The Robert Wone Killing Remains 'a Head-Scratcher'

Robert Wone was found dead in a Northwest D.C. townhouse in August 2006. The three defendants who were charged with conspiring to cover up his death were found not guilty on June 29, 2010. No one has been arrested in his slaying.
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 1, 2009; 8:50 PM

Second of two parts

A narrow street of century-old townhouses in Dupont Circle, the three-story dwellings elegantly remodeled, fronted by red-brick sidewalks and ginkgo biloba trees grown rooftop high.

Quiet now on a stifling midsummer evening.

Victor Zaborsky, just back from a business trip Aug. 2, 2006, was in bed when Robert Wone arrived at 1509 Swann St. NW about 10:30 p.m., toting an overnight bag that his wife had helped him pack. Zaborsky's domestic partner, Joseph Price, and housemate Dylan Ward greeted their friend and showed him into the kitchen, where they chatted for a while, sipping water.

That was what Price, Zaborsky and Ward later told homicide detectives, a police affidavit says.

"Then Joe went outside for a second because he saw a spider or something on the light," Ward said. The rear door of the townhouse leads from the kitchen to a patio. Price said it was "completely plausible" that he neglected to lock the door when he came back in after looking at the bulb.

Questioned separately by detectives for hours after Wone was stabbed, Price, Zaborsky and Ward would provide detailed statements about what took place that night. A former law enforcement official involved in the case in its first year said the men's stories were consistent. According to one of numerous police affidavits filed in court, the housemates gave this account of how the rest of the evening unfolded:

Ward said he and Price led Wone to the second-floor guest room, which overlooks Swann Street, and showed him the bed he would be using, a convertible love seat. Ward's room also was on the second floor, at the rear of the house. "I went in my room," he said. "I was reading for, like, five minutes or so, and then I took my sleeping pill." Before nodding off, Ward said, he heard Wone showering in the second-floor bathroom.

It was about 11 p.m. on a Wednesday. Price said he retired for the evening, too, joining Zaborsky in their third-floor master bedroom. Kathy Wone said her husband and Price had planned to finish catching up over an early breakfast the next day, before work.

Time is critical to figuring out what happened to Wone that night. If the 32-year-old lawyer was killed in the strangely drawn-out sexual assault that authorities have described, and if an elaborate coverup ensued, then everything occurred within 79 minutes or so, between Wone's arrival at the house and Zaborsky's frantic 911 call. For every moment that Wone was not in peril, the time frame in which the crimes could have occurred shrinks, weakening the prosecution's theory.

That's why a vital issue concerns e-mails that Wone either did or did not write shortly after 11 o'clock.

Examining Wone's BlackBerry after the killing, a detective noted "an e-mail purporting to be from Mr. Wone to his wife, timed 11:05 p.m., indicating that he had just taken a shower and was going to bed," prosecutor Glenn L. Kirschner told the housemates' lawyers in a recent letter. He said the detective saw another e-mail, typed at 11:07 p.m., "purporting to be from Mr. Wone" to a colleague at Radio Free Asia, confirming a lunch date.

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