washingtonpost.com
Cover-Up Alleged in D.C. Killing Of Lawyer

By Paul Duggan and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 1, 2008

A police affidavit made public yesterday provided a wealth of new details about one of the District's most mysterious homicide cases, yet it failed to answer the central questions of who killed prominent lawyer Robert Wone in an elegant Dupont Circle townhouse -- and why.

The people who probably could help provide that information -- three male housemates who lived in the $1.2 million residence -- covered up evidence in a bid to mask what actually happened, the affidavit alleges. One has now been charged with obstructing justice as authorities step up pressure to solve the case.

Authorities said from the start that Wone, 32, general counsel for Radio Free Asia, was fatally stabbed late Aug. 2, 2006, while staying overnight at the Swann Street NW townhouse. Yesterday, they revealed that he was probably drugged into a paralytic-like state and sexually assaulted. The three stab wounds were neat and nearly identical, suggesting that Wone was incapacitated and unable to fend off his attacker, the affidavit says.

Wone had worked late that night and was staying in a guest room at the home of an old college friend. His body was found on a fold-out couch; inside his mouth was the night guard he used to prevent grinding his teeth, suggesting that he was attacked after he had gone to sleep.

The 14-page document lays out in excruciating, often graphic detail why investigators have concluded that Wone was not killed by an intruder. There were needle marks on Wone's neck, chest, foot and hand, supporting the idea that he was drugged. There also was evidence of an unspecified sexual assault but no signs of a struggle in the room. Nothing was stolen, including Wone's wallet, BlackBerry and watch, all of which were nearby, the affidavit says.

It says that Wone was dead "for some period of time" before paramedics arrived and that the crime scene appeared to have been cleaned up. Even a purported murder weapon -- a bloody kitchen knife found on a nearby nightstand -- was not used in the killing, the affidavit says, but was placed there to throw police off the track.

The document was filed to support the obstruction-of-justice charge filed against Dylan Ward, one of the housemates who have drawn much scrutiny from police. No one has been charged in the stabbing. Sources familiar with the investigation said authorities have not settled on a suspect or suspects in the killing. Police officials yesterday declined to say where the investigation is headed.

Ward, 38, was arrested this week in Miami-Dade County, Fla., where he now lives. He agreed in court yesterday not to contest extradition to the District on the obstruction charge, authorities said. His arrest was first reported by WTTG-TV (Channel 5).

His attorney, David Schertler, said that Ward is "completely innocent" and that "he has not committed any crime, he has not obstructed justice and will prove this in court."

Lawyers for the other men -- Joe Price, 37, and Victor Zaborsky, 42 -- previously have said that they committed no crimes and that they fully cooperated with investigators. The men and their attorneys did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. In statements to the police, they have said that they saw nothing and that the killer must have been an intruder.

The affidavit provides the most complete account yet of the investigative work done during the past two years. Police took control of the house for three weeks after the killing, removing flooring, pieces of walls, even sink traps. The house, which has since been sold, was so torn up that for a time it was uninhabitable.

Wone, who was president-elect of the Asia Pacific American Bar Association, attended the College of William and Mary in the mid-1990s with Price, a Washington lawyer. Because Wone had a late night at his downtown law office, Price invited him to sleep at his residence, in the 1500 block of Swann Street. The affidavit says that Price had sexual relationships with Zaborsky and with Ward; Wone, who lived in Oakton and was married, was heterosexual, it states.

The affidavit says that Price and Zaborsky typically slept together in a third-floor bedroom. Ward had a second-floor bedroom, down the hall from the guest room where Wone was settling in.

Wone had called his wife, Kathy, at 9:30 p.m. to say that he would be staying with Price. It remains unclear exactly when Wone arrived at the townhouse. The affidavit quotes a neighbor as hearing a scream while watching the 11 o' clock news. Zaborsky called police at 11:49 p.m. to report that the housemates had found Wone dead, the affidavit says.

Depending on what time the scream occurred during the news -- near the beginning of the broadcast or the end -- there was a 19- to 49-minute delay between the shout and Zaborsky's emergency call, the affidavit says.

But the affidavit alleges that Wone had been dead even longer.

"The evidence suggests that the scream came not from Mr. Wone, who was already incapacitated at the time he was stabbed, but rather from Zaborsky, who admitted to the police that he screamed upon seeing Robert's body," the affidavit says.

Two paramedics said the men acted casual when help arrived, exhibiting none of the urgent or frightened behavior that rescuers usually encounter in such situations, the affidavit says.

One of the paramedics, seeing no signs of disarray when he and his partner arrived, said it appeared as if the victim had been stabbed, then "showered, redressed and placed in the bed," the affidavit says. Based on the stab wounds, the affidavit says, the crime scene should have been much bloodier.

The bloody knife on the nightstand did not match Wone's stab wounds, the affidavit states. Fibers from a white towel were found on it. A blood-splatter analyst concluded that the cloth was used to smear the knife with Wone's blood, the affidavit says. Although Wone had been stabbed while wearing a gray William and Mary T-shirt and although there were holes in the shirt corresponding to his wounds, there were no gray fibers on the supposed murder weapon on the nightstand.

Police say they believe the real murder weapon was a knife that was missing from a cutlery box that was kept in a cabinet in Ward's bedroom. Police said that they obtained an identical knife from the manufacturer and that its size and shape were consistent with the wounds.

In Ward's bedroom, close to the guest room where Wone died, police found a New Yorker magazine on the floor. It was open to an article that included "a full-page drawing of William Shakespeare lying dead in bed: his body is shown positioned similar to the way Mr. Wone's body was positioned when it was found," the affidavit says.

Staff writer Paul Schwartzman and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company