Man Arrested In Burglary at Site of Slaying

By Allison Klein and Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 17, 2006

A burglary at a Northwest Washington townhouse has drawn the attention of D.C. homicide detectives investigating the unsolved slaying of a prominent lawyer three months ago at the same address.

Police have arrested a 36-year-old man in the burglary of the house, which was unoccupied during the break-in Oct. 30. Authorities quoted the man, Phelps Collins, as saying that he got inside with help from a friend -- the brother of the townhouse's owner.

Detectives have not drawn a connection between the break-in and the stabbing of Robert Wone on Aug. 2, but homicide detectives have been looking into the burglary in hopes of uncovering potential leads, authorities said. Wone, 32, was stabbed in the chest while visiting friends at the home in the 1500 block of Swann Street NW, on the edge of Dupont Circle.

New details about the burglary emerged through interviews, court papers and testimony at a hearing for Collins this week in D.C. Superior Court. Collins was arrested last Friday on a burglary charge.

Police said Collins told them that the friend, Michael Price, had a key to the house because it belonged to his brother, Joe Price. Police also quoted Collins as saying that Michael Price turned off the alarm once the two men entered the house. About $7,700 worth of electronics were stolen, police said.

Michael Price has not been charged in the burglary. He could not be located to comment.

After the break-in, detectives went to nearby pawnshops and found an audio system, two DVD players and other stolen goods, which led them to Collins, authorities said. Police also found a CD changer in a search of Collins's home on Calvert Street NW. Collins sold other stolen items on the street for money or drugs, they said.

Joe Price, a lawyer at a Washington firm, told police that he did not know Collins but that he had heard of him through his brother, according to an affidavit filed by police to get the search warrant for Collins's residence. Joe Price also told police that "his brother is known to use drugs and hang with subjects who use drugs on a regular basis," the affidavit said. Price told police that he did not give his brother or Collins permission to enter his house or remove and sell his property, the affidavit states.

Collins was jailed after his arrest and has been moved to a halfway house pending more hearings. His public defender declined to comment.

The Swann Street homeowners -- Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky -- were on vacation at the time of the break-in, police have said.

Joe Price, Zaborsky and another man, Dylan Ward, were in the home when Wone was killed there, police said. Wone, a lawyer for Radio Free Asia, worked late that night and was staying at the house instead of going to his home in Oakton. His body was found on a sofa bed in a guest room.

Police have offered no motive for the killing. Joe Price, Zaborsky and Ward have said they did not see what happened. They have said they believe Wone was killed by an intruder who slipped in and out of the back door without notice.

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