The Price of Family

This Memorial Day brings together millions of families.  Some will gather to celebrate the three-day weekend, others will gather to honor those who have served.  In our particular case, throughout this entire ordeal, the one constant that has remained is the role of family — both good and bad.

Left to Right: Schertler & Onorato associate Veronica Jennings, Joe Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky

Family has defined this case from its earliest moments. During the immediate aftermath in Victor Zaborsky’s Anacostia Dialogue, he described the living situation between the three housemates who lived upstairs, “We’re family.”  Gay friends of Joe Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward knew that they were more than a domestic partners (Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky) and their housemate Dylan Ward.  Among these friends their relationship coined the new term “trouple”, which combined the numerical word of three in “triple” with the physical and emotional commitment denoted by “couple.”

Certain folks, namely most of their straight friends, were not aware of this family structure.  Kathy Wone alluded to this in her testimony when she said quietly and calmly, “I have learned somethings I did not know.”

The mainstream media, and even the gay media, portrayed the household much in the same way Kathy Wone testified, “Joe and Victor were partners; Dylan was someone who needed housing.”  With the start of the trial things began to change. The mainstream media has finally begun to describe the three Swann Street housemates as “in a three-way, committed relationship.” It took quite awhile, but they are finally getting closer to the truth. Yes, journalistic standards must be met before they can attempt to use this definition, but, on the other hand, for nearly four years the media has been truly inaccurate by describing the Swann Street housemates as a domestic partnership between Joe and Victor and their housemate Dylan Ward.

More after the jump.

The main stream media is getting closer to a more accurate definition for several reasons.  First, the defense counsel has described them as a family.  Bernie Grimm remarked during the motions hearing on the defendants’ sexual orientations and sexual histories that the defendants “have from the very first night described themselves as a family.”  Second, the prosecution based on their case-in-chief, on the premise, that as a family, Joe Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward have a reason to protect each others’ interests and would therefore obstruct a police investigation into what happened in their house on the night of August 2, 2006.  They maintain that Robert was not a member of their family that night.

So all this comes to one central question — is family the reason we do not know who murdered Robert Wone?  The prosecution firmly believes that is the case.  The defense believes that the police and investigators have been obsessed by the Swann Street family of Joe Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward to the detriment of looking for the unknown intruder.

Judge Lynn Liebowitz has even made a few statements on the particulars of family in the course of this case.  During the discussion of the burglary of  Joe Price’s Swann Street home by his brother Michael Price and whether it could be admitted as evidence into the trial, she remarked that loyalty to family was a good character trait.

Whatever is the case, family has been front and center as the trial has gotten underway.  Each of the defandants’ parents look to have made appearances during the first two weeks, with Victor Zaborsky’s parents being the most consistent. Dylan Ward’s father, Needham Ward has even given his son-in-law, Joe Price, a big atta-boy slap on the back to demonstrate his support and encouragement.  Whether this gesture was heartfelt and genuine or just a display of unity in front of the media and observers remains to be seen.  On a related note, I offer the definition of Joe Price as Needham Ward’s son-in law since Joe Price admitted on the night of the murder that he was married to his son, Dylan.

Robert’s family has also been a constant in the court house as well.  Kathy Wone is there, along with Robert’s parents, Bill and Aimee, his brother, Andrew, and his Aunt.

There is no doubt that when this trial concludes and a verdict rendered, no matter what the verdict is, one family will feel vindicated; the other will feel wronged.  Such is the price of family.

— posted by David

37 comments for “The Price of Family

  1. Clio
    05/31/2010 at 7:04 PM

    That catchy Sister Sledge song from 1979 — “We Are Fam-O-Lee, I’ve got all my sisters with me” — just popped into my brain, after I read this post. Now, I cannot think at all because it will not go away: thanks, David! LOL!

  2. Carolina
    05/31/2010 at 8:59 PM

    This brings up an interesting point that I had not thought of before. We know that Victor and Joe are legally partnered and one can assume they would not be forced to testify against one another. However, I’m fairly certain there are no states (even Utah) that allow for multiple, simultaneous legal marriages/partnerships, so I’m assuming Dylan and Joe are the non-legal kind of married and would therefore not be afforded the same privileges?

    I wonder if Victor and Dylan consider themselves married to one another, as well.

    • Bea
      05/31/2010 at 9:14 PM

      No states support bigamy/polygamy whether heterosexual or homosexual. Good point about whether Victor and Dylan consider themselves ‘married’ – I’m guessing it’s more like “Big Love” (Barb and Margene?).

      I always wonder if Dylan went to Joe & Victor’s official registration as domestic partners – and was there a ceremony? You’d think poster boy Joe would like the attention. Would that make Dylan ‘best man’ in many, many ways?

      • Bill Orange
        05/31/2010 at 9:21 PM

        I think Joe and Victor were partnered before they met Dylan.

        • Bea
          05/31/2010 at 10:40 PM

          They hadn’t registered as domestic partners yet, though certainly they were a ‘couple’ when they met Dylan.

          • Clio
            05/31/2010 at 11:16 PM

            I see Dyl more as a bride’s maid more than a best man: he’s always been the bride’s maid, never the bride. Although picturing him in something peach and with spaghetti straps … maybe not.

      • Elizabeth
        06/01/2010 at 10:56 AM

        I feel like you can’t have it both ways. I respect two people, gay or straight, in a committed relationship. Call it a marriage if it fits, but then you can’t have a third person in this “committed” relationship.

        • SJinNYC
          06/01/2010 at 11:46 AM

          Agreed. How can Joe be married to Victor AND Dylan, anyway? Hypothetically, could they all get married to each other? Kind of ridiculous.

  3. Clio
    05/31/2010 at 9:31 PM

    Have Joe’s parents and/or step-parents attended the proceedings at Moultrie? Victor has the most supportive family, and he happens to be, on the surface, the most polite/adjusted of the Three. Dyl comes in second with Needham’s steadfast support, if not guidance. And there’s Joe with his “difficult childhood” — memories no doubt that are/were looming large and stinking up the place.

  4. josephina
    05/31/2010 at 10:04 PM

    The price of family is either being vindicated or wronged? Um, I think, I would hope at least that those who aspire to “family” status would aim a little higher than that no matter what sexual orientation, creed, religion or species. Due to the lurid nature of this case, I often feel in reading these posts, that the suffering, the void left in the lives of the family of the victim is being forgotten. Advocating for the victim is truly giving a “voice to the voiceless.” He is dead–his life, his future, and his shared future with his family has been taken away forever. When we talk about family, do not forget the family of the victim, and their irreparable loss, pain and suffering.

    • Nelly
      05/31/2010 at 11:13 PM

      I agree. It is the living who must go on with suffering every day for the rest of their lives. While Needham’s going around happily back-slapping, and Victor gets to end the day being hugged by his parents and aunt, Robert is still gone and unable to do the same.

      • josephina
        06/01/2010 at 8:32 PM

        Thanks for this. With all the actions of the living defendents, it’s hard to keep perspective that a life is gone forever, and no matter what the verdict, that life will never return.

  5. Bill Orange
    05/31/2010 at 10:28 PM

    I really think that Michael Price should be a big part of the mix here. The Post article says that the prosecution is arguing that he had “consciousness of guilt”. My reading of that is that they’re fairly certain he was involved, and I think they’ve got quite a bit more evidence to prove it than we’re currently aware of. He has an alibi for that night, and as far as I can tell, the only way the prosecution can really be certain he was involved is if they’ve broken his alibi. He showed up at the VCB the morning after the murder, and he doesn’t seem like an obvious person to call in a time of crisis. Given that he started screaming at the police at Robert Wone’s funeral, I would imagine that they started looking at him as a possible suspect almost immediately. Nobody told the police that he had a key to the house, which seems like a deliberate omission to me. He burglarized the Swann Street house, and and there was a delay in the reporting, which looks awful on so many levels: The police find out that Michael Price has a key to the house, that he’s willing to commit a felony in the house, and that the defendants are willing to look the other way while he does so.

    I’m guessing that one or both of these two things happened: Louis Hinton cut a deal and said that he wasn’t with Michael Price at the time of the murder AND/OR the recent DNA report from the FBI showed that Michael Price’s DNA was on the knife that was found in the guest bedroom.

    • Bea
      05/31/2010 at 10:42 PM

      Bill O – if they had Michael’s DNA on the knife, there would be charges brought ASAP.

      • Bill Orange
        05/31/2010 at 11:14 PM

        Even if the results were recent, and this trial was looming? Are you sure the DA wouldn’t want to wait a month for the outcome of this trial?

        • Carolina
          05/31/2010 at 11:48 PM

          That’s the kind of Perry Mason move you don’t see in real life trials. They’d also have to let the defense in on that, if I’m not mistaken.

    • CC Biggs
      05/31/2010 at 10:57 PM

      Also would be very interesting if it is established that Michael Price gave the police a false alibi, e.g., telling the police that he was at his hospital class on the night of the murder, when it turns out he was absent that night.

      • KKinCA
        06/01/2010 at 2:46 AM

        Apologize for joining so late, but CC’s last post raised a question for me: Was Michael ever officially questioned by the police regarding Robert’s murder and his activities on the night of August 2nd? I recall many posts by the editors that refer to Michael’s roommate/sometime lover’s (Hinton?) entry in Hinton’s diary about spending the night of August 2, 2006, sleeping in the same bed with Michael (the alibi), and lots of reader comments with respect thereto. But I don’t recall reading where/when/by whom this alibi was discovered and made public. And I don’t know the source of the information that Michael failed to show up at his class. Sorry if this is easily answered by a bit of research on this site, but I am in the middle of moving and am completely brain-dead. Any thoughts, facts, memories of the regulars with amazing memories would be welcome! Thanks.

    • Bill
      05/31/2010 at 10:58 PM

      It is telling that Michael wasn’t indicted for anything. After four years, if they had anything on Michael, he’d be on trial. I am wondering if the burglary was b/c he is a drug addict and was breaking in to sell stolen items from the house.

      • Nelly
        05/31/2010 at 11:14 PM

        I always thought it was a set-up, fake burglary to deflect attention from Price et al. Someone posted a long time ago here about seeing Victor talking on his cell outside the home, looking pretty happy for someone whose house had just been robbed.

        • Carolina
          05/31/2010 at 11:49 PM

          What purpose would it serve, and why the delay in reporting it if it was a set up?

          • mia
            06/01/2010 at 3:13 AM

            The house had never been broken into before that night. And it was the first time Robert spend night there. If the intruder story was true, I had to say, it was quite a coincidence. But just few months after the murder, the house has been broken into again. So now many people would think, there are indeed criminals hanging around.

    • Clio
      05/31/2010 at 11:26 PM

      The profanity-filled tantrum in the parking lot was despicable and showed really bad manners at the very minimum, but how does that rant, complemented by the burglary and the keys, link the younger Price unequivocally to the conspiracy? Some other shoes then must have just dropped, and they sure weren’t Prada.

      • CC Biggs
        05/31/2010 at 11:51 PM

        Based on the summary of trial from Friday, I thought the officer testified (or at least hinted) that Michael Price offered a false alibi for himself at some point during his tirade. That could link him to the conspiracy/obstruction.

  6. 05/31/2010 at 10:49 PM

    The concept of family in the gay meaning embraces all gay men and woman. In the case of Robert Wone it really isn’t applicable, it seems to me. Yes, Joe, Victor and Dylan might have considered themselves as “family” and perhaps more intimately than the overall nomenclature might otherwise mean. The problem I have is that someone murdered Robert Wone and regardless of any family affiliations – either broad or narrowly defined, this is not a matter of to be considered in the context of “family”.

    I have no real opinion about the guilt or innocence of Joe, Victor and Dylan, but there remains the fact that the man was murdered and whoever did this – family by any definition not withstanding – whoever perpetrated this crime should be brought to justice. It doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen anytime soon.

  7. susan
    06/01/2010 at 12:27 AM

    Please excuse me if this has come up before, but did the police/prosecution/investigators look into the water leak thing J. Price mentioned? I don’t know if that sort of thing is recorded or possible to check, so just wondering. That story about the water in the middle of his recorded statement is just…odd.

    Also, someone pointed to a link earlier but I didn’t see anything that answered this question: Did the prosecution get the cell phone records of M. Price for that evening? Everyone else’s records? Thanks.

    • Craig
      06/01/2010 at 8:27 AM

      There did indeed appear to be a plumbing issue inside 1509 on the night of the murder. Testimony from the EMTs revealed there was a ladder and some sort of hose rigged up on the second floor. The defense used this as a reason why Ward backed into his room as Jeff Baker bounded went up the stairs to the second floor; Ward was giving the portly first responder wide berth to get the stretcher up there.

      • SJinNYC
        06/01/2010 at 11:57 AM

        But didn’t Dylan not only go into his room, but also shut the door and remained in there for a few minutes? How does the defense explain those actions? Ugh. Some of the “reasons” the defense is giving for the trouple’s behavior and actions are just so ridiculous.

  8. Ohio
    06/01/2010 at 9:59 AM

    It is a given that these are three very intelligent men, and they come from intelligent families, I don’t understand how their families can be so much behind them. It is obvious to me, I don’t have any reasonable doubt, that they are responsible for the death of Robert Wone. If a member of my family did something like this, I might still love them, but I would not be comfortable having them get off with no consequences. It would totally creep me out to have my relative celebrate any exoneration of these charges. Can their families really believe the intruder story? Really? Unbelievable.

    • Cecily
      06/01/2010 at 12:03 PM

      It is sad and I agree with you, but just look at the Post or any newspaper, when crimes are committed one of the first things out of these idiot parents mouth is “my son/child is innocent”, etc, etc. Family bonds can be hard to break especially between a parent and child.

      • Bob
        06/01/2010 at 8:36 PM

        I don’t think that it is fair to refer to the Zaborskys and Wards as “idiot parents”. They are only doing what a parent should do. Their sons are still innocent in the eyes of the law until the trial is over, and it is appropriate and moral for the parents to aid them to the best of their ability to have a fair trial in which they can establish a reasonable doubt, and their sons have a right to present a defense, and their parents have a right to provide that defense.

        If my son had been indicted for murder (or any offense having the nature of murder), I would provide him with a defense and support his defense, including being present in the courtroom, even if I thought that he was guilty, because he is not guilty until the jury or judge renders the verdict of guilty.

        If they were to abandon their sons, assuming that they were guilty, they would be acting as judge or jury, rather than trusting that the judge (or jury) would render a fair verdict.

        On the one hand, it appears to me, as an observer, that their sons are probably guilty. On the other hand, it appears to me, as an observer, that their parents are doing the right thing in a tragic situation. No one wants their child to be indicted for a crime, but their sons have a right to justice, and that means that their parents should give them that hope.

        Sometimes I will say that my opinion is worth what you paid for it. That is worth, in my opinion, far more than you paid for it. I won’t go into the details of how it was purchased in toil, tears, and sweat.

        I see no reason to criticize the Zaborsky or Ward parents, and I do see reason why it is wrong to criticize them.

  9. Dr20854
    06/01/2010 at 10:41 AM

    Like a few others who’ve posted here, I don’t see how this “trouple” could be portrayed as being in a committed family relationship. Besides the polygamy aspect, I don’t know any committed folks who post on alt.com type of websites looking for others with common sexual interests. They are not a family in any sense of the word.

    I worked with Robert on charitable project and was shocked to hear about his passing on the very morning of his murder. Word spread very quickly – due to his standing in the community. The initial word was that he was stabbed in the back.

    With many close gay friends, I also felt that these 3 guys were being unfairly targeted from DAY 1 due to their orientation. I went to Robert’s funeral and saw Joe Price acting as pallbearer. He looked extremely preoccupied, ill and uncomfortable. He definitely did not look like someone who was sad, grieving, or confused by the loss of a close friend – as everyone else there did. It just did not feel right.

    Years later – after reading through the arrest affidavit, court filings and following this website, it is clear that they are using their sexual orientation as a defense. It will be a serious travesty if this trouple is not found guilty. They deserve to be found guilty of much more than just conspiracy.

    • Agatha
      06/01/2010 at 11:15 AM

      Hopefully the justice system will work in this case.

      You bring up a good point about bias within the police department. It is possible that the entire household of four and the extended family members were unfairly targeted or not targeted due to their orientation; and, at the same time it would appear as though the police department may not have been aware (or didn’t want to know) of the many nuances and culturally acceptable lifestyle habits within the gay community. This is one more reason to have the gay liaison police team in place to ensure fair treatment of all and to explain the lifestyle to ensure criminals within the community are caught and prosecuted.

      Who is really to say what is or who is family. Had the police department fully understood the drug scene with a cat tranquilizer … perhaps that would been listed as a priority for testing. Perhaps a drug dog would have been helpful in the search of the home.

      This case tests social norms and accepted social practices both in the media and in the justice system. Regardless of the lifestyle perspective – the fact remains a young person was brutally killed in a home with at least three people in the house with no rational explanation of how it happened.

      Individual responsibility and accountability will hopefully prevail and the truth will emerge of what really happened on the night of Aug. 2 – which will hopefully help the family let go of this horrible tragedy.

      • SJinNYC
        06/01/2010 at 12:01 PM

        If I remember correctly, a drug dog did go through the home, and although only one ecstasy tablet was found, the dog alerted to spots where drugs may have been recently stored.

  10. Elizabeth
    06/01/2010 at 10:52 AM

    Last week we spent some time talking about the fire in the barbie as a way to explain all the water out back. Given that Victor said he watered the plants, (but only inside and in front, I believe) wouldn’t that have been an easier explanation than the whole burning steak thing?

    • Nelly
      06/01/2010 at 12:40 PM

      Burning the steaks would have given them an excuse for having the water hose unwound and more water all over the back deck. Plus, the plants Vic was watering were on the rooftop patio.

      • Carolina
        06/03/2010 at 9:22 AM

        The plants were out front, and there was apparently there was no rooftop garden at the time.

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