Gay, Ink

Pink Press Ponders Price

The initial   round of  MSM  coverage on Robert’s murder was followed by the local DC gay press, the Washington Blade and Metroweekly. 

washington-bladeJourneyman Blade scribe Lou Chibbaro had an an August 11 piece with Kevin Naff sharing the byline.  The angle was reflected in the headline, “Prominent Lawyer Killed in Home of Gay Rights Activist.”   They talked with DC gay bookstore pioneer Deacon Maccubbin who said Price and Zaborsky, “…are well known as a couple in gay rights circles in DC and Virginia,… “the two are raising a child at their Swann Street home,”  and that Ward lived at 1509 and had been development director at Equality Virginia. 

The Blade refreshed that piece for the August 18 issue reporting on  the search warrants and allegations of crime scene tampering.  Chibbaro again mentioned Price’s work as GC and board member at E.V., Ward’s spot too.  Another article put those pieces together.

metroweeklyBob Roehr seemed to appreciate the puzzling nature early.  His headline in the August 17 edition of MW was succinct, “Murder in Dupont.,”  The subhead, “…stabbing death… leaves more questions asked than answered”  still resonates.

Roehr cut to the chase.  “The lack of cooperation from the three gay men who live in the home has unleashed an unprecedented police forensics investigation.”   Roehr connected the  the E.V. dots, “Price was instrumental in securing the grant that allowed Equality Virginia to hire Ward…”

Roehr got  MPD Gay Liaison Sgt. Brett Parson to open up and he played to type.  On the forensic teams tearing up 1509, ”The owners are going to have to renovate the place before they move back in.”   They did and later sold at a profit.  Then this kicker:

“Parson acknowledges that with lawyers for the residents having become involved so quickly and the lack of cooperation from Price, Zaborsky and Wade, the department is particularly sensitive to the need to do everything by the book so that the case is not thrown out on a minor technicality.   That means taking the time to fully process all of the forensic evidence they have gathered, and then re-interviewing all of the residents of 1509 Swann in light of that evidence, sifting for inconsistencies.

Says Parson, ”We are going to close this case, though it is going to take a while.”

In some ways prophetic.  The full articles after the jump.

Prominent lawyer killed in home of gay rights activist
Gay liaison unit, FBI assisting in investigation   By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | Kevin Naff | Aug 11, 7:21 AM

A man was stabbed and killed inside a D.C. townhouse owned by Joseph Price of Equality Virginia.  The Aug. 2 killing of a prominent Asian-American attorney near Dupont Circle occurred inside the home of a gay rights attorney and his domestic partner, and District police have declined to say whether the couple knows the identity of the killer.

Robert Wone, 32, who lived with his wife in Oakton, Va., was found suffering from multiple stab wounds to his body about 11:49 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, in a townhouse at 1509 Swann St., N.W., according to police. Wone was pronounced dead a short time later at George Washington University Hospital, police said. 

Records from the D.C. Office of the Recorder of Deeds identify Joseph Price and Victor Zaborsky as the owners and residents of the Swann Street house where Wone was fatally stabbed.

Gay activist Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the Lambda Rising gay bookstore chain, said Price and Zaborsky are well known as a couple in gay rights circles  in D.C. and Virginia. He said the two are raising a child at their Swann Street home. Maccubbin said Dylan Ward, who worked as Equality Virginia’s development director from 2003 until earlier this year, also lives in the Swann Street house as a roommate of Price and Zaborsky. 

Maccubbin said neighbors believe all three men were home at the time of the murder, but this could not be confirmed.

Co-workers said Wone worked for the past six years as an associate with the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling before starting work about one month ago as general counsel for Radio Free Asia. Radio Free Asia is a non-profit organization that broadcasts news to Asian countries that ban independent news organizations.

Price works as an attorney with the D.C. law firm Arent Fox and serves as general counsel and a member of the board of directors of Equality Virginia, the statewide gay rights group. Zaborsky is assistant director of marketing and communications for the milk industry trade group, MilkPEP, which is responsible for creating the popular “Got Milk” ad campaign.   Zaborsky, reached at his office, said neither he nor Price would comment.

Police would not say why Wone was inside the two men’s townhouse. The Washington Post reported that someone who knew Wone said Wone was a friend of one of the owners of the house and was spending the night there after working late in his D.C. office rather than drive home to Oakton.

Police told worried residents of the quiet street where the incident occurred that evidence they have obtained so far indicates the killing was not part of a random burglary or home invasion. Instead, Sgt. Brett Parson, commander of the police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, which is assisting in the investigation, said there was no evidence of a forcible entry into the house, leading investigators to believe someone in the house might have known the assailant and invited the assailant inside.

Parson and other police officials have declined to provide additional details, including whether Price and Zaborsky were at home at the time Wone was stabbed.  The house remained sealed late Thursday as part of a police crime scene. Dark, charcoal powder that police use to detect fingerprints could be seen on the doorframe and windowsills at the front of the house.

Debbie Weierman, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office, said the FBI this week provided assistance to D.C. police in “evidence analysis” in connection with the Wone killing. Weierman declined to say whether the evidence analysis involved DNA samples. The FBI routinely provides D.C. police with help in analyzing crime scene DNA evidence because the District lacks a crime lab capable of testing for DNA.

The Post reported police sources as saying that Wone had been stabbed with a butcher’s knife taken from the kitchen of the Swann Street house.

Capt. C.V. Morris, commander of the police violent crimes unit, said homicide detectives interviewed people who were inside the house at the time of the murder, but he declined to identify those interviewed. He said no one other than Wone was attacked or injured at the house.

“This is a very tragic event for everyone involved,” said Jay Squires, chair of the Virginia Equality board of directors. “Our condolences and deepest sympathies go out to Robert Wone’s wife and family who have suffered the grievous loss of a vibrant young man with a bright future. We also extend our support to our board member, Joe Price and his family during this difficult time.”

 

Police probe killing in gay activist’s home
Crime scene ‘tampered with,’ say authorities   By LOU CHIBBARO J  Aug. 18, 2006

A criminal defense attorney hired by Equality Virginia lawyer Joseph Price and his partner said that an unknown intruder killed a man in the couple’s Dupont Circle home after entering from a back door.
Crime scene evidence inside the Dupont Circle home of a gay rights lawyer and his domestic partner had been “tampered with” in the bedroom where a prominent Asian-American attorney was stabbed to death on Aug. 2, according to a D.C. police affidavit for a search warrant.

The affidavit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, says police evidence technicians discovered that someone had cleaned up a blood-stained bedroom before police arrived at 1509 Swann St., NW, where attorney Robert Wone, 32, was found suffering from three stab wounds to the chest.

Wone was pronounced dead 12:24 a.m. on Aug. 3 at George Washington University Hospital, police said.  No one has been arrested in the case, and the D.C. Police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit and the FBI are assisting in the investigation.

Police filed the affidavit to obtain a warrant to search the Connecticut Avenue, NW, law firm office of Arent Fox, where gay rights attorney Joseph Price works. Price and his domestic partner, Victor Zaborsky, are the owners and residents of the Swann Street house with roommate Dylan Ward, police and friends of the couple said.

“While processing the crime scene inside 1509 Swann St., NW, 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,” the affidavit says.

A criminal defense attorney hired by Price and Zaborsky told the Legal Times newspaper that an unknown intruder killed Wone after entering the house from a back door. The attorney, Kathleen Voelker, and an attorney representing Ward, said the three men were cooperating fully with police in the investigation, Legal Times reported.

But Capt. C.V. Morris, commander of the police homicide squad, told reporters at an Aug. 11 news briefing that some of the things residents of the house told detectives don’t add up.  “Some of the information we were told, I just don’t believe,” Morris said at the briefing.

Wone, who lived with his wife in Oakton, Va., was a friend of Price’s from the time the two attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia, friends said. Wone had been spending the night in Price and Zaborsky’s townhouse on Swann Street on the night of the killing after having worked late at his D.C. office at Radio Free Asia, where he served as general counsel, co-workers and police said.

The warrant and affidavit state that police seized Price’s law office computer after a preliminary investigation revealed that Price and Wone had exchanged e-mails and phone calls on the day of the killing.

Price has figured prominently in local gay activism through his role as general counsel and board member for Equality Virginia, a statewide gay rights group. Ward served from 2003 to earlier this year as Equality Virginia’s development director.

No forced entry

In the first days following the killing, police declined to provide details about who was present in the house at the time of the stabbing and what, if anything, Price, Zaborsky and Ward knew about the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Morris’ expressed skepticism to reporters Aug. 11 about being skeptical about a statement from at least one resident of the house that an intruder killed Wone after entering the house from the back door created a stir in the neighborhood and among gay activists who know Price and Zaborsky.

“There were no signs of any forced entry to the house, either through the back door or any other location,” says the affidavit, which was written by homicide detective William Xanten III. “The knife that was used in this attack, and located on the table next to the victim, was from a set of matching knives located in the kitchen of the house,” the affidavit says.

“There was nothing that appeared out of place, nothing disturbed, nothing ransacked and nothing was taken,” it says.

Zaborsky works as director of marketing and communications for the milk industry trade group, MilkPEP, which is responsible for crating the popular “Got Milk” ad campaign.  Reached at his office, Zaborsky said neither he nor Price would comment.

Co-workers said Wone worked for the past six years as an associate with the prominent Washington, D.C., law firm Covington & Burling before starting work about one month ago as general counsel for Radio Free Asia.  Radio Free Asia is a non-profit organization that broadcasts news to Asian countries that ban independent news organizations.

Police told worried residents of the quiet street where the incident occurred that evidence they have obtained so far indicates the killing was not part of a random burglary or home invasion. Instead, Sgt. Brett Parson, commander of the police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, which is assisting in the investigation, said the incident appears to involve someone who entered the house through a means other than a forcible break-in.

Police sealed the house as part of a crime scene investigation, displacing Price, Zaborsky, and Ward — and a tenant in the house’s basement apartment — for an unknown period of time. Dark, charcoal powder that police use to detect fingerprints could be seen on the doorframe and windowsills at the front of the house.

Debbie Weierman, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office, said the FBI last week provided assistance to D.C. police in “evidence analysis” in connection with Wone’s death. Weierman declined to say whether the evidence analysis involved DNA evidence.

The FBI routinely provides D.C. police with help in analyzing crime scene DNA evidence because the District lacks a crime lab capable of testing for DNA.  Morris said no one other than Wone was attacked or injured at the house.

“This is a very tragic event for everyone involved,” said Jay Squires, chair of Equality Virginia. “Our condolences and deepest sympathies go out to Robert Wone’s wife and family who have suffered the grievous loss of a vibrant young man with a bright future. We also extend our support to our board member, Joe Price, and his family during this difficult time.”

Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the Lambda Rising gay bookstore chain, said Price and Zaborsky are a well-known couple in gay rights circles in the D.C. metropolitan area. The two were the subject of a March 2004 feature story in USA Today about gay parents.

According to the USA Today story, a Silver Spring, Md., lesbian couple gave birth to two children, one fathered by Price and the other by Zaborsky.

 

Murder in Dupont
A stabbing death in a Swann Street townhouse leaves more questions asked than answered
By Bob Roehr, Metroweekly  August 17, 2006

The beginning and ending of Robert Wone’s fatal last night are clear — it’s the unknown story of how and why he was murdered that has left the D.C. gay community buzzing with rumors and unanswered questions.

Wone was stabbed three times in the chest in a second-floor bedroom of a renovated Dupont Circle townhouse on the night of Wednesday, Aug. 2. He was pronounced dead a short time later at George Washington University Hospital.

The lack of cooperation from the three gay men who live in the home has unleashed an unprecedented police forensics investigation. So far, there are more questions than answers.

The victim was, by all accounts, a personable and accomplished young man. Wone, 32, who was the child of Chinese immigrants, grew up in New York City. He came to D.C. six years ago to work for the prestigious law firm of Covington & Burling. Earlier this summer he became general counsel for Radio Free Asia, a nonprofit organization that broadcasts news to Asian countries that lack a free press. He also was president-elect of the local chapter of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Wone lived with his wife of three years in the Washington suburb Oakton, Va. But he often spent the night in town with friends from his college years, ostensibly because of his long work hours. Because some of those friends were gay, that has caused some to speculate about Wone’s sexual orientation.

On the night of Aug. 2, Wone and a colleague attended a D.C. Bar association course and separated at about 9:30 p.m. Over the next two hours, Wone made his way to 1509 Swann St. NW, the house where he would later be brutally slain.

The house was purchased within the last year by Joseph Price, 34, and Victor Zaborsky, 40, for nearly $1.3 million. Price and Wone knew each other from their undergraduate days at the College of William and Mary. They exchanged e-mails earlier in the day on Aug. 2.

Price is an intellectual properties attorney with Arent Fox, a large D.C. law firm. He co-founded the gay rights group Equality Virginia and serves as its legal counsel. He has litigated several prominent gay rights cases on a pro bono basis, including the recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court on child visitation for a lesbian couple who dissolved their civil union, with one returning to live in Virginia.

Price and Zaborsky were prominently featured in a 2004 article on gay parents in USA Today — each has provided sperm to a lesbian couple, producing two sons who live with their mothers in Maryland.

The third resident of 1509 Swann St. is Dylan Ward, who was the development director for Equality Virginia until May of this year. Price was instrumental in securing the grant that allowed Equality Virginia to hire Ward, according to the organization’s Web site.

All three told police they were asleep when the attack on Wone occurred, at about 11:30 p.m., and that it must have been done by an intruder. The police became suspicious of that story when they could find no evidence of forced entry or burglary. Then the residents of the Swann Street house clammed up, each retaining a lawyer.

Police forensics technicians found evidence that the ”crime scene had been tampered with, including the area where the victim’s body was located had been cleaned…trace blood evidence was located on the walls, floors, sofa bed and door frame of the bedroom where the decedent was killed,” read the affidavit of Detective William Xanten III in seeking a search warrant from the court.

That kicked off a massive processing of the property, with the help of FBI forensics experts, for any piece of evidence that might contribute to proving who murdered Wone, or to demolish any alternative scenario that a future defendant might offer.  That investigation has stretched into a second week.

Smudges of black powder used to dust for fingerprints are clearly visible on the white front window frames and casings. There were reports of hammering and sawing coming from the townhouse, suggesting that portions of the blood-spattered walls and floor might have been removed for processing, to hold as evidence. .

”The owners are going to have to renovate the place before they move back in,” said Sgt. Brett Parson, commanding police officer of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, who is participating in the investigation.

The warrant also extended to Price’s office at Arent Fox. It was searched and his computer was taken for examination.

Parson acknowledges that with lawyers for the residents having become involved so quickly and the lack of cooperation from Price, Zaborsky and Wade, the department is particularly sensitive to the need to do everything by the book so that the case is not thrown out on a minor technicality.

That means taking the time to fully process all of the forensic evidence they have gathered, and then re-interviewing all of the residents of 1509 Swann in light of that evidence, sifting for inconsistencies.  Says Parson, ”We are going to close this case, though it is going to take a while.”

-Craig

16 comments for “Gay, Ink

  1. Perplexed
    08/19/2009 at 2:51 PM

    I guess I never really focused on the fact (disclosed a couple of times in these articles) that DW was employed up until May of the year of the murder. Makes me wonder whether he was becoming increasingly restless, depressed and/or had escalated his drug use from May to August (2 mos.)…not sure how it fits in, but just a thought.

    • Perplexed
      08/19/2009 at 2:51 PM

      Sorry (3 mos.).

    • Craig
      08/19/2009 at 4:10 PM

      Plex – Good point and if we look at the rising stars, Joe Price made partner at AFox around the same time, in June 2006.

      • CDinDC
        08/19/2009 at 7:48 PM

        Hmm….wonder if Sugar Daddy told Boy Toy that he could be housewife since he made partner. Maybe he made a low salary that didn’t make much of a difference in the household. Maybe Dylan was more useful at cleaning (since he is known to be a bit of a neat freak). Hospital corners, Dilly.

  2. Clio
    08/19/2009 at 5:16 PM

    I love Deacon, but I wonder why he was consulted for background on Joe Price and his family. He may not have known them that well, if he really thought that at least one of the two children lived with their fathers at 1509 Swann and that Dylan was just “a roommate.”

    Most unfortunately, it is in the Roehr piece that the unfortunate wording about Robert’s reasons for the visit morphs into explicit speculation about possible DL activity. Sad!

  3. Bea
    08/19/2009 at 7:53 PM

    While it was in error to report that Joe and Victor were “raising a child” at Swann, it does make me wonder again about the level of involvement J & V have with the kids. And whether the moms allow them to have any.

    • AnnaZed
      08/21/2009 at 11:36 AM

      Or whether they do now come to think of it.

      I do wonder what those moms think about all this, and (good Lord) poor kids. To be the child of a convicted murderer must be horrible, but to be the child of a “maybe-he-did-it-or-maybe-he’s-just-covering-up-for-someone” father must be a real mind fuck.

  4. Clio
    08/19/2009 at 10:04 PM

    Brett’s last line above is painfully prescient, but another Parson quote from that article just hit me: “the department is particularly sensitive to the need to do everything by the book so that the case is not thrown out on a minor technicality.” Really. That raises the obvious questions in light of what we know now: To which book was the MPD adhering? Of which minor technicality was the department most afraid at this early point in the investigation?

  5. Laura
    08/19/2009 at 11:01 PM

    I think the final key to this horrific murder will be found in understanding Robert Wone himself. He floats over these posts like the ultimate innocent, which I suspect he is.

    But for readers who want to solve the crime, no stone should be left unturned. Including his. The notion of the perfect victim is as dangerous to logic as the notion of the perfect perp. Surely both assumptions are active here.

    Did he have taboos in his life? Everyone does. Married for three years, but planning to adopt a child. Maybe marriage was boring compared to his old friendships — not surprising.

    Maybe he thought that night would be a mild introduction to something daring — and his old friend overshot his mark. Everything else was cover-up.

    Very very sad. R.I.P. Robert Wone.

    • CDinDC
      08/20/2009 at 11:04 AM

      Laura says: “Did he have taboos in his life? Everyone does. Married for three years, but planning to adopt a child. Maybe marriage was boring compared to his old friendships — not surprising. ”

      I have disagree with the “everyone has TABOOS” statement. Maybe everyone has “naughty” thoughts, and everyone may have “dark side” relative to the individual, but dark for you may be totally different than dark for someone else. Dark for some people may be looking at a dirty magazine or renting a porn flick. And dark for other people (like Joe/Dylan, and maybe even Victor) may be drinking someone’s urine through a straw and taking illegal substances. For many people, dark would NOT entail slipping off from the wife/husband and doing drugs and sleeping with an old college friend. (Look at this man’s personality, for pete sake.)

      More importantly, not everyone acts on their dark side, whatever that dark side may be. Some people in life have self control and restraint.

      There are people in life that live their lives (whether bored or not) above the board.

      And as far as “no stone left unturned”…..Robert’s life has been well-documented. The testimonials about his life indicate a pretty great guy. We can’t make things up about him. We have what we have.

      Re Joe/Dylan/Victor……well, that’s another story. When their stones are overturned, you find stuff. A lot of stuff.

      And your last statement: “Maybe marriage was boring compared to his old friendships — not surprising”……well, that seems to be personal commentary on marriage. What does that have to do with Robert Wone and HIS marriage? If you find marriage boring, well, that’s you.

      As you say “the final key” to this murder is “understanding Robert Wone.” So we need to do just that. Don’t read our own tastes, dislikes, desires, darknesses, etc into Robert’s, Joe’s, Dylan’s, Victor’s personalities.

      A couple of facts for us to work with……Fact 1 – nothing to indicate any kind of moral “back sliding” has surfaced about Robert Wone in the 3 years since his death. No “hey we did drugs in college together”, or “I slept with him at a conference”. Fact 2 – a LOT of stuff has surfaced about Joe et al.

      So, if we turn a stone over and nothing is there, maybe we should move on.

    • Mike
      08/21/2009 at 11:19 AM

      Laura,

      Can you explain how painting Robert as a liar and a hypocrite can help us solve this case? Every single acquiantance has told the same story – he was a hard worker, a fantastic, friendly guy, and a loyal husband. Robert can’t defend himself against journalists who drop the all-too-familiar scandal sheet bomb “has caused some to speculate” (some meaning WHO? ). Haven’t his loved ones suffered enough already?

      Even if we accept the bizarre premise that he had chosen this hot, harried work-night for his first DL experience, what was done to him was illegal. I fail to see how your off-the-wall guesswork helps anybody.

  6. Clio
    08/20/2009 at 8:23 AM

    Laura, the assumptions that you lay out in your second paragraph of perfect victim vis-a-vis perfect perps are not at work here. No one, not even Lance, has ever characterized the perps as “perfect.” And, very few of the (LGBT/metrosexual) posters here see Robert being straight and conventionally married as being “perfect.”

    The “maybes” that you proffer are theoretically possible, but the most likely reasons for the tragedy still revolve around at least two of the three defendants, whose probable drug use enabled their own irrational (and experimental) impulses.

    It truly was “a first time” — for the murderers to murder!

    • Perplexed
      08/20/2009 at 11:07 AM

      I am having difficulty, Laura, in seeing the “relevance” of your post to the solving of the crime that was committed. A “non-perfect victim” is still a victim – if that’s what was discovered – still irrelevant? In either case, it’s still homicide (as I and many have posited that it seems as though it was not murder per se – but someone’s idea of fun gone terribly wrong) – unless what you’re saying is RW was complicit in his own death?

      • Perplexed
        08/20/2009 at 11:11 AM

        Ugh! Meant Manslaughter.

  7. AnnaZed
    08/20/2009 at 5:37 PM

    Just reading through these pieces again makes me wonder if the police initially faltered in their assumptions much like the writer of the second article who wrote:

    “Wone lived with his wife of three years in the Washington suburb Oakton, Va. But he often spent the night in town with friends from his college years, ostensibly because of his long work hours. Because some of those friends were gay, that has caused some to speculate about Wone’s sexual orientation.”

    Where is the indication that Robert “often” spent the night in town with his gay friends? I have never seen that suggested before or since this article. Yet, that assumption is a predictable response to the facts of a man, any man, spending the night with any other man (not least an openly gay couple), and it is reported with a breathless, salacious component which hijacks the mind and takes it galloping off in that direction. Yet, if one examines those assumptions they fall apart pretty quickly in this case.

    I’m wondering even if a tinge of “well, he was asking for it” (an attitude familiar to female rape victims and even the families of female homicide victims where sexual elements are either apparent or assumed to be part of a crime) in the police attitude to this crime. I wonder if once faced with the notion that no one was having consensual sex with Robert that night, a position that the housemates take as well as Robert Wone’s family (probably the only thing these two parties would be said to agree on at this point), that the proverbial police brain just short circuited or something. Once divested of the “kinky sex encounter goes wrong” explanation it seems like the police simply froze in their tracks. It even seems like they maybe entertained the whole intruder idea in spite of their own cursory examinations showing a tampered with crime scene that pretty much excluded that possibility.

  8. Clio
    08/20/2009 at 8:01 PM

    Of course, it is easy (and more than a bit prissy) to criticize the quality of this initial journalism now — in the aftermath of the Duggan series, but one wonders if the pink (or grey) ladies and gentlemen of the press ever used up any shoe leather in getting to these “sources.” Did they just recycle each other’s quotes, bios, and analyses? Did they ever leave their offices? Did only Roehr check EV’s website? Yikes!

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