Defendant Ward's mother testifies about knife in Robert Wone trial

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The mother of one of the men charged with covering up Robert Wone's 2006 killing testified Monday that the knife prosecutors said was used to kill the popular Washington lawyer was in her home in Tacoma, Wash., at the time Wone was fatally stabbed.

Her voice cracking with emotion at times, Diane Ward, the mother of Dylan M. Ward, 40, one of the three housemates charged with conspiring to cover up Wone's slaying, told a D.C. Superior Court judge that the knife that was missing from a cutlery set that Ward kept in his closet was in a knife block she kept on her kitchen counter in her Tacoma house.

Prosecutors argued that the knife found next to Wone's body on the nightstand was not the knife used to inflict three stab wounds to his chest the evening of Aug. 2, 2006, when Wone was staying at 1509 Swann St. NW, the home Ward shared with Joseph R. Price, 39, and Victor J. Zaborsky, 44.

The men say an intruder entered the house and fatally stabbed Wone as he slept in a second-floor guest bedroom after working late at his job as general counsel for Radio Free Asia. Authorities said that there was no sign of an intruder, and they allege that the men know who killed Wone and are covering for the killer.

No one has been charged with murder in Wone's slaying.

Prosecutors said that, based on the size of the stab wounds, the knife left at the scene could not have been the one that killed Wone. The knife used in the attack, prosecutors say, belonged to a cutlery set that Ward kept in his bedroom closet. That knife was found to be missing from the set after Wone was slain.

Accounting for the knife

Ward's mother told Judge Lynn Leibovitz that she had purchased the Wusthof cutlery set, which included two knives and a large fork, when her family lived in Germany more than 30 years ago as a gift for a family member. But when that family member died years later, the set was given back to her.

Ward's mother said she later gave the cutlery set to her son, but she remembered that only a fork and a large, butcher-type knife were in the red-lined case. The boning knife, she said, was gone from the set at the time. "I would have kept the knife for myself to fill my knife block," Diane Ward said. "When I gave [the set] to Dylan, it wasn't there."

Under questioning from prosecutor Rachel Carlson Lieber, Diane Ward testified that she told defense attorneys that she had the missing knife at the time Wone was killed and that, earlier this year, she sent the lawyers two knives from her kitchen because she wasn't sure which one was the missing knife.

As Dylan Ward's attorney, David Schertler, questioned that defendant's mother, he placed the knife in the case. As he did so, Diane Ward agreed that the knife she sent him from her kitchen was the one that was missing from the box.

Dylan Ward showed little emotion as his mother testified.

Step for an intruder?

Defense attorneys also called Glenda King, a housekeeper and babysitter for one of the neighbors who live next door to the Swann Street house. King testified that she left the neighbor's home between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on the day of the killing after taking the trash out the back gate into the alley.

The next morning, she said, she returned to her employer's house and checked the back yard and noticed that a plastic lid used to cover a sandbox where her employer's son played had been severely dented, as if someone had stepped on it. The dent was not there the day before, she testified. The sandbox is on the ground at the base of the fence between her employer's home and the house where the defendants lived. Authorities said Wone was killed between 11 p.m. and 11:49 p.m.

Defense attorneys showed photos of the sandbox lid, but it was unclear whether the lid was damaged by an intruder or during the investigation. Under cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner showed another picture of the neighbor's yard that showed a chair and a glass table that were next to the sandbox and were much higher off the ground.

Forensics experts

Defense attorneys also called two forensics experts who challenged prosecutors' theories that the men staged the crime scene.

Henry C. Lee, a University of New Haven professor of forensic science who has testified in other high-profile trials, including O.J. Simpson's, said the blood, hair and tissue found on the knife at the crime scene were not placed there by someone wiping the knife with a bloody towel -- as prosecutors alleged. Lee said the blood patterns on the knife were not consistent with it having been wiped with a towel. "I don't see any evidence of staging," he said. Lee eventually acknowledged that the defense team was paying him $10,000 to $20,000 for his research and testimony.

Another expert, Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist and former Dallas medical examiner, said it was not unusual that there were no defensive wounds on Wone's arms or hands or a lot of blood on Wone's body or at the crime scene. DiMaio said Wone was stabbed in his sleep and did not awake to fend off his attacker because the stabbings happened quickly. "You can do it in less than a second, boom-boom-boom," DiMaio said, pounding his hand three times.

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