Abigail and Katerina Savopoulos were teenagers at separate boarding schools in May 2015 when they got the news. The dean of Katerina’s school summoned her into a private office. Abigail got a telephone call from their grandmother.
“There was a fire,” the sisters recalled being told at first. Their parents, younger brother and family housekeeper were dead. Then they learned it was no accident; a man had entered their home, taken their loved ones hostage and then killed them before setting the house ablaze.
“Words cannot describe the pain that is in my heart,” Abigail Savopoulos said. “I think about it every day. I will forever carry their love in my heart.”
On Friday, Daron Wint, 37, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the killings of the sisters’ father, Savvas Savopoulos, 46; their mother, Amy, 47; their 10-year-old brother, Philip; and Veralicia “Vera” Figueroa, the family’s 57-year-old housekeeper.
The victims were held overnight in the Savopoulos home in upper Northwest Washington, beaten with baseball bats, stabbed repeatedly and then set on fire. The quadruple murder nearly four years ago, in a stately home less than a mile from the vice president’s mansion, gripped the nation’s capital.
“The conduct was heinous, atrocious and cruel,” D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna said Friday before issuing the sentence. “Holding them hostage in their home for 24 hours. The conduct is incomprehensible.”
Wint chose not to speak and showed no emotion throughout the hour-long hearing. As Abigail Savopoulos and family friends fought back tears and spoke of their love for all four victims, Wint stared straight ahead. No one from his family was in the courtroom.
It was the first time either surviving daughter, both of whom are now in college, had commented publicly on the murders. Abigail, who turns 23 on Saturday, sat with her fiance, both sets of grandparents, and an aunt and uncle.
Katerina Savopoulos, 20, chose not to attend the sentencing. Instead, she wrote a letter that was read in court by a victims advocate employee from the U.S. attorney’s office.
The sisters said that at the time of the killings they expected to be picking out prom dresses and visiting and deciding on colleges. Instead, they were selecting coffins and visiting cemeteries.
Abigail said that when she got engaged in July, she called her mother’s number. “Then I realized she was gone. It’s odd how you can feel so much joy but simultaneously feel so much pain,” she said.
When she is married later this year, she said, the happiness will be mixed with sorrow. Abigail spoke of how her father would not be there to walk her down the aisle, her mother would not sit in a pew, and her brother would not be a groomsman.
The sisters fondly recalled family gatherings and watching Philip grow up and explore his love of Harry Potter, Formula 1 racing and baseball.
In remembering Figueroa, both women described her as “more than a housekeeper.” They said Figueroa would brush their hair and fix them soup when they were sick.
They even offered sympathy for a man they said must have never experienced love of his own to inflict such pain on others.
“You can’t fight hate with hate. I forgive Daron Wint. I believe it is what my parents and little brother would want,” Katerina wrote.
Federal prosecutors portrayed Wint as a man driven by greed and vengeance. He had previously worked as a welder for a Savopoulos family business, American Iron Works in Maryland.
“By far, this is the most heinous crime anyone has ever committed in this city,” longtime homicide prosecutor Laura Bach told the judge Friday.
At the sentencing, Bach played a voice mail that prosecutors say Wint left for his girlfriend sometime in the weeks before the killings, after he was kicked out of his home shared by his mother, brother and sister.
In the message, Wint angrily threatens to kill his own family. Bach said it was additional evidence of Wint’s “quick temper” and how he holds a grudge.
During a six-week trial, prosecutors said that Wint held the Savopoulos family and Figueroahostage for a $40,000 cash ransom as part of a desperate attempt to secure money.
Wint’s public defenders maintained that their client was innocent. They argued that his brother and half brother were the killers and that Wint had been set up to take the blame. Wint was the only person charged. His attorneys have appealed the verdict.
Prosecutors said Wint broke into the Savopoulos home late one morning in May 2015, at first confronting Figueroa and Philip, who was home sick from school. They said Wint then forced Amy Savopoulos to call her husband and ask him to return home from work. Wint held them all overnight.
Savvas Savopoulos, prosecutors said, arranged to have $40,000 delivered to the home the next morning in the hope that the intruder would leave them unharmed. Firefighters who responded to a blaze at the home found the four victims’ bodies.
Wint’s DNA was found on a discarded slice from a Domino’s Pizza box that had been delivered to the house the night the victims were held inside. Authorities said they also found his DNA on a knife in the basement and a hair matching Wint’s in a bedroom.
Wint, in a surprise move, took the stand during his trial and told the jury that his half brother had duped him into going to the house in anticipation of a drywalling and painting job. After they arrived, Wint testified, his brother told him he planned to burglarize the house.
Wint testified that while he was at the house, he ate a slice of pizza but left when his brother mentioned the burglary plan. He said he never saw or heard the victims.
The Savopoulos sisters said that when authorities finally allowed them to return to the home where they had celebrated birthdays, holidays and family dinners, they hoped to find some semblance of what they remembered. Instead they found burned debris that was once furniture and their family’s belongings.
“The house seemed to be leaning in a black hole of destruction,” Katerina wrote. She wrote of pulling her mother’s scarf and her father’s handkerchief from a burned dresser. Her mother’s scent was still on the scarf, she wrote.
“Collateral damage is more than just physical. It’s emotional,” she wrote.
Katerina said she still has sleepless nights.
“I feel like I’m drowning,” she wrote. “The feeling hasn’t changed.”