The Philadelphia Story

When Is A Cold Case “Cold”?

It’s been more than four years since Robert Wone was found stabbed at 1509 Swann Street on August 2nd, 2006.   Nobody has ever been charged with his murder.   The evidentiary trail has run dry, and despite efforts to the contrary, the greater DC community seems to have grudgingly accepted this crime will remain unsolved.

Every forensic researcher and professional we’ve spoken with in the last two years agrees: if a murder case hasn’t yielded significant progress within a year or two (at the outset), it has gone cold.

They all agree: if ever there was a cold case, it’s Robert’s murder.

Everyone except, it seems, the MPD.  And that may actually be a bad thing.  Why, after the jump.MPD Chief Cathy Lanier has stuck to her script over these last several years: anytime she’s asked about the Wone murder, she says it’s a “very active investigation” and that means she’s limited in what she can say.  That was her response as recently as last Thursday on WTOP’s “Ask the Chief” program – active, can’t talk.

We’ve never doubted the MPD wants to crack this case, and they still may.  But just how active can it truly be?  There’s no new evidence, and in some cases what evidence did exist is now no more.

What’s worse: keeping the case ‘active’ may actually be interfering with its solution.

Recently Sarah Larimer at TBD spoke with representatives of the Vidocq Society in Philadelphia.  “It sounds like an interesting case,” she quotes Vidocq commissioner Bill Fleischer.   Promising, especially given Vidocq’s impressive solution percentage.  However, Larimer goes on…

“If they’re still actively investigating it, it’s not a cold case,” says Fred Bornhofen, case manager for the Vidocq Society.

The MPD has taken to referring questions on Vidocq to the USAO, who has remained silent on the issue.   Meaning a cold case remains ‘active’, perhaps in name only, which is blocking any action from a group of forensic specialists who might actually help the MPD solve the case.

Perhaps it’s time for the MPD to reconsider what ‘active’ really means, and to move the Wone case into the ‘cold’ column…where in fact it already is.

Far from being an admission of defeat, it might just be what’s needed to find Robert’s killers.

8 comments for “The Philadelphia Story

  1. Michael
    01/10/2011 at 12:08 PM

    A hero was murdered by a complete coward.

    Warm or cold, the case gets busted this year.

  2. Clio
    01/10/2011 at 9:37 PM

    I heart the film The Philadelphia Story, and I still find WTOP improbably-named, Craig. But has “the evidentiary trail … run dry,” Editors? Has Mr. Hixson’s other pump dropped yet? Has Sarah suddenly remembered why she just had to watch TV five blocks away that night? Has Victor finally grasped the gist of the Hallmark correspondence? Inquiring minds still want to know!

    • susan
      01/10/2011 at 9:57 PM


      “Has Mr. Hixson’s other pump dropped yet?” Nothing wTOPs your writing, Clio!

      You have made some good points. And also, can they really call it a cold case with the civil case looming? It seems to me the very existence of an active civil case renders a cold criminal case nil. Some information/facts/innuendo, etc. may come out at the civil trial that never made it to the fore in the crim. trial. New witnesses may be heard from, etc.

      Couldn’t it be possible that MPD is “actively” involved in helping the prosecutors in the civil case, thus somewhat validating Lanier’s statement?

  3. weaver
    01/22/2011 at 2:38 PM

    The case is not cold. The killers are the trio. It’s OBVIOUS, and it makes me sick they have not been arrested!!

    I say the cops need to arrest them and the DA needs to take it to trial!! They will win. Like I said it is OBVIOUS. I’ve seen numerous people convicted on far less than what is known on the three NOW.

    The killers need to be charged!

    • Hoya Loya
      01/22/2011 at 3:29 PM


      Your feelings are understandable. But at this point, absent new evidence or testimony, a murder case would likely turn out like the obstruction case because it can’t be demonstrated which of the three did what or what each of them does or doesn’t know about the crime. If it was only one of them in the house with Robert and no sign of an intruder, then it would be a different story and that person would be in jail right now.

      But there were at least three people and possibly one or more other non-intruders present.

      We can only hope the civil case turns up something new or incriminating or causes someone who knows something to have a change of heart and finally say what they know.

  4. Karina
    12/30/2015 at 1:14 AM

    Is there yet any hope that this case could ever make it to the Vidocq Society? Surely everyone can agree that it’s cold by now… It is tragic that the killer(s) are still walking free.

    • Doug
      12/31/2015 at 10:22 AM

      Hi Karina. We took a look at this a while back: One problem is that police have to officially declare it an inactive case that they’re not investigating. For years, police chief Cathy Lanier referred to the Wone case as “active”; I’m not sure how it’s classified today. Also, it’s not enough for concerned parties to formally submit the request; it has to be done (to the best of my knowledge) by someone close to the victim. Perhaps it’s time – again – to revisit this. Thanks for writing.

      • Bill 2
        12/31/2015 at 12:51 PM

        I doubt if Chief Lanier wants this to get any attention. An outside investigation would illustrate the total incompetence of the people in her department. She’ll keep it “active” in the bottom of a file cabinet.

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