In 2006, Robert Eric Wone was a 32-year-old Washington DC lawyer living in suburban Oakton, Virginia working general counsel at Radio Free Asia in downtown Washington, D.C. He had to work late on the night of Aug. 2, 2006 and instead of making the long commute home, he opted to spend the night at the home of his college friend, Joseph Price, a D.C. resident and prominent attorney, who lived with his domestic partner Victor Zaborsky, and their lover Dylan Ward. Later that evening, Wone, who was straight, was found stabbed to death in the home’s guest bedroom. Due to Price’s high-profile job and the nature of the three men’s sexual relationship, the story garnered a lot of attention.
After a 911 call, the police arrived and Price, who worked at D.C. law firm Arent Fox in 1998 and had met Wone while attending the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and the other men told police they thought an intruder killed Wone after entering the house through an unlocked back door while they were asleep in their respective bedrooms.
However, Homicide detectives and prosecutors disputed the men’s claim, saying forensic evidence showed Wone appeared to have been immobilized by a paralytic drug and sexually assaulted before he was stabbed three times in the chest and abdomen. The detectives also noted there was no signs of a struggle. Despite the inconsistencies, no one was arrested.
Three months after Wone’s death, Joseph Price’s brother and an accomplice broke into the Swann Street residence and took more than $7,000 of electronic equipment. The two were charged with the burglary, but the charges were later dropped. In 2007, D.C. police revealed that they had been planning to make an arrest in the Wone murder case when the burglary derailed those plans. Authorities never revealed whom the intended target was or what that person would have been charged with.
In August 2007, Eric Wone’s widow Katherine Wone’s expressed her frustration with the FBI crime lab, “It has been trying at times as we continue to wait for the FBI to complete their analysis of all the samples that were taken,” reported The Washington Post.
On August 2, 2007, the one-year anniversary of Wone’s death, there was a press conference in which Eric Holder, a lawyer who went on to serve as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015, publicly asked the three men to provide additional information to the authorities, saying “You need to ask yourself, ‘Have I provided police with all the information I know?'”
In October 2008, an obstruction of justice charge was filed against housemate Dylan Ward. In November 2008, Price and Zaborsky were arrested and also charged with obstruction of justice. Price was represented by Bernard Grimm from Cozen O’Connor. Dylan Ward was represented by David Schertler from Schertler & Onorato. Victor Zaborsky was represented by Thomas Connolly from Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis and has been recognized as One of the Best Lawyers in America. All three men were later released on bond pending trial, but were subject to electronic monitoring and curfews. Additional charges of conspiracy were filed against all three men on December 19, 2008.
The affidavit filed by authorities showed that investigators had concluded the men were lying about the so-called intruder and that “The evidence demonstrates that Robert Wone was restrained, incapacitated, sexually assaulted, and murdered inside 1509 Swann Street,” and there exists “overwhelming evidence, far in excess of probable cause” that the men “obstructed justice by altering and orchestrating the crime scene, planting evidence, delaying the reporting of the murder to the authorities, and lying to the police about the true circumstances of the murder.”
Lawyers for the men maintained their clients’ innocence and called the affidavit “speculation, innuendo, assumptions, and irrelevant inflammatory comments.”
Officials believe that a kitchen knife had been smeared with blood and put next to the body and that cadaver dogs found a blood residue in a dryer lint trap and the patio drain, which detectives believe may be evidence that someone washed themselves in the back patio area, and dried wet clothes in the dryer.
The men’s formal defense in the conspiracy case began on June 17, 2010. None of the defendants testified.
On June 29, 2010, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz found each of the three men not guilty of charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. Following the sensational trial, which was covered extensively in the D.C. Metropolitan area press, Leibovitz said that prosecutors proved that the murder was not committed by a so-called “intruder” but that the D.C. prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the three men engaged in evidence tampering or obstruction of justice.
In August 2011, Price, Zaborsky and Ward agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Wone’s wife after she filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against them the previous year, charging them with being responsible for her husband’s death. Washington DC civil attorneys for the widow said the settlement involved a monetary payment from the three men, but the amount of the settlement was never disclosed.
Wone’s death been one of Washington, D.C.’s most mysterious homicide cases.
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