A Maryland man was found guilty Thursday of murdering three members of a wealthy Northwest Washington family and their housekeeper in 2015, brutal crimes that gripped the nation’s capital.
The jury’s Thursday verdict in the case against Daron Wint came after an emotional — and often graphic — six-week trial that included hundreds of pieces of evidence and dozens of witnesses.
Wint was the sole person charged in the killings of married couple Savvas Savopoulos, 46, and Amy Savopoulos, 47; their son, Philip, 10; and the family’s housekeeper, 57-year-old Veralicia “Vera” Figueroa.
Wint was convicted of multiple counts of murder as well as kidnapping, burglary and arson. With his back facing courtroom observers, Wint, 37, did not audibly react as the verdict was read. He stood with his head slightly bowed.
About a dozen family members and friends of the victims were in court, including the parents of both Amy and Savvas Savopoulos. Some wept and embraced each other and prosecutors. The relatives declined to comment.
“We hope that the verdict will bring some comfort to the families of the victims,” U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu said in a statement. She called the crime a “senseless home invasion.”
Federal prosecutors at trial portrayed Wint, a former employee at a Savopoulos family business, as a man driven by greed and vengeance.
The defense told jurors that Wint was innocent. They said his brother and half brother were the killers and that Wint had been set up to take the blame.
Prosecutors alleged Wint broke into the Savopoulos home in May 2015 and held the victims hostage as he demanded $40,000 in ransom that Savvas Savopoulos had delivered in the hope that the intruder would leave them unharmed.
The victims were beaten with baseball bats and stabbed repeatedly before their bodies were doused with gasoline and set on fire. The blaze engulfed the upstairs of the Savopoulos home on Woodland Drive NW.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Bach told the jury that Wint was desperate for cash at the time of the crimes. His family had put him out of their homes, he had no steady job, and he was faced with living in his minivan. Wint had once worked for Savopoulos’s company, American Iron Works, in Maryland but was fired in 2005 after two years. Prosecutors said he later unsuccessfully tried to get his job back.
“He had no options left. He did this. He’s the one who killed these people,” Bach told jurors during her final closing arguments in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday. “Now you hold him responsible. Hold him accountable for what he did.”
Savvas Savopoulos, president and chief executive of American Iron Works, had an interest in martial arts and was opening a center in Virginia. Amy Savopoulos was a devoted mother who had an interest in the prevention and treatment of childhood concussions, friends said.
Philip was a student at St. Albans School, a private boys school in the District. At trial, his grandfather testified about the boy’s love of Harry Potter, trains and Washington sports teams. The couple’s daughters, Abigail and Katerina, now in college, were away at boarding schools during the attack.
Figueroa, a wife, mother and grandmother, had moved to the Washington area from El Salvador and hoped to return to her native country, according to her family. Her DNA, found on the handle of one of the baseball bats used as a weapon, showed she tried to fight off Wint, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Wint entered the Savopoulos home on the morning of May 13, 2015, and was able to restrain Figueroa and Philip, who was home sick from school. Amy Savopoulos, who had gone to get coffee, returned home and also was subdued, prosecutors said.
By late afternoon, prosecutors said, Wint had forced Amy Savopoulos to telephone her husband and summon him home, without alarming him that she, their son and Figueroa were in danger.
Firefighters called to the burning home the next day found the four bodies inside.
Prosecutors said Wint’s DNA was found on a discarded slice of Domino’s pizza that had been delivered to the house the night the victims were held hostage. Authorities said they also found Wint’s DNA on a knife in the basement of the house and a hair matching Wint’s on a bed where the adults’ bodies were found.
In a surprise move, Wint took the witness stand and told authorities that his half-brother Darrell had duped him into going to the house in anticipation of a drywalling and paint job. After they arrived, Wint testified, Darrell told him he planned to burglarize the house.
Wint testified that while he was there, he ate a slice of pizza but left when his brother mentioned the burglary plan. He said he never saw or heard the victims.
Wint’s public defenders Judith Pipe and Jeffrey Stein told jurors they should be skeptical of the government’s case, arguing that there was no way Wint, acting alone, could have broken into the house, restrained three adults, cut the home’s security system and set the house on fire.
But prosecutors told jurors that even if they believed Wint could not have done these crimes alone, he should still be found guilty.
“Even if Daron Wint had help, he’s still guilty,” Bach said.
Prosecutors put numerous witnesses on the stand, including computer and forensics experts and Wint’s family members. Wint’s brothers, Darrell and Steffon, testified they had nothing to do with the killings.
According to testimony, days after the killings, Wint used his cellphone to do Google searches that included “How to beat a lie detector test” and “10 hideout cities for fugitives.”
Wint showed little emotion during the trial, instead focusing on paperwork that was in front of him. He briefly teared up when his then-fiancee, Devonie Hayles, testified.
Hayles told the jury that three days after the killings, Wint caught a bus to New York to visit her. Flush with $100 bills that prosecutors said were from the ransom, she said Wint told her he had won the lottery and sold his minivan and had money to take her on a shopping spree.
The jury’s verdict came after less than two full days of deliberations. Judge Juliet McKenna set sentencing for Feb. 1.
“These verdicts bring a measure of closure to the families,” said Bach, the lead prosecutor. “The horror that these victims went through, no one should ever have to experience. Daron Wint is in fact guilty of committing these crimes. The jurors got it right.”