Video at Wone trial shows detective pressing defendant Dylan Ward

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One key question puzzled one of the lead detectives investigating the killing of Robert Wone.

Why, he asked, would an intruder bypass the first bedroom at the top of the stairs in order to stab Wone in the next bedroom?

That question surfaced Tuesday at the trial of three housemates charged with conspiracy in the Wone case. Prosecutors played a video of the police questioning of one of the defendants, Dylan M. Ward, whose bedroom was skipped.

Detective Milton Norris also said most burglars grab only what they find on the first floor and then exit quickly. Authorities said nothing, including a flat-screen TV, was missing from the ground floor of the three-story home near Dupont Circle on Aug. 2, 2006, the night the 32-year-old lawyer was killed. "A burglar wouldn't even have to go upstairs," Norris told Ward on the video. "He would have gotten a lot of money from the stuff on the first floor. This is far-fetched."

In a calm voice, Ward, dressed in a sweat shirt and shorts, agreed. "I thought of that. Why didn't they open my door first? I understand it doesn't make sense," he told the detective.

Prosecutors have charged Ward, 40, and housemates Joseph R. Price, 39, and Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The defendants, who say they are in a committed romantic relationship, could each face a maximum of 38 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The trial is in its second week of testimony.

Ward said he had just turned off the lights after reading in his second-floor bedroom about 11 p.m., while Price and Zaborsky slept in the third-floor bedroom they shared. Besides Wone, they were the only ones home at 1509 Swann St. NW. Wone was spending the night in a guest room after asking Price, a friend from college, if he could sleep there rather than commute home to Oakton.

Price and Zaborsky said they discovered Wone's body after they heard the back-door alarm chime go off, followed by groaning from the second floor. Ward said he didn't get out of bed until after he heard Price and Zaborsky screaming over their discovery.

The men say an intruder came in, possibly through the back door, which they said Price had accidentally left unlocked. An intruder would also have had to scale the back fence to get in.

Prosecutors say the men delayed calling police and an ambulance and cleaned up the crime scene to cover up for the killer -- someone prosecutors think the men know. Prosecutors say there was no sign of an intruder -- no fingerprints, no signs of a robbery, not even a blood trail from an attacker who would have fled the scene after stabbing someone to death. But during questioning of one of the lead detectives, defense attorneys hammered what they believe to be a key element of their defense: that police jumped to conclusions and suspected their clients because of their sexual orientation and living arrangements. They argue that police closed their minds and failed to thoroughly investigate the case and identify and arrest the intruder. In a video shown in court Tuesday, Detective Sgt. Daniel Wagner repeatedly asked Price why Wone chose to stay at his house rather than returning home to his wife, Katherine. Wagner suggested that the four men were involved sexually.

"I got three homosexuals in a house and one straight guy. What is he doing there?" Wagner asked Price. "I think you were all drinking wine and you know what's going to happen tonight. You're coming to Jesus tonight."

Price shook his head. "That's fascinating. And insulting," he said.

The detectives then asked Price whether he or any of the men, including Ward, found Wone attractive. Price said no.

"Dylan doesn't find Robert attractive based on his taste."

"What is Dylan's taste?" one of the detectives asked. "Me," Price said after a brief pause.

During his questioning at the trial, Price's attorney, Bernard S. Grimm, also said Wagner was incorrect when he said Wone had joined the men in the kitchen when they were drinking wine. Wone had not arrived when the men were drinking that evening, Ward said on the video.

Wagner also told Grimm that he had not taken any notes during his interview with Price. Wagner said he made a "close examination" of the fence and saw that dirt or pollen on the top of the fence had not been disturbed. But Wagner testified that investigators did not photograph the fence or dust it for fingerprints.

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