you can share about him – and how you’re reconciling the allegations with the person you knew so well. Thank you very, very much.

  18. jpq
    06/12/2009 at 1:48 PM

    Perhaps I’m missing something, as I just started following the site, but the affidavit says (page 9, 3rd full paragraph): “According to Price, he told Zaborsky to go upstairs and call 9-1-1 (even though there was a phone in the guestroom).” I presumed that was a landline phone, but perhaps they were referring to Robert’s cell phone?

    Very interesting information you have aggregated and analyzed here. I hope it leads to resolution for Robert’s family.

  19. aka: Karen Walker
    06/14/2009 at 12:37 AM

    Thank you, Anon for the nice words. I have partially addressed your inquiry above in a combination reply to CDinDC. But I wanted to offer some further thoughts about the character of VZ, as I knew him many years ago.

    We lived in a wealthy community, where material “blessings” abounded for us as very spoiled children & adolescents. Victor’s family likely had very plenty of money, but their lifestyle was much more modest than most of our peers. They lived in a nice life, but were very low-key when it came to “bling”, if I may use that term retroactively. They had a very nice, but not-too-over-the-top house, while most of us had extravagant homes with housewife mothers and housekeepers. Victor drove an older Honda while most of us got brand new sports cars, Range Rovers, etc. upon driving age. Victor always dressed impeccably & he was the epitome of manners & fine ettiquette, which gave him a bit of an edge over many of the nouveau-riche kids whose parents indulged or ignored more coarse behavior. To be clear, he was in NO WAY from “the other side of the tracks” but he fit seamlessly into our world of debutante balls, formal dinners, country club events in spite of his participation being only by invitation/association.

    Interestingly, he successfully managed to kind of elevate himself as something special or superior by always promoting his “back East” connection, which carried a lot of clout & mystery amongst Okies at that time. He seemed to do this for many years, even though he actually lived in Oklahoma for well over a decade. It makes me laugh now to think about it, but it was a schtick that really worked for him. I do not think it was an act, but simply how he liked to identify himself. It didn’t surprise me at all to hear that he had landed in DC, or to see that his bio only whispers that he “finished high school in Oklahoma” when he was in Oklahoma for 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade and four+ years of undergraduate work at TU.

    A bit off the topic, but just some thoughts I had after reflecting on how much he must have changed to be someone who has such little self-worth that he would not feel worthy of one person’s faithfulness. I think the fact that he allowed a third-party in his longterm marriage is a indicator that he was willing to do about anything to keep/please/hang onto/impress JP. Add to that the fact that he enjoyed an association with the socially upward [forgive me, for lack of a better phrase], and I think we have some insight into what is motivating his complicity.

    • WH
      06/14/2009 at 7:19 AM

      Karen, you really have given great insight into Victor in your posts. I’m sure it’s obvious from my posts, but I find Victor to be the most enigmatic (and the most three-dimensional) of the three by far, and your efforts to enlighten us about him are really appreciated.

    • David
      06/14/2009 at 10:57 AM

      aka Karen Walker,

      As someone from the midwest who went to school in Nebraska, I completely understand how the “back east” connection can make someone idolized by certain factions in the midwest. I remember when a friend of mine was from Cleveland, Ohio, which to me, at the time, was eastern, and I thought her to be cultured and sophisticated compared to us rubes in Nebraska.

      David, co-editor (and now proud of my midwest roots)

      • Bea
        06/14/2009 at 12:07 PM

        Born in the Ozarks, I too can relate. Karen, thanks for your posts. I have the strong sense that Victor was not a primary actor in Robert’s murder – and I still hope that he’s able to tell the truth.

  20. CDinDC
    06/14/2009 at 4:19 PM

    I agree, Bea…..not a primary actor, but oh so complicit.

  21. Mozza
    06/15/2009 at 12:07 AM

    First comment here. I came through the WP story.

    If Victor was getting hysterical, I would too have sent him to another room to make the call.

    • Bea
      06/15/2009 at 1:00 AM

      Yep. If it’s an act or partly so, he’s still Joe’s guy to make the call. Joe’s busy wiping the knife, and the Weak Link is off to his room hyperventilating (or reading ‘his article’). Joe doesn’t want Victor asking any more questions or making him feel any worse for having gotten them all into this – let alone for MURDERING their FRIEND. Or does Joe feel anything about the latter? True sociopaths wouldn’t.

      But they can’t all three be sociopaths, can they? I hope the cops do periodic drug tests (and not fake-able ones) on Dylan especially – I don’t take him for a sociopath, so I’d bet he’s medicated to the gills. I think Victor is Joe’s love-torn fool.

  22. Craig
    06/15/2009 at 11:08 AM

    Bea – In late March, Judge Weisberg relaxed the housemates’ conditions of release by ordering they need not submit to weekly drug testing anymore.

    http://whomurderedrobertwone.com/2009/04/01/just-say-no/

    • Bea
      06/15/2009 at 12:21 PM

      Thanks, Craig. I’m just hoping that there’s some wiggle room allowing for ‘periodic’ drug testing and that they do so.

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