Guest Blogger

Who Murdered Robert Wone?

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 10, 2009 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living

Editor's Note: Guest bloggers Craig Brownstein, David Greer, Doug Johnson and Michael Kremin are creators of the site Who Murdered Robert Wone?

Two and a half years ago, August 2nd 2006, Washington attorney Robert E. Wone was found murdered at 1509 Swann Street NW. The crime was brutal: three knife wounds deep into Mr. Wone's chest. And the scene was downright bizarre: three house-mates in a daze, a hole big enough to "fit your finger into" in the victim yet only trace amounts of blood were found at the scene. No signs of theft or forced entry, and no witnesses.

Suspicion immediately fell on the Swann house-mates: attorney Joseph Price, association executive Victor Zaborsky, and sometime author, sometime massage therapist Dylan Ward. For the record, all have repeatedly and assertively denied any involvement with the murder. We take them at their word.

After the jump the shocking murder at the cross-roads of gay Washington, and why it's been largely ignored.

Police quickly focused on the three's living arrangements, which might have seemed unusual at first blush. Joe (full partner at DC power firm Arent Fox) and Victor in a public, long-term committed relationship. But Joe and Dylan uniquely sharing a "...personal, intimate..." private bond via S&M and alleged drug use. A cache of sex toys was found in Dylan's room, enough to furnish an elaborate dungeon. And while Wone showed signs of sexual assault (with his own semen found in his rectum), the nature of his injuries - and the virtually spotless way Wone was found - was puzzling and contradictory.

A Crime Forgotten

The Washington Metropolitan police and the F.B.I. investigated. Three prosecutors helmed the case. An all-star cast of DC legal elite - including current U.S. attorney General Eric Holder - have been involved. Still, two and a half years later, no-one has been charged with the murder, and nobody has gone to prison. Possibly, no-one ever will.

How could this happen?

That was the question we four friends and partners puzzled on last December over a birthday dinner. We knew of the case but not its grisly detail and complex mystery until David began the conversation starting with the recently released affidavit.

An up-and-coming attorney prominent in the Asian-American community mysteriously murdered? A power DC same-sex couple, and a hidden S&M sex life? An autopsy that read like a whodunit? A police investigation that may have been botched?

Where were the headlines? Where was the gay buzz? Why was nobody in Washington talking about this complex, sensational and unsolved case? "Somebody really needs to..." one of us said over pho. The website was born.

"What Time Is It?"

The call to 9-1-1 came at 11:49pm. Victor Zaborsky was in the third floor bedroom, one floor above where Mr. Wone lay lifeless. An "intruder" had stabbed a guest in their home. His longtime partner, Joe Price, was in the second floor guest room with a towel pressed to Mr. Wone's chest. "What time is it?" Victor asked the operator. 11:54pm. Zaborsky then volunteered that someone "...had one of our knives."

As detailed in Dylan Ward's original arrest warrant affidavit, very little of Mr. Wone's murder makes sense. The knife found on the scene doesn't match the stab wounds, but a missing knife from Dylan's personal collection does. Six needle puncture wounds were found on the victim, but no syringes (or sex toys to our knowledge) were reported as evidence. The medical examiner found clear signs that Mr. Wone was "incapacitated" but not physically; yet no illicit substances turned up on the slate of tests run by the coroner. Every medical professional reports that injuries such as Mr. Wone sustained would have produced large amounts of blood; yet the bed, sheets, room - even Mr. Wone's body - were largely absent blood stains. And Wone's body showed no signs that are typically associated with a victim fending off a stabbing attack, e.g. no defensive wounds. A neighbor next door reported hearing a scream between 11pm or 11:30pm (citing the presence of DC anchor Maureen Bunyan on the evening news) and Mr. Zaborsky admits to screaming upon discovering Mr. Wone, yet even in the best case 19 minutes pass until the 9-1-1 call is placed. And we're only beginning.

The deeper one digs into what's known and what's claimed, the more questions one has as to what, precisely, happened that night.

An Orphan Case

The ingredients of the Wone tragedy - Washington power, sex and drugs, and mystery - had all the makings of lurid media scandal. Instead, mostly silence. For two years the case languished, and for two years so, too, it seemed did journalist's attention. The MSM made no attempt at serious investigative reporting. Had that digging occurred, perhaps a journalist would've discovered some time ago that the police didn't interview neighbors who lived just a few doors away, while we learned just this past week that private investigators have, appearing to be far more thorough than local law enforcement.

True, most Washington media - the Post, the Washington CityPaper, Metro Weekly, local television and radio - covered the initial murder and subsequent legal maneuvers and filings. The Washington Blade to their credit led what coverage the case won in the gay press. But with time the case faded from reporters' radars. News costs money; resources are scarce. It's hard to cover a case, no matter how worthy, once it starts to go cold. The Wone story was an orphan that neither the prosecution or the press seemed to want.

That's where we wandered in; the "Scooby gang" as we dubbed ourselves early on in a small attempt to inject some levity in this otherwise very serious, deadly serious effort. We're four admitted amateur sleuths who bring no past experience in either criminal justice or even blogging. Yet between the four of us we have a diverse skill set drawn from many years working in journalism, research, gay and HIV/AIDS activism. All of which is augmented with healthy amounts of curiosity and skepticism. The only resources we have to worry about: our time and curiosity.

Our approach from the onset has been one of sensitivity, sobriety and all the impartial analysis we can muster. Unlike much of the anonymous online comment this crime has generated, we've chosen not to hide behind aliases and are as transparent in our process as possible. We regularly ask readers for their expertise, ideas and analysis. Just with our limited resources and in only two short months we have tapped the expert opinions of drug and pharmacology experts, medical examiners and clinical psychologists. More is on the way we hope.

We're not here to try and convict anyone; that's for the courts. We're not here to articulate the public record; that's for the paid journalists covering the story. We're trying to scour what has been either overlooked, avoided or ignored while putting the known evidence under stress tests.

Our site Who Murdered Robert Wone? exists as a clearinghouse for information, and a forum for ideas. From our very first post:

This blog seeks the truth about and justice for the unsolved murder of Robert Wone. To fulfill this blog's mission, it will compile all of the available information surrounding his murder. This blog takes NO OPINION on who murdered Robert Wone, but rather seeks to present all available evidence, information, articles which will allow reasonable people to draw their own conclusions.

The case is complex. The evidence conflicting. Questions remain about the thoroughness of the police investigation and why it took more than two years for the first indictments to be handed down, none for murder but for multiple counts of downstream charges of conspiracy, obstruction and crime scene tampering. The criminal case goes to trial in April while a concurrent wrongful death civil suit brought by Robert's widow is also on track. The charges are serious and many of the official and non-official accusations are shadowy. The potential for racial, sexual or establishment upset of Washington's staid veneer is very real.

We hope only to learn the truth about the events of August 2nd, 2006, and in so doing find eventual justice and peace for Robert Wone and his family. More importantly, we invite you to help us in solving this mystery.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 10, 2009 10:07 AM

It is fantastic that you guys have joined forces to shine some much needed light on this crime. I had read about it a few other places, but its good that you brought together a light of details in one place.

I hope that police are able to get to the bottom of it.

And when this is solved, you might revisit the death of Dean Johnson in DC. I don't think that was ever really resolved, was it?