D.C. Prosecutors Seek Answers In Bizarre Murder Mystery

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A bench trial is scheduled to begin next week in the mysterious death of a Washington, D.C. lawyer—but the three defendants are charged with obstruction of justice and tampering of evidence, but not with murder.

The death of Robert Wone, 32, has gripped the nation’s capital because of its unusual circumstances and baffling evidence. Wone’s body in a Dupont Circle townhouse late one night in August 2006, but despite having three stab wounds in his chest, there were no signs of struggle and next to no blood at the crime scene. His body was neatly placed on a turned-down guest bed, and although a knife was found in the room, it didn’t match the wounds. An autopsy revealed that Wone was likely restrained and incapacitated, perhaps by a single cut to the aorta, before he was killed. The stab wounds were so clean that Wone would have had to be lying perfectly still when they occurred.

The three defendants’ unconventional relationship—Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward were romantically linked and described themselves as a family—has only added to the mystery. Investigators discovered bondage paraphernalia in the townhouse, including a set of padded restraints which Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner wanted to have introduced as evidence in the trial, but which the judge, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz, ruled as too prejudicial.

Wone had asked Price, an old college friend, if he could spend the night at the townhouse in lieu of driving back to his suburban home after a late night working in the city. Less than an hour and a half after he arrived, Zaborsky placed a 911 call reported the stabbing. All three of the men claim that an intruder committed the crime, although they heard nothing unusual on that August night save Wone’s screams or grunts, after which they ran to the guest room to find him alone and dying.

The three have since claimed that their cooperation with police wasn’t entirely voluntary, and that they were never informed of their rights. They have sought to have the statements they made during questioning thrown out. In another unusual move, the men waived their right to a jury trial, right before jury selection was to begin.

Prosecutors do not have enough evidence to charge the men with homicide—in part because police botched two aspects of the investigation. They incorrectly used a chemical during examination of the crime scene, therefore detecting traces of blood where there may in fact have been no blood; they also failed to copy data from Wone’s company-issued BlackBerry, which was found on the scene along with his wallet and Movado watch, before returning it to his employer. Two unsent email messages on the device, composed less than an hour before the murder, may have provided clues to the assailant’s identity—but that evidence is gone.

Instead, prosecutors are charging the men with the lesser crimes of obstruction and tampering, in the hopes that a conviction on these charges will lead one of them to divulge more details, so that they can unravel this complicated, compelling case.

 

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