The out-of-court settlement of the $10 million lawsuit against Annandale gynecologist David K. Davoudlarian provided a neat, lawyerly ending to one aspect of one of the most unusual and baffling slayings in Northern Virginia.
But the settlement not only leaves unresolved the question that the doctor and his accusers vowed to answer: Did David Davoudlarian strangle his wife Susan in June 1983?
It also creates two other questions:
Why did the doctor's two stepdaughters, who accused him of killing their mother, agree to accept a $310,000 settlement in a suit they said was brought in the name of justice?
And why did the doctor, who has maintained his innocence, settle without the vindication that his lawyers said a second trial of the suit would bring?
The doctor has declined to discuss the settlement, and the daughters say they agreed to it because, as one, Susan R. Butler, put it: "We did all we could do." The lawyers in the case cite other factors.
Under the settlement, the stepchildren and the doctor's son get insurance monies from their mother's death, while the doctor gets to keep most of the rest of his wife's estate. The terms were suggested in April by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Lewis H. Griffith during the first trial.
"The initial reaction on both sides was not only, 'No,' but 'Hell, no!' " said Jack Rhoades, one of the doctor's attorneys.
The jury in that trial declared itself deadlocked.
Jurors said later that five believed the doctor killed his wife and two did not. Both sides publicly declared the mistrial to be a victory.
It was afterward, attorneys said, that reality began to sink in.
The attorneys began to believe that the most emotionally satisfying course -- retrying the case -- might not be the wise course for either side.
Peter Greenspun, one of the stepdaughters' lawyers, said they realized that "there was a limit on the doctor's assets," and even a large judgment at the end of a second trial would have been eaten away by the costs of appeals that were certain to follow.
"There would have been very little if anything left at the end," he said.
The settlement provides financial security for the girls, he said, and it denies the doctor any benefit from his wife's death.
As for the goal of proving that the doctor killed his wife, Stanley Klein, the stepdaughters' other lawyer, said the first trial accomplished all that could be hoped for.
"Five out of seven jurors believed that we proved Susan Davoudlarian was killed by Dr. Davoudlarian," he said.
"To just go back to get seven out of seven we don't feel would have served a purpose," he said.
No criminal charges have been brought in the case, and the killing remains under active investigation.
The doctor's attorneys emphasize that the settlement preserves his innocence, means he can begin reviving his medical practice and ends litigation that they say has cost him more than $200,000 in attorneys' fees alone.
"He can't afford to go through this again," said defense attorney Plato Cacheris.
"He just wants to put this chapter of his life behind him."
Cacheris said David Davoudlarian has no plans to move from the Truro subdivision house he once shared with his wife and stepdaughters.
Unlike assertions at the conclusion of the first trial, neither side is now claiming victory.
"A settlement is sometimes like kissing your sister," Jack Rhoades, one of David Davoudlarian's attorneys, said yesterday.
"It's never completely satisfactory to anybody, which is the reason it's usually acceptable to everybody."