The Kitchen Debate

The Smallest Part of the Defendant’s Story May Have Big Problems.

Gazing into the confined black box that is 1509 Swann on August 2nd, 2006, there’s no detail too mundane that doesn’t deserve a second look.  We don’t presume guilt on anyone’s part…nor do we presume innocence.  But given the convoluted strands that come from that night, everything is fair game.  Especially in light of apparent MPD missteps.

The Nixon Khrushchev Kitchen Debate

These include the most seeming natural details.  Among them: the kitchen chat between Robert Wone, Joe Price and Dylan Ward.  Does this scene make sense, and can we believe the defendants?

What happened in the kitchen that night, and what it might tell us of Robert’s murder?

While not noted in Officer Durham’s first-on-hand notes of the defendant’s comments, it quickly became part of the “story” that, while Victor apparently slept on the third floor, Price and Ward met Robert at the door around 10:30pm and escorted him to the kitchen for some small talk and a glass of water.   They chatted for several minutes before adjourning and all headed up to bed – “…around 11pm…”



– with a subsequent report that friends Joe and Robert would “catch up” over breakfast the next morning.  Dylan reported hearing Robert take a shower around this time, and hearing his door latch closed, before nodding off to sleep. (Note Detective Waid’s observation of “…an e-mail purporting to be from Mr. Wone to his wife, timed 11:05 p.m., saying he had just taken a shower and was going to bed.”)

Let’s rewind the tape.

Two long-time college friends agree more than a week in advance for Robert to spend the night.  Would Victor – a related friend – decide to not meet Robert in favor of turning in early?  Perhaps.  We grant Washington demands grueling hours, and perhaps Victor – exhausted from his reported “early return” trip – was needing sleep.

Nice view...

Nice view...

But Joe and Dylan are wide awake; Joe presumably a typical DC attorney early-riser, and Dylan…who knows.  Is it likely that any of the three kitchen debaters would have had to turn into work before 8am?  Seems doubtful.

And even if they did, when exactly did Joe hope to “catch up” over breakfast with Robert?

Then there’s the plain weirdness of gathering in their kitchen for a half hour of water and chat.

It’s obvious from these photos (taken after the Swann Street police rehab of 2006) that while the kitchen at Swann was well equipped, if you weren’t cooking or serving something there would be no reason to gather there.  Especially on those uncomfortable stools. For a friend in town, planned for weeks, who you haven’t seen?  On a hot August night?  Everyone fresh from work?

It just doesn’t wash.

Mmmm...skinny stools we think...

Mmmm...skinny stools we think...

Does it make sense – not in an investigative-mode, but just a DC social etiquette mode – to invite a long-time friend to stay the night, and on his arrival, settle into uncomfortable stools for a glass of water on a hot summer’s night, rather than sitting for a few moments to the living room or to cool off on the patio?

I’m certainly not among DC’s more celebrated hosts… but would I welcome a close friend I hadn’t seen in months with nothing more than a glass of water?  No cheese, beer, snacks or anything?  Even I would be embarrassed.

1509 Swann Living RoomAnd looking at the photos of kitchen/living room, are we really to believe that three people would spend a half an hour on a warm August night cooped up on these kitchen stools, rather than sitting comfortably in the living room?

Were it November and Dylan was making chicken soup, perhaps one could imagine guests hovering around the fragrant oven and kitchen.

But this was August, with Joe apparently not producing anything other than chilled water for his guest and offering nothing more comfortable than a stool to perch on for a half hour.

Can we take any statement by the defendants, even the most insignificant, at face value?  Does every word and notion from that night need to be unwound and reexamined?

posted by Doug

34 comments for “The Kitchen Debate

  1. Clio
    10/16/2009 at 11:11 AM

    The kitchen was the least attractive part of the residence, both before and after the 2006 events. It struck me more as a high school laboratory than a cozy gathering place. I prefer a much larger and warmer kitchen, but then again I do not live in the District of Columbia where space is far more limited.

    More significantly, the kitchen chat, along with everything else, needs to be placed in its historical context. What did Robert have planned for the next day? What did Dylan? Joe? Victor? What time did they all have to be back at work? When did the unsent “telegram” say Robert’s lunch with an unnamed colleague would take place?

    When did Mr. Ward usually go to bed — since he was an independent scholar with no set schedule –other than possibly a few out-calls? I would be depressed, too, and ready to sleep, if I had his spotty c.v. Was his massage table ever found or seized in the house?

    • CDinDC
      10/16/2009 at 12:53 PM

      “Was his massage table ever found or seized in the house?”

      Clio, Dylan had gone to school for Thai message, which is done on the floor. He might not have had a massage table.

      “I would be depressed, too, and ready to sleep, if I had his spotty c.v.”


      • Clio
        10/16/2009 at 1:40 PM

        Thanks, CD. I am not up on the latest fashions in massage therapy.

        On the floor … with a cushioned mat, I trust! You would have to be a sadist to force your clients to go without a cushioned mat.

        • Clio
          10/18/2009 at 8:19 PM

          Dylan’s statement about the kitchen chat does yield some interesting details of what it may have been actually about. Dylan said that Robert, Joe, and he talked about two women — Kathy Wone and a mutual friend named Lisa, Robert’s job, a broken shower, and a “hot” master bedroom (hot air rises?). Joe then, according to Dyl, goes out to check out the spider DURING the chat: I guess that he was bored with the conversation/refreshments? (Who wouldn’t be!) Then, Joe’s water is refilled (by his humble servant Dylan?), and then Robert goes to shower.

          Bad hosting would go beyond just ignoring your guest in favor of a spider, but, apparently, no one said good night to the guest. So, even if I’m socially awkward Dyl, I’m just going to float off to sleep without saying good night to my friend? You don’t have to remember “The Waltons” in order to perform that common courtesy.

          Editors, who is Lisa?

          Finally, the kitchen did have a mounted flat screen television in 2006, according to the affidavit. So, Joe and Dylan could have been watching “Project Runway” in the kitchen right before and as Robert arrived.

  2. CDinDC
    10/16/2009 at 11:40 AM

    The posting says: “Would Victor – a related friend – decide to not meet Robert in favor of turning in early?”

    If he was angry? Maybe. Remember Joe kept Victor completely out of the loop while making plans for the “stay-over.” Joe and Robert planned this WELL in advance and Joe never said a word to Victor.

    I think I would certainly be annoyed if my partner hadn’t informed me of something like this. Maybe Victor was so annoyed he decided to take a “f-you” attitude and remove himself from the situation entirely.

    And taking it a step farther in light of “turning up the heat on Victor”, maybe the reason Joe and Dylan said Victor wasn’t in the kitchen was to protect Victor and remove him from the equation entirely.

    Maybe this small “sin of omission” by Joe caused Victor to snap after years of spousal emotional abuse. Maybe Victor lashed out at Robert.

    How much can a man take, afterall?

  3. kitchenchatter
    10/16/2009 at 12:20 PM

    While I find the defendants stories implausible in general – I don’t think a 30 min chat in the kitchen is out of the question.

    My kitchen is small and it is often a gathering place. How do you know Robert was not offered “Would you like anything? Beer, cheese, whatever?” and he said “No thanks, but some water would be great?” We stand around in the kitchen, chat and catch up frequently. Especially if there was a lot to talk about, that perfect lull in which the host says “why don’t we head to the living room” may never have happened.

    NormallY i read and agree with most things posted on your site but I think you are making way to big of a deal about this. And honestly, this part doesn’t really matter – its clear from every other description of the night that the 3Ds were involved in a clean up at the very least.

    I just think this is a mountain out of a molehill and undermines your credibility when you challenge other parts of defendants stories.

    Again, water and kitchen chat is not unreasonable.

    I do agree that a mere 30 mins of chat seems weird for all the planning that went into arranging this get together.

  4. CuriousInVa
    10/16/2009 at 12:36 PM

    I have to agree w/ kitchenchatter on this one. I had a friend from the west coast in town on business just the other night. She did not arrive at my house until 10 pm on a work night. I offered her wine, beer a snack and she opted for water. we chatted for less than an hour and as both of us were tired, we retired and made plans to have an early breakfast together. It happens.

    • Bea
      10/16/2009 at 12:40 PM

      Maybe it was Pellegrino. (:

      • Clio
        10/16/2009 at 1:33 PM

        At the very least, Bea. Well, for a libertine hedonist such as Culuket, drinking just water, chilled or not, sounds so monastic, although it would be more suitable for his diet these days.

        And, eating anything right then may have ruined any “buzz” to maintain a little later on.

        • Former Crackho
          10/16/2009 at 1:39 PM

          I don’t think they would be offering food with the type of rectal play they had in mind, either….

          • CDinDC
            10/16/2009 at 1:48 PM


            • Clio
              10/16/2009 at 2:56 PM

              Yes, that would have led to really “uncomfortable stools” of a different sort than those in the kitchen.

              • Former Crackho
                10/16/2009 at 3:18 PM

                Well, I believe that there was the intent of extracting Robert’s semen for whatever reason…perhaps their lesbian couple wanted a child of asian decent? Maybe the two the got with the boys weren’t as cute as Robert? Who knows. Maybe they were running some sort of black market sperm tank? In any event, I’m sure they didn’t want it to be too messy affair…I don’t remember reading “scat” in culuket’s demand of services….

              • des
                10/16/2009 at 4:18 PM

                ROFL! eeewwwww!

                • des
                  10/16/2009 at 4:19 PM

                  my comment was in reference to “uncomfortable stools”.
                  somehow it got misplaced…

  5. Former Crackho
    10/16/2009 at 1:36 PM

    The kitchen doesn’t so much bother me either because my friends and I spend a lot of time hanging aroung the kitchen for some reason. Maybe its a guy thing? Who know.

    What I would like to know – did Robert always take a shower at night? I know in the heat of August in DC I sometimes shower twice a day, but if he was just going to get up and take another shower, and if he wasn’t sleeping with anyone, would he really have taken a shower at night just to take another one in the morning? I guess Kathy would know more than anyone if he was a twice a day showerer… I know he supposedly texted Kathy, but….something just is strange about this to me. Guess we all have different things that make us suspicious. Personally, I don’t think he ever took that shower until after he was dead.

    Or maybe they suggested the shower to have him in a nice clean place to do all the dirty work?

    • CDinDC
      10/16/2009 at 1:52 PM

      FC says: “Personally, I don’t think he ever took that shower until after he was dead.”

      Agree. Or in the very least, saying Robert did plan to the take a shower, it was preempted.

      • Clio
        10/16/2009 at 2:11 PM

        Re: the kitchen being a guy thing. Perhaps, the men conversed downstairs, while the lady of the house slept upstairs. If the lady was awake or had been invited to join the men, then the refreshments may have been more elaborate.

        I guess that Dylan was just a sexual servant after all rather than being a maid-of-all-work, but I would have forced him to bake a coconut cake and to serve iced tea with lemon, nonetheless, if I was Mr. Price.

    • Craig
      10/16/2009 at 2:10 PM

      FCW – Who doesn’t love to hang out in a kitchen? At a party for instance, the coolest people always congregate in there. But this was different.

      We batted around the whole kitchen idea a bit this week. There were differing views but to Doug and I, it did not pass a common sense smell test. The whole notion began to stick out like a sore thumb.

      Any respectable host would say, “Let’s sit somewhere a little more comfortable…” rather than asking a guest to perch on stool at a lousy breakfast bar for a half hour. No one was cooking, no fire to attend or food being served.

      Was the kitchen concept planted to support the narrative that also included the spider, the unlocked backdoor, the ‘intruder’ entrance and egress?

      Did they have to make the kitchen a venue to make the the rest of those elements work?

      • CDinDC
        10/16/2009 at 2:24 PM


        I’ve always thought that Robert arrived and didn’t linger downstairs. On several occasions I threw out the thought that they would catch up in the morning. The WaPo article confirmed my thoughts…..Robert mentioned that possibility to Kathy.

        So, with that in mind again, I return to my theory that Robert was attacked while he was getting ready for bed.

        No kitchen chat (at least not for 1/2 an hour). 10 minutes, maybe. This would broaden the timeline by 20 minutes.

        And back to the scream…..if the scream was heard around 11-1110ish….it would make more sense that they “retired” almost immediately.

        So, your “genteel host” theory holds a lot of water, in my opinion.

      • Former Crackho
        10/16/2009 at 3:25 PM

        I do see your point, and also know that as much as we hang in the kitchen, we also plop down on the couch and throw our feet up on the ottoman. I guess its important to remember that these are also old college friends who, I would think, would pretty much ditch formalities. I could see myself telling Robert to grab a drink and come on in the living room and tell me about your new job”. Or, “do another bump of this and go run up and take a shower while its kicking in…”

        • John Grisham
          10/18/2009 at 9:05 PM

          yep FCH . . . welcome, drink, bump, shower, massage and injections

      • Clio
        10/16/2009 at 4:07 PM

        Yes, the kitchen is directly connected to the backdoor, the point of entry and exit for the mythical intruder(s). Any backdoor — but especially his own — was special, even sacred, to Culuket. No chastity belt, both literal or figurative, could contain him!

        The spider was allegedly seen by Mr. Price on which light, though? Did the patio have overhead or ground-level lighting in 2006? Did he mess with or kill the spider, too?

        BTW, I love those cute orange chairs on the patio, but I doubt that they were there that evening.

        • Clio
          10/16/2009 at 8:52 PM

          Craig, the more that I think about it, the more I think that the semi-odd stress on the kitchen may have been to complement the intruder theory. The water obviously came from the kitchen. The elves allegedly came in through the kitchen, not the parlor. Joe saw the spider from the kitchen. The back door to the kitchen was left open by the exiting assailant, said underwear guy to Officer Durham. The kitchen, I guess, is also where underwear guy held court for the first officers on the scene.

          Sarah’s apartment had its own access to the patio? Or, did she go through the kitchen to enter/exit? I cannot remember. But the door chimes are linked to the back door by the kitchen, right? Was it easier then to go to Tom and John’s from the back door and patio or from the front door?

          If it was the kitchen and not the parlor for Robert’s last parley before his murder, that gathering lasted, as CD has said, less than ten minutes, maybe less than five minutes. How quickly could the poison (via the water) have taken effect? Robert probably would have wanted more refreshments after just a Subway meal, but, I bet, he was never given that choice!

    • Perplexed
      10/24/2009 at 7:59 PM

      That’s a really good point Crackho about him probably not taking a shower until after he was dead. It would explain them putting that in there that he did take a shower in case there was suspicion of him being wet from them washing him down. Plus the amount of time doesn’t really fit with him taking a shower first. What I’m finding is the little things these defendants say mean a whole lot more than we think they do on face value…

  6. CDinDC
    10/16/2009 at 1:52 PM

    I wonder if they did forensic analysis of the upstairs shower/bathroom.

    • CDinDC
      10/16/2009 at 1:53 PM

      meaning the master bath.

      No master jokes, please. LOL

    • Former Crackho
      10/16/2009 at 1:54 PM

      I bet its hard to get blood out of grout.

      • CDinDC
        10/16/2009 at 2:14 PM

        You would think!

        But what about brick? That didn’t stop them from hosing off SOMETHING in the patio area.

        And you figure if Robert were laying in the tub, minimal grout involvement. :/

  7. Clio
    10/16/2009 at 2:18 PM

    Yes, FCH, even with their apparently fabulous contractor who did the post-murder makeover! Thanks again, Stilts, for those unforgettable slides.

  8. Perplexed
    10/24/2009 at 8:02 PM

    I also don’t really see a problem with them hanging around the kitchen chatting for a little bit (but I don’t think it was the whole time – 30 min), b/c it ties in someone walking out the patio door for the spider (that wouldn’t be included if they were hanging out in the living room). But I also think they went out to the patio shortly after (RW probably willingly at that point, and whomever brought him another water out there, brought him a spiked one)….they would have the opportunity to do that when everyone left the kitchen to go to the patio.

  9. are you kidding me?
    11/04/2009 at 10:56 PM

    I think this is an enormous waste of time– I am often tired at 10 PM and I don’t work early (maybe I’m old), guests often turn down anything but water that late (maybe all my friends are on diets) and when I am arriving late I don’t try to keep my guests up late by settling in in the living room (maybe I am anti-social) and finally who says people don’t hang out in kitchens even ones with “uncomfortable” looking stools? (I am really the only person that literally NEVER sits in my living room?) Lots of people stand around talking for much longer than half an hour–at least they had a fucking stool!!! If they planned to have breakfast why stay up till all hours, they were old friends so they could probably drop the pretense! This is just a bunch of hogwash.

    • AnnaZed
      11/05/2009 at 1:22 AM

      Gee, thanks for clearing that up for all of us. Not a single soul on this site ever thought of any of those possibilities. That’s just uncanny the way you get to the heart of the matter like that. Guess we can all pack-up and go home now … nah (!) … on second thought ….

    • Bea
      11/05/2009 at 2:41 AM

      Dear Kidding Me –

      I understand completely that you’re often tired, only want/offer water, hate sitting in your living room, think it’s great to have a stool not to stand. Do you often have friends stabbed to death while you’re “asleep”?

      If it’s all hogwash and an enormous waste of time then I’d suggest you spend your time elsewhere. I do think, however, that you know one/more of the defendants or you wouldn’t be “wasting” your time here. My two cents.

Comments are closed.