Each day after finishing her housekeeping job at the Savopoulos home, Veralicia “Vera” Figueroa would leave work about 3 p.m. and arrive at her own house soon after.
But not on May 13, 2015.
By the next morning, after her previous day’s shift had long ended, Figueroa still had not made it home, and her husband and his daughter, increasingly panicked, drove to the Savopoulos home in the District.
They arrived just before 10 a.m. outside the home in Northwest Washington, Figueroa’s stepdaughter Claudia Alfaro told a jury Thursday during the trial of a man accused of murder in a quadruple killing.
Figueroa, 57, died in the Savopoulos house with her employers, businessman Savvas Savopoulos, 46, and his wife, Amy Savopoulos, 47; and their son, Philip.
The first thing Alfaro noticed that morning when they pulled up in front of the stately house, she told jurors, was the stillness. “It was all very weird. It was too quiet. I had a very bad feeling,” she testified.
Alfaro described her stepmother, Figueroa, who was originally from El Salvador, as the woman who raised her and the only mother she knew.
“She was my mother. She was the only person I confided my problems to,” Alfaro, 33, said through sobs. “She was the grandmother to my kids. She was my friend.”
Alfaro was testifying in the trial of 36-year-old Daron Wint, the Lanham, Md., man charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, arson, kidnapping and other offenses in the May 2015 deaths. Wint has pleaded not guilty.
On the third day of the trial in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors used the testimony of Alfaro and several other witnesses to establish a timeline of how various individuals had contact with the victims during the two days, while, authorities assert, they were held captive before being killed.
The witnesses shared how the victims contacted them via telephone or text messages late Thursday night and Friday morning but never once alerted anyone to their distress and often tried to prevent others from entering the house and possibly suffering the same fate.
Prosecutors allege that Wint held the victims hostage in the Savopoulos home, beating, strangling and stabbing them before setting the house ablaze and fleeing with $40,000 in ransom.
The four bodies were found May 14 after authorities received reports about 1:20 p.m. of a fire at the Savopoulos home.
Wint’s attorneys from the District’s Public Defender Service have argued that police arrested the wrong man and that Wint’s brother and half brother were responsible for the killings.
Alfaro recalled the visit she and her father made to the house the morning of May 14.
As Alfaro sat in the car, her father rang the doorbell and knocked at the door of the Savopoulos home.
Minutes later, Alfaro testified, her father returned to the car and told her: “Nobody’s answering me. I feel someone is in there and they don’t want to answer me.”
As her father started to walk to the back of the house, he received a call from Savvas Savopoulos, and Alfaro could hear the businessman’s voice through her father’s phone.
“I’m really sorry. I’m really sorry,” Alfaro testified that Savopoulos said on the call. Alfaro said Savopoulos told her father that Figueroa had accompanied his wife to the hospital after his wife had fallen ill.
Savopoulos then told Figueroa’s husband that he would find out which hospital the women had gone to and call him back with details.
Alfaro testified that she and her father then left. But Savopoulos never called back.
When a prosecutor asked Alfaro whether she had ever been to the “mansion,” as she called the house in the 3200 block of Woodland Drive in Northwest Washington, she again broke into tears. “To me, that’s the graveyard. That’s where Vera died.”
Another Savopoulos housekeeper, Nelitza Gutierrez, who was supposed to report to work on May 14, 2015, also cried as she testified earlier in the day. Prosecutors played a voice mail that Savvas Savopoulos had left for her the night before the bodies were found telling her not to come to the house the next day because Figueroa was staying overnight with an ill Amy Savopoulos.
“Please text me and let me know you got this message,” Savvas Savopoulos calmly said in the voice mail.
After her testimony, as prosecutors accompanied a tearful Gutierrez out of the courtroom, she stopped to bend and hug Savopoulos’s father.
The trial resumes Monday.