wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Local

Posted at 03:30 PM ET, 03/05/2012

Dispute that led to Wright’s stabbing started over a dog, prosecutors allege


Ellsworth Colbert testifies March 1 about his effort to win back his city job. (D.C. Office of Cable Television)

Updated 3:30 P.M.

Ellsworth Colbert, 56, was arrested Sunday in the stabbing death of Robert Leroy Wright, 37, on a quiet block of Penn Branch.

Charging documents filed by prosecutors Monday allege the dispute that led to Wright’s stabbing started over a dog.

One witness told police that Wright was walking a dog past Colbert’s home on the 3500 block of Pope Street SE Sunday morning when he came out to confront Wright “about allowing the dog to get near his yard.”

While holding a knife, the witness said, Colbert asked Wright whose dog it was. Wright told Colbert, who then went to the owner’s house, on the nearby 3600 block of Highwood Drive SE.

Wright followed him, and another witness described a “verbal altercation” there between Wright and Colbert during which Colbert held a walking stick in one hand and a “open blade knife” in the other.

At that point, the second witness said, Colbert swung the knife at Wright, cutting his hand. The first witness was also on the scene, and saw a “large bleeding gash” on Wright’s neck.

Wright then went to the back of the house on Highwood Drive, where he found a shovel. He then said, according to the second witness, “You going to stab me?”

The two then fought, Colbert’s stick and knife against Wright’s shovel. The first witness told police Colbert then stabbed Wright. After a time, the two stopped and separated from each other.

Wright then collapsed and both witnesses discovered several stab wounds “about the body.” Authorities responded at 10:15 a.m., and he was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Prince George’s County Hospital.

Both witnesses identified Colbert as the assailant.

Update, 3:30 P.M: The Post’s Keith Alexander reports that Magistrate Judge Karen A. Howze ordered Colbert held without bond this afternoon. A preliminary hearing in his case was scheduled for March 15.

Original post:

Ellsworth Colbert, 56, was arrested Sunday in the stabbing death of Robert Leroy Wright, 37, on a quiet block of Penn Branch.

Initial reports touted Colbert’s connection to the D.C. Council campaign of Kevin B. Chavous, who is seeking to unseat Ward 7 incumbent Yvette M. Alexander in April’s Democratic primary.

But Colbert is not a newcomer to city government and politics. He has long sought assistance from council members in a fight to win reinstatement to a city job he lost in 1997 after he was accused of assaulting a supervisor.

His persistence led to a court order barring him from the John A. Wilson Building. D.C. Council Secretary Nyasha Smith said Monday that the stay-away order was in effect as recently as last March but has since expired.

Colbert’s lobbying continued till last Thursday, when he testified before Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) during her oversight proceedings for the Office of Employee Appeals.

In his testimony, Colbert described the incident 15 years ago, when he said he sought to take leave from his job as a traffic signal technician after his father had a stroke. He said his supervisor refused, and the confrontation got physical. Colbert maintains that his boss threw the first punch, but a police report did not reflect that, and he was eventually fired. He went on to describe an appeals process that wended its way through the Employee Appeals office and D.C. Superior Court.

Colbert said he has been unemployed since the 1997 incident.

In an interview, Alexander said she was “shocked” at the violence. She said Colbert, a neighbor on Highwood Drive SE and “no stranger” to her, is alleged to have killed Wright after a dog he was walking relieved itself on Colbert’s lawn, leading to a dispute between them.

She said Colbert had previously told her he had joined Chavous’s campaign because he felt she had not done enough to help him get his job back. “He was quite adamant, he told me, because of the case,” she said.

Alexander said her office looked into the matter, but she found there was little she could do. “The decision was already rendered,” she said. “We checked with several sources. There was just no grounds for appeal.”

Lamont Harrell, Chavous’s campaign manager, said Colbert’s role was limited — a volunteer who helped mostly with sign-waving and community events. “It was never anything heavy,” he said.

Colbert ended his testimony Thursday by making it clear he wasn’t planning to go away.

“This has been going on for 14 years,” he said. “I guess they thought I was going to die ... but I ain’t. I’ve been here 56 years. I’m Southeast born, I’m Southeast bred, and when I die, I’ll be Southeast dead.”

Colbert was charged with second-degree murder in Wright’s killing. He is set to appear before a Superior Court judge Monday.

By  |  03:30 PM ET, 03/05/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company