Washington, D.C., was rocked by the murder of American lawyer Robert Eric Wone on the night of Aug. 2, 2006, a homicide case that still baffles experts nearly two decades later.
A new two-episode mini-series documentary titled “Who Killed Robert Wone?” released on streaming service Peacock on March 7 highlights the mystery surrounding how the 32-year-old D.C. lawyer was murdered inside the home of his three friends with all of them still inside.
“It’s one of those stories that’s stranger than fiction,” Jared P. Scott, the director and co-creator of the true-crime documentary, told Fox News.
The murder, which would later become one of the most mysterious homicide cases in the city’s history, occurred in a townhouse on Swann Street Northwest owned by Joe Price, an attorney and close friend of Wone’s since college.
Price’s domestic partner Victor Zaborsky was also living at the home when the incident occurred, as well as the homeowner’s other lover, Dylan Ward, who were all part of a polyamorous relationship.
On the night of his murder, Wone reportedly told his wife, Katherine Wone, that he would be staying at Price’s home after working long hours as a general counsel at Radio Free Asia and attending a legal education class. It was first time he had done so as he did not want to travel back to their home in Oakton, Virginia, late at night. The documentary also explains that Wone did not want to wake his wife, who had work early in the morning the following day.
Wone reportedly arrived at the house at around 10:30 p.m. and was found dead with three stab wounds to his chest 79 minutes later. One of the house’s occupants, Zaborsky, immediately called 911 and Price later informed Wone’s wife about what happened.
The mystery surrounding his untimely death began piling up soon after paramedics arrived around 11:54 p.m., followed by the investigators at 1 a.m.
One of the paramedics who arrived at the scene noted the absence of blood near or on Wone’s body despite having three large stab wounds in his chest.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, something isn’t right here,’” Jeff Baker, the EMT who first saw Wone, recalls in the documentary. “I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”
Baker notes that Wone no longer had a pulse after they hooked him onto a monitor inside the ambulance. He also noticed his body had surgical incisions on his torso, which he describes as “something you see a doctor do,” and that it seemed his body had been wiped with a sheet or towel.
“The EMT said, ‘It looked like Robert had been stabbed, showered and placed in the bed,’” former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, quoting Baker’s report, says.
WTTG FOX 5 reporter Paul Wagner, one of the reporters who covered Wone’s death, also supported the theory, saying, “Maybe it happened somewhere else in the house. Maybe Robert’s body was cleaned up and then put back in bed.”
Wone was later taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on the morning of Aug. 3, 2006, at 12:25 a.m.
Bryan Waid, the lead detective on the case, said the three occupants of the house were all wearing white robes when investigators arrived at their home, noting that their choice of clothing was “not necessarily something that you expect to see.”
Kirschner agreed with Waid’s observation, saying: “When the homicide detectives arrive on the scene, they all instantly sensed that something was very off. You have three guys who are in crisp, white terrycloth robes appearing as if they had just showered. Some of them still had the wet hair slicked back. They looked like they just stepped out of a good executive steam.”
Price, who Waid believes was the one in charge of talking to investigators, claimed they heard “grunts” or “screams” at the time and found Wone was already dead with gaping stab wounds in his chest when they came to check on him.
The homeowner told investigators that an intruder had broken into their home through the small backyard, went inside the unlocked backdoor and then murdered Wone.
After Price answered a few more questions from the police, the three were reportedly taken to the Violent Crimes Branch for further interviews while Waid remained in the house to investigate.
When Waid went upstairs to check the crime scene, he immediately thought that something was not right as there were only a few bloodstains on the bed.
“Two bloodstains on a sheet and no other blood anywhere,” Waid recalls. “You don’t just take three to the chest and lay there and die.”
He also found a towel on the ground with a few minor bloodstains on it and a bloody knife on a stand.
Price later explained to authorities at the police station that he found the knife on Wone’s chest and put it on the table.
He then changed his story later on after he actively sought Waid, saying he pulled the knife out of Wone’s body before placing it on the table. In interview footage shown in the documentary, Price tells Waid that there was a lot of blood on Wone’s chest at that time.
During the investigation, authorities later determined that the knife did not match the stab wounds on Wone’s body and dismissed it as the murder weapon.
Kirschner notes that the home was not in disarray when investigators arrived and that there was nothing stolen. Waid recalls seeing Wone’s valuables on the table at the foot of the bed, such as his wallet, BlackBerry phone, watch and neatly folded clothes.
During the autopsy, medical examiner Dr. Lois Goslinoski noted the three “surgical-like defects” on Wone’s body that Baker also noticed in the ambulance and that there was no sign of a struggle between Wone and the murderer.
Shockingly, Goslinoski discovered that there was a blood clot filling a portion of Wone’s small intestine, suggesting that “He lived for a period of time after each of those wounds were inflicted.”
Further inspection of Wone’s remains uncovered several puncture marks spread all over his body, notably his neck, on the back of one of his hands, a few more on his ankle and on top of one of his feet.
Investigators then ordered a narcotics test on Wone’s body to determine if drugs or other paralytics were involved in his death, such as opioids, cocaine and phencyclidine; however, the results came back negative.
Authorities also started looking at the sexual assault angle after investigators discovered several sex toys that resembled torture devices inside the home.
While the sexual assault kit test yielded a negative result, medical examiners did find semen around Wone’s genitals and inside his rectum, prompting investigators to check for DNA matches.
To their shock, the DNA test result showed the semen found on Wone’s body was his own.
A lot of questions were raised following the discovery. Wagner asks, “The mystery was, how did the semen get into his rectum? Was it inserted there for one reason or another by someone who may have sexually assaulted him?”
Price, Zaborsky and Ward were arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and tampering with physical evidence in 2008.
While authorities still could not find any evidence pointing to who the murderer was, Kirschner instead charged the trio with planting the knife found on the table. He explained that the defendants wiped the knife with Wone’s blood using the towel and threw the murder weapon away.
A verdict was reached in 2010, with Judge Lynn Leibovitz finding the three defendants not guilty of the charges.
However, while delivering the verdict, the judge acknowledged that some or all of them may know something about what happened.
“Even if the defendants did not participate in the murder, some or all of them knew enough about the circumstances of it to provide helpful information to law enforcement and have chosen to withhold that information for reasons of their own,” she said in her verdict.
Besides the three charges against Price, Zaborsky and Ward, Katherine Wone also filed a wrongful death suit against the trio, which resulted in an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount.
A fourth-generation Chinese American, Wone was born in Manhattan, New York, on June 1, 1974, and raised in Brooklyn.
Wone graduated from the College of William and Mary, where he met Price, in 1996. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1999, Wone went to work at the law firm Covington and Burling with an emphasis on real estate and employment law for six years.
Besides his work at the law firm, Wone also dedicated some of his time as a volunteer at the Latin American Youth Center and as a volunteer general counsel of the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Museum of Chinese in the Americas.
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