A New Glimpse Into Night of D.C. Slaying

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006

On the night of Aug. 2, Robert Wone called his wife, Kathy, at their home in Virginia, checking in as he walked to his downtown Washington office.

The Wones had rarely spent a night apart since 2002, when Robert surprised Kathy with rose petals leading to a silver fortune cookie and the message, "Will You Marry Me?" But Wone, a lawyer, planned to work late that night, his wife said. Days before, he had arranged to stay with friends at a townhouse near Dupont Circle.

"I love you," Robert told his wife as they hung up about 9:30 p.m.

Just after midnight, the phone awoke Kathy Wone. It was Joe Price, the co-owner of the townhouse. Robert has been stabbed, he said. Get to the hospital -- immediately. Less than 30 minutes later, a doctor pronounced her 32-year-old husband dead.

The killer, Wone would learn, plunged a kitchen knife into her husband's chest, piercing his heart. The knife came from the townhouse in the 1500 block of Swann Street NW -- the home of Price, his domestic partner, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward, all of whom were in the building at the time.

More than two months after Wone's death, investigators have seized personal computers, examined phone records, consulted the FBI and convened a grand jury. For more than three weeks, they kept control of the three-story, $1.2 million house where Wone died, removing flooring, pieces of walls, a chunk of staircase, the washing machine, even sink traps. They used chemicals to search for traces of DNA and other evidence, staining walls, floors and bathrooms.

Yet no arrest has been made and no suspect or motive identified, causing Kathy Wone, 35, to worry that the crime might never be solved. "I feel like I've been holding my breath, waiting for a break in the investigation, hoping that this doesn't become a cold case," she wrote in an e-mail, her first public comments about the slaying.

Authorities have offered only the broadest outline of what transpired, saying that a resident told them an intruder came through the back door and killed Wone -- a theory that detectives have publicly questioned. Yet as police await the results of evidence testing, new details have emerged about Wone's final hours and what Price, Zaborsky and Ward have said occurred after their friend arrived.

In a city of more than 100 homicides this year, Wone's death captured public attention because he was a rising star in Washington's legal world, active in the Asian American community. He died in a neighborhood where homicides are rare, at the home of friends who are affluent, well-established professionals; one is prominent in the gay community.

The case took on greater notoriety when investigators asserted that the crime scene was cleaned before police arrived. And they expressed doubt that an intruder killed Wone, saying they found no sign of forced entry or anything taken.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said detectives are waiting for the FBI to complete tests on blood and other items from the crime scene. Police want the FBI to treat the case with urgency, Ramsey said, and hope to get the results in a matter of weeks or months.

Police and prosecutors have sought to reconstruct what happened inside the house before and after the killing. According to sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, Price, Zaborsky and Ward have described a routine evening that began with a dinner at home before Wone arrived about 10:30 p.m. to sleep over.

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