At Robert Wone trial, Joe Price shown telling police he suspects intruder

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2010

In a small D.C. police interview room, Joseph R. Price described the moment he came upon his college friend, bleeding to death from stab wounds, and knelt beside him trying to stanch the blood. Price said he could come up with only one explanation for the brutal attack in his Northwest townhouse.

"I know it may sound [expletive] crazy, but it is crazy," Price told a detective hours after the Aug. 2, 2006, slaying of Washington lawyer Robert Wone. "Someone came in the back of our house . . . looking for something to sell or whatever, came upstairs, stumbled on to a surprise, and, you know, stabbed the guy and took off. . . . I mean, that's my theory."

Federal prosecutors, who played the videotaped statement on Thursday, the 12th day of the trial of Price and his two housemates on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence, have a different theory. They are trying to prove that Price, 39, Victor J. Zaborsky, 44, and Dylan M. Ward, 40, know who killed Wone and are covering up for the killer or killers. The men say they are in a three-way committed relationship.

Wone, 32, general counsel for Radio Free Asia, was slain at the house the three defendants shared at 1509 Swann St. NW. Wone had arranged to sleep there after making plans to work late, to avoid the commute to the Oakton home he shared with his wife.

No one has been charged with murder in the case. But prosecutors have said in court that they think Price's younger brother, Michael C. Price, who had substance abuse problems and was accused of stealing from the home two months after Wone's death, "may have been" the killer. Michael Price has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the slaying.

During the videotaped interview, recorded the morning of Aug. 3, 2006, a shaken Joseph Price told then-District police homicide detective Bryan Waid how he and Wone met when both were students at William and Mary and stayed in touch as each went to law school.

Wone was "true blue" and didn't drink, do drugs or cuss, Price said. "If you had a daughter, you'd want this guy to marry her," he said. "I'd trade places with Robert -- that's how much I liked him. He was a very good friend."

None of the three roommates had anything to do with the attack, Price told Waid.

"I don't have one tiny, itty-bitty doubt that neither Victor or Dylan did a sole thing to Robert," Price said. "If I had anything to hide, I wouldn't be talking, because I know better. But I don't."

As the prosecution case nears its end, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz instructed prosecutors Thursday to prepare a written brief that lays out the evidence against each of the three men and to connect the dots by laying the "actual factual inferences" that authorities are making. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, are preparing motions on why they think the charges should be dropped. At the request of the defendants, the case will be decided by a judge and not a jury.

In the taped interview, Price said that Wone arrived about 10:30 that hot August night and that he, Wone and Ward chatted in the kitchen for a while before all three headed to bed. Sometime later, he said, he heard the door chime as it opened but assumed the tenant who lived in the basement had arrived home. Then he was awakened by grunts. He and Zaborsky, who shared a third-floor bedroom, went downstairs to investigate.

"Robert was lying there on the bed. He had blood on his shirt," Price said. "It was very surreal. Victor was screaming."

Price told Waid that he ordered Zaborsky to call 911 and that Wone moaned as he put a towel on the wounds to stop the blood. He said he felt for a pulse and moved a knife off his friend as he waited for help to arrive.

After the ambulance arrived, Price told Waid, he went downstairs and noticed that the back door on the ground floor, which led to an enclosed patio, was unlocked and a knife was missing from the block in the kitchen.

He said that he and his friends wouldn't have had any opportunity to concoct a version of events. "There was no time after the cops got there that there would have been any chance for us to get together on our story," Price said.

Prosecutors, who are unconvinced by the defendants' account, have noted that there were no signs of forced entry and that nothing was missing from the home.

Waid testified that he thought it would be difficult to get over the tall backyard fence. He said there were no footprints or signs that the top of the fence or foliage had been disturbed. He said he even noticed undisturbed cobwebs on some of the trees.

Zaborsky's attorney, Thomas G. Connolly, tried to show that someone could climb the fence. He played a video of himself, and several other people, scaling it.

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