Drips and Slow Leaks

08/17/2009
By Craig

Missed Deadlines, Missed Opportunities

Washington Post MastheadThe August 16, 2006 edition of the Washington Post had two pieces relating to Robert’s Murder.  On the editorial page was a letter to the editor from  high school classmate, Raymond John Mollica.  He tells us that in school they’d kid Robert about being the first Asian American president.  Years later, what they joked about was becoming real; Robert was on a path towards achievement.

A Friend Lost to Violence in D.C.

I had the honor of attending Xaverian High School in Brooklyn with Robert Wone, the Oakton lawyer who was stabbed to death in a townhouse near Dupont Circle earlier this month.  Rob was the salutatorian of our class of 1992.  Although I lost contact with him after graduation, I knew him to be of the highest character, always fair and thoughtful, and we all knew he would go far in life.  In fact, we would joke among ourselves at Xaverian’s Political Affairs Forum that he would be the first Asian American president.

Learning of the horrible circumstances of his death has been a shock to me and to the entire community of our high school.  Words cannot convey the sadness that I feel.  We all lost a fine person in Rob.

What must Raymond have thought when he saw the Metro section headline that day, “Police Say Crime Scene Was Altered”?   12 days after the first official mention of tampering, the wider public was just learning of those explosive allegations.    What else were authorities sitting on?  Loads.  

Another warrant(p. 29) was issued that day for the deep dig into Price’s home computer.  It notes that Price’s office Dell was loaded with “…male pornographic photos (depicting) Sado-Masochistic behavior and bondage.”   We also learn of the stash removed from the 1509, “…a large number of sexually explicit items, sex toys… books on torture and torture devices. ”

That’s quite an inventory the authorities had and quite a secret they kept.  Surely they could have made the Post’s deadline with this information but they chose not to.  Was what appeared to be a flawed investigation mirrored by an equally mismanaged communications effort?

Rant and the full story follows after the jump. 

Who was selectively leaking information to turn up the heat, but holding back more explosive information that could have put the the investigation on fast forward during the early critical days after the murder?  It’s anyone’s guess. 

The case has been officially declared gay after MPD trotted out Sgt. Brett Parson out as a spokeman.  Were the newfound S&M and torture elements a case of too much, too soon?  Who was being protected?  Sensitivity to the defendants?  DC’s gay community?  The public-at-large?

While the rights and privacy of witnesses and possible suspects should be protected, was the the right to know of Robert’s friends and family violated by withholding crucial information on the circumstances of his death?

Posties Allison Klein and Henri Cauvin would’ve loved those nuggets but were left to chase Emma Schwartz’s Legal Times piece from earlier in the week.  Although they did manage to get an attorney on the record; David Schertler, former homicide chief in the US Attorney’s office signed on to represent Dylan Ward. 

Police Say Crime Scene Was Altered
By Allison Klein and Henri E. Cauvin
Two weeks after a prominent lawyer was killed in a Washington townhouse, D.C. police are still searching the home for clues, and they believe crime scene evidence was cleaned, according to court documents.

The body of Robert Wone, 32, general counsel for Radio Free Asia, was found Aug. 2 in a Swann Street NW townhouse. He had been stabbed three times in the chest. The house is owned by two men who are well known in the gay community. They and a third resident at home the night of Wone’s killing have hired criminal defense lawyers.

Police said Wone was spending the night at the townhouse near Dupont Circle because he had worked late and did not want to drive home to Virginia, where he lived with his wife. She has declined to speak publicly since his death.

Wone was a college friend of one of the townhouse’s owners, Joseph Price, a lawyer.  In an affidavit to search Price’s office at the law firm of Arent Fox, police assert that the scene had been altered.

“Technicians were able to determine that the crime scene had been tampered with, including that the area where the victim’s body was located had been cleaned,” said the document, which was first reported in Legal Times.

Police said they also were struck by what they did not find.  “A lot of evidence we should have seen at the house, we didn’t see,” Capt. C.V. Morris, head of the police department’s violent crime unit, said yesterday.  Police used chemicals and an artificial light to detect trace blood on the walls, floors, door frame and sofa bed near where Wone’s body was found, according to the affidavit.  Police took a computer from Price’s office, looking for e-mails to and from Wone, the document says.

Three men, including Price, were at the house when Wone was killed. The second man is Victor Zaborsky, who owns the home with Price, according to property records. The third is Dylan Ward, who works for a software company in Virginia.

Kathleen E. Voelker, an attorney for Price and Zaborsky, did not return a phone call yesterday.  David Schertler, who is representing Ward, said that his client had been living in the Swann Street home for more than a year and that he was acquainted with Wone through Price.  Schertler, a former homicide chief for the U.S. attorney in the District, said Ward had nothing to do with Wone’s slaying. Schertler said Ward told police that neither of the other two men was involved, either.

Doctoring a crime scene could lead to criminal charges of obstruction of justice or accessory after the fact.

Police are trying to determine a motive in the slaying, according to a law enforcement official who did not want to be identified because the case is open.  Shortly after the killing, one of the three men told police that an intruder had broken in through the back door and killed Wone, according to the affidavit. Schertler also said the slaying was committed by an intruder.

But investigators said there were no signs of forced entry into the house, nothing was ransacked and nothing appeared to have been taken.  Morris said the three men told police they did not see an intruder or hear Wone being killed.

The FBI is helping investigators, providing technicians with expertise in blood spatter, Morris said. The agency also brought in a behavioral scientist who specializes in crime scene reconstruction.   Investigators say they are not sure Wone was killed in the second-floor guest room where he was discovered.

Price and Zaborsky were identified as a couple in a 2004 article in USA Today about gay parents.   They had donated sperm to a lesbian couple, the article said.  Price is general counsel to Equality  Virginia, a gay rights organization.

- Posted by David and Craig

One Response to “ Drips and Slow Leaks ”

  1. Clio on 08/17/2009 at 5:57 PM

    Thanks, David and Craig. Most interesting in this piece is the solidification of the unfortunate implication (just by its wording) that Robert’s visit was impromptu, even though it was actually planned two weeks in advance. Also, at least publicly, any hint of intimacy between Mr. Ward and Mr. Price was still not mentioned. These semantics and silences apparently made the case much more of a mystery to the public than it actually was to the police. Sigh!

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Purpose of this Site

On August 2nd, 2006, Washington attorney Robert E. Wone was murdered at 1509 Swann Street. Over two years passed before any criminal charges were filed - and then only conspiracy, obstruction of justice and crime scene tampering charges were brought against the Swann Street housemates, all present in the home on the night of the murder: Joe Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky.

On May 17, 2010, a DC Superior Court trial got underway and all three defendants were all acquitted in that bench trial on those pending charges.

Nearly four years later, very little seems clear about what happened that night and who murdered Robert Wone. A cloud of suspicion remains over the Swann Street defendants who have denied any involvement in the murder of their friend or in the alleged cover up.

Judge Lynn Leibovitz found a moral certainty in their collective guilt, but not evidentiary certainty. Civil proceedings in a wrongful death suit filed by Robert's family is the next chapter in this tragic story.

We continue to work together seeking answers to the mystery of Robert Wone's murder and in finding justice for his memory and legacy.

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