Daron Wint, the sole person charged with the 2015 slayings of three members of a D.C. family and their housekeeper, testified Wednesday that his half brother lured him to the family’s home for a paint and drywall job, then said he needed help “unloading the house” of valuables.
In a crowded courtroom, Wint, 37, in a soft-spoken voice with a hint of his Guyanese accent, told the jury that it was only because of his half brother Darrell Wint that he went to the Savopoulos home in Upper Northwest Washington in May 2015.
He testified that his brother told him to put on a construction hat and green reflective vest so they could steal items from the house and not “stick out” to neighbors. Wint told jurors he refused to help in any thefts. He said he stayed in a room on the main floor and did not see any other people or signs that anyone had been harmed.
Daron Wint is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and arson in the May 14, 2015, slayings of Savvas Savopoulos, 46, and Amy Savopoulos, 47; their son, Philip, 10; and the family’s housekeeper, Veralicia “Vera” Figueroa, 57.
The victims, who were restrained, beaten and stabbed, were found in upstairs bedrooms. They were then doused with gasoline and the house set on fire.
Prosecutors say Daron Wint acted alone, committing the crimes to get a $40,000 ransom. But the defense contends that he was set up by his brother and stepbrother to take blame for the crimes.
Neither brother has been charged. Darrell Wint has not testified in the case and has not responded to requests for comment.
At times in tears on the witness stand, Daron Wint gave a chronology of how he ended up in the house and left his DNA on a pizza crust, which led to his arrest. And he said Darrell Wint gave him $6,000 after the incident.
Daron Wint’s testimony was an unexpected turn in the high-profile trial that so far has lasted about five weeks. Wint, responding to questions from his public defender, Judith Pipe, told jurors that on May 11, 2015, his brother Darrell told him about a drywall job for him that was set for May 13.
On May 13 — the day authorities say a killer broke into the Savopoulos home — Wint said he met his brother at a construction company. He said Darrell Wint asked to use Daron Wint’s blue minivan for a fee.
Daron Wint testified that his brother said he would return the van to him about 5-6 p.m. that day but never said why he needed the van. The two men agreed that Darrell would pay him at least $300 for use of the vehicle, the defendant testified.
Daron Wint said Darrell drove him in the minivan to a friend’s house, where he stayed through the night — the same night authorities say the victims were being held hostage. The defendant said he waited to hear from his brother but didn’t. He testified that he could not call because he had left his cellphone on the dashboard of the minivan.
Daron Wint said that about 11:30 on the morning of May 14, Darrell pulled up at his friend’s house, but instead of driving the minivan, Darrell was driving a Porsche. Wint did not testify about his reaction to the Porsche or whether he asked his brother whose car it was.
Daron Wint said his brother drove them to Woodland Drive and pulled in front of Savopoulos home. He testified that Darrell had a key to the front door and that the two men walked inside.
By Daron Wint’s account, he sat in one of the dining rooms and told his brother he was hungry. He said Darrell Wint went upstairs and returned with a pizza box and wearing construction gloves, which Daron Wint said he found odd. Wint testified that the piece of pepperoni pizza was “cold and hard,” so he threw the uneaten portion back in the box. According to earlier testimony, Wint’s DNA was found on that pizza crust, which led officers to obtain a warrant for his arrest.
Wint told the jury he never went upstairs. Pipe asked whether he had heard anyone screaming or shouting for help while he was in the house. “No ma’am,” he responded. “I had no idea people were upstairs.”
From inside the house, Wint said, he and his brother went into the garage. It was there that Darrell Wint, the defendant said, told him to put on a reflective vest and hard hat. “I asked him why? You don’t need that to do this kind of work in a home,” Wint testified that he said.
Daron Wint said his brother wanted him to be less conspicuous. “He said we would be unloading and I don’t want you to be sticking out,” Wint testified that his brother told him.
Wint testified that he did not know he was at the house to be part of plan to steal from the family.
“I said, ‘No. No, man.’ I said, ‘Take me home,’ ” Daron Wint testified.
He said that the two men argued and that he, Daron Wint, threw the hard hat down and later left the vest with his brother.
Authorities say Wint’s DNA was found on the hard hat and vest. Wint said he couldn’t explain why his DNA was found on a knife in the basement. “I never touched a knife,” he said.
Wint said that his brother told him to get into the Porsche and that he would take him to the minivan but instead drove him to Lanham, Md., and left him in a parking lot. Wint said he never saw the Porsche again.
Daron Wint testified that his brother talked with him about getting “rid” of the minivan. At some point after the fire, Wint said, the minivan was gone from his house. He testified that Darrell later gave him $6,000 and told him to “buy a new car.”
Wint also testified that his brother gave him two white iPhones and said he found the phones “in a park.” Prosecutors have said the phones were stolen from the Savopoulos home.
Wint testified that he went to New York and paid his fiancee’s bills and took her shopping with the money Darrell gave him. It was while in New York, he testified, that he saw on the TV news that he was wanted by police. Wint said he called Darrell and told him he would turn himself in, but only after meeting with an attorney.
In testimony in recent weeks, a computer expert said Wint’s phone was used to make various Google searches after the killings, including “How to beat a lie-detector test.” Wint said he did the searches because “I didn’t want to go to jail for a crime I didn’t commit.”
Wint testified that he saw on the news a story about the fire and began doing computer searches, fearing authorities would link his minivan to the case. It was then that he learned of the four victims, he said, wiping away tears. Amy Savopoulos’s mother, who sat next to her husband and Savvas Savopoulos’s parents, got up and walked out of the courtroom during his testimony.
Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine Wint on Thursday.