012 - The Strange Murder of Robert Wone
Robert Eric Wone was a fourth generation Chinese American born in New York City in 1974. He attended an all boys Catholic School, and later went on to the College of William and Mary as a Monroe Scholar. Robert majored in Public Policy and was active in the student government. During his time at William and Mary, he met and began a life long friendship with Joseph Price, a name which will come up again later. Robert was an exceedingly bright student with a strong focus on philanthropy and volunteerism. During his time at William and Mary he helped restore the 13 Club. The 13 Club was a secret organization whose prime goals were to go around campus and commit random, anonymous acts of kindness. Among other accolades, Robert was elected to the Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board and Golden Key honor societies. Upon his graduation in 1996, Robert was the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. This award is presented as recognition for excellence of character and service to humanity.
Following William and Mary, Wone would go on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. While attending Law School, Wone continued his dedication both in and out of the classroom. He was active in the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and published a law review article about racial harassment. He was senior editor of the school’s journal on labor and employment law and would go on to receive an NLF Scholarship which is awarded to law students who demonstrate particularly outstanding leadership potential serving the Asian Pacific American community. Robert graduated cum laude in 1999 and went on to pass the New York State Bar Exam, clerking for a year under Raymond Jackson, a federal judge.
In 2000, Robert headed to Washington D.C. joining the firm of Covington & Burling as an associate focusing on commercial real estate and employment law. In 2002 while attending a law conference in Philadelphia he met and fell in love with Katherine Yu. Yu lived in Chicago and for months Wone flew out, every weekend, to spend time with her. Wone would eventually propose and their whirlwind romance would be solidified in June of 2003 when they married. Wone was active in many community organizations as well as being a boardmember of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Educational Fund, chair of the William and Mary Washington Council, member of the Virginia Governor’s Commission on Community and National Service. Frankly, Wone was involved in so many organization these do not even scratch the surface. Suffice it to say, Wone was a successful Lawyer dedicated to the community.
By 2006, Robert was 32 years olds and living with his wife Katherine in suburban Oakton, Virginia in Fairfax County. On June 30th, Robert left his job at Covington & Burling taking on the title of general counsel for Radio Free Asia, an organization which broadcasts and publishes online news, information and commentary to listeners in East Asia. Wone and his wife now commute twenty to thirty miles to their jobs in Washington DC. Over the weekend of July 29th to 31st, Robert decides that he wants to stay late at work one night to meet his night shift employees and to attend a Continuing Law Education course.
Wone places a call to a female friend, asking her if he can stay at her place on the night of August 2nd, rather than commuting home after a long day, arriving late and then having to wake up early and commute once again, but for she declines. Wone then sends an e-mail to his old college friend, Joseph Price, who lived in downtown Washington DC, asking if he could spend a night at his home. Price agrees and Robert sets his plans into motion, telling his wife that on Wednesday, August 2nd, he will commute to Washington with her in the morning, and after meeting the night crew and attending his CLE class, he will head over to Price’s home for the evening.
Joseph Price lives in a townhouse not far from Robert’s job. Price is a lawyer, also, and a very prominent one, focused in gay right’s advocacy. As a gay man, Price has been President of the University of Virginia Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association, as well as founding and serving as general counsel for Equality Virginia, a gay right’s advocacy group. The group was founded in 2002 and Price served until 2006. Price became a partner at Arent Fox in 2006, working in several areas including intellectual property litigation, trademark and copyright disputes. Price lives in a Townhouse on Swann Avenue with his domestic partner, Victor Zaborsky, as well as Dylan Ward. The trio have been described as a “truple,” a play on the words “three” and couple” as their relationship has been described as polyamorous. Zaborsky described the three as a “family” stating that Ward “did not really share an equal part in the relationship, but we’re trying to develop it that way.”
In 2006, when Robert would come to spend the night, Victor Zaborsky was the senior marketing manager for the Milk Processors Education Program. This is the promotional arm of the international Dairy Foods Association, based in Washington DC. This is the group responsible for the famous “Got Milk” campaign. Zaborsky lived in Washington DC for nearly a decade, and for most of that time he was in a partnership with Joseph Price. Prior to the Swann Avenue townhouse, Zaborsky and Price share a residence on Capitol Hill.
Dylan Ward, the third man involved in the relationship, graduated from The Potomac Institute for Massage Therapy and obtained his license to practice as a massage therapist in 2006. According to public documents, Zaborsky and Price shared the master bedroom while Ward stayed in a second bedroom and was engaged in an intimate relationship with Price. Ward’s relationship to Price is frequently referred to as being a dominant-submissive sexual relationship, with Ward being the dominant.
There was a fourth person living in the townhouse, Sarah Morgan. Morgan reportedly lived in a basement bedroom and was not involved in the “family” relationship, but was close with both Zaborsky, who she had known for nearly sixteen years, and Price whom she had known for ten. On the night of August 2nd, Morgan was not home and had informed the three men that she wouldn’t be returning that night. According to reports of the time, Morgan stated “Don’t wait up,” when she went out that night, having made plans with her friends, Tom and John.
The living situation and the polyamorous, pseudo family arrangement is a complex ones. In order to avoid confusion, I will go through the events of that evening as they have been officially reported and fill in details following the circumstances of that night. Most of the information about the victim and the three men comes out after the murder, and it feels most logical to follow in chronological order. The following is a timeline of the events of Wednesday, August 2nd, leading up to Robert’s murder.
At 8:45am, Robert and Katherine see one another for the last time after stepping off the metro, kissing one another goodbye at Connecticut avenue. The next known communication between Robert and Katherine takes place at 9:30pm when Robert calls his wife. He informs her that he has just finished attending the CLE class and is on his way night to meet the night shift workers. The general counsel for Radio Free Europe attended the same class that night, and has confirmed that Robert attended that evening, and the two in fact stopped at Subway for a sandwich and walked together.
At 9:40 pm Robert arrives at his job, located at 20th & M Street NW. Here he meets with the night staff. Forty-four minutes later, at 10:24, Robert places a call to Joseph Price from his office. Though the exact details of the conversation are unknown, it is believed that Robert has called Price to inform him that he is wrapping up his work for the day and will be hailing a taxi to take the eight minute ride to his townhouse shortly. When asked about this call, Price tells investigators that he had finished dinner and was cleaning a mess caused by an overflowing shower in the master bedroom. Zaborsky remembers the call as coming in not long after 10:15pm and that Wone arrived sometime between 10:30 and 10:40pm. Zaborsky recalls that, at that time, he was in bed watching Project Runway when Robert arrives.
Since we know the cab ride was a minimum of eight minutes, Robert could have arrived no earlier than 10:32pm. Sometime between 10:32 and 10:40, Robert arrives, and according to Price and Ward, he comes into the kitchen where they drink water and share small talk. Robert is tired, and plans to talk with his old friend Joseph Price in the morning, but for this night he just wants to rest. According to Ward and Price, around 11:00pm the three men part ways, with Price entering the master bedroom where Zaborsky is watching television. Zaborsky states that Price entered before Project Runway ended, and was likely in the room by 10:50. Ward retires to his own room where he says that he took a sleeping pill, read for a short period of time and then fell asleep. Ward reports hearing Robert take a shower before he passes out. Reportedly, due to the hot temperature that night, Price requests that everyone close their bedroom doors in order to maximize the efficiency of the air conditioning. Price tells investigators that he watched five or ten minutes of Spike TV but that Zaborsky was tired and wanted to sleep, so he shut the television off and both men were asleep between 11:05 and 11:10 pm.
Between 11:05 and 11:07, two emails are drafted, but not sent, on Robert’s blackberry. One is written to his wife, Katherine, informing her that he has just showered and is planning to get to sleep. The other is to a co-worker, confirming a lunch appointment the next day. Why the emails were unsent is unknown and in the subsequent investigation police neither fingerprint his blackberry, nor save digital copies of the emails, instead returning the work device to Radio Free Asia who shortly thereafter completely erase the contents of the device. According to an investigator, the US Secret Service was supposed to process and image the device and by the time they realized they had not done so, it was too late and the blackberry had been wiped clean. Prosecutor Glenn Kirshner would later state “The government does not presently have a copy of the contents of said Blackberry.”
Sometime between 11 and 11:35, next door neighbor William Thomas hears what he has described as a “desperation scream” from the Townhouse. His wife is watching the television news that night, and he specifies that it is reporter Maureen Bunyan, who aired a segment during this time frame. Later, defense attorneys would dispute this timeline, arguing that Thomas had incorrectly identified Vicky Mabrey as Maureen Bunyan, Mabrey had a segment which aired later between 11:45 and 11:52.
The townhouse has an alarm system which chimes each time the door is opened. Zaborsky and Price report being awakened by the sound of the chime but cannot specify exactly what time this occurred at. They assume the chime is from their other roommate, Sarah Morgan, arriving home, despite the fact that she had told them she would not be returning that evening. They think nothing of this event. What occurs between 11:10pm and 11:49pm is unknown and the subject of much speculation.
At 11:49pm a frantic Zaborsky dials 911 and requests an ambulance, stating that they believe an intruder has entered the home and that their guest has been stabbed. The 911 operator confuses Zaborsky for a woman, and remains on the line with him for 7 minutes, during which she tries to calm him down as well as giving instructions on trying to take care of the victim. She tells him to have someone place a towel on Robert’s wounds, and to apply firm pressure. She also informs him to switch the towel out if it becomes soaked with blood and to continue to do so until paramedics can arrive. During the call, Zaborsky is crying and talking in a shrill voice, he tells the operator that he is afraid to go downstairs to open the door for paramedics as he is unsure if the intruder is still in the home. I will now play the 911 call in it’s entirety, it runs a total of 7 minutes and 10 seconds.
If you notice in the 911 call, Zaborsky confirms to the 911 operator that someone has in fact taken a towel and is applying pressure to the wounds on Robert’s body. Although initially Zaborsky says he believes that Robert was stabbed in the stomach, he later corrects this saying that he has in fact been stabbed in the chest. Zaborsky goes downstairs when he sees the lights of the paramedics and the 911 operator terminates the call at this point.
At 11:54, paramedics Baker and Weaver arrive on the scene. Zaborsky meets them on the front step and is dressed in a white bathrobe. Baker asks where the victim is, and Zaborsky directs them to the bedroom on the second floor. Baker encounters Dylan Ward on the stairs and asks him what is going on. Ward is also wearing a white bathrobe but says nothing, simply pointing in the direction of the bedroom before walking into his own bedroom.
Baker arrives in the guest bedroom and finds Wone on the fold-out bed lying on his back, his head on a pillow (fluffed with the only indentation under Wone’s head) at the top of the bed and his body slightly at an angle. Wone is on top of the sheets of the bed, which is made except the top sheet and comforter is folded down at a 45 degree angle. Wone is dressed in a t-shirt and shorts that his wife says he wore to bed; he also has his anti-teeth grinding mouth guard in his mouth that he wears to bed. Price is sitting on one leg on the bed, wearing only underwear, with his back to the door. Baker asks what’s going on, and Price says he heard a scream and moves out of Baker’s way. Baker finds three slit-like stab wounds in Wone’s abdomen and finds no signs of life. There’s little blood other than a film of blood on the wounds, indicating some item had been wiped or pressed on the torso. The shirt has three stab cuts lining up with the wound. He puts Wone on a stretcher and removes him to the ambulance.
Baker later states to investigators that the three men appeared to be freshly showered and were acting calmly, as opposed to the frantic people he usually encounters at crime scenes. Joseph Price informs police as they arrive that they had found Robert at the patio door and took himup stairs and laid him on the bed. A female police officer tells Price to get dressed. EMT Weaver tells investigators that the body appears to have been showered, redressed and placed on the bed.
According to investigators on the scene, Robert’s personal effects are undisturbed on a table at the foot of the bed. They report the items as: two wallets filled with cash, it is later stated that Robert often carried a second wallet in case of a mugging, his blackberry, watch and night guard case. Some towels are folded over the back of a chair in the room. Katherine disputes this, stating that her husband was meticulous with his towels and that after showering he always hung them back up, never leaving them laying around. Police also find a black-handled knife with Robert’s blood on it and discern that the knife came from the downstairs kitchen. Near Robert’s overnight bag is a white towel, soaked in blood.
Sometime during these events, Price places a call to Katherine, explaining the situation to her. EMTs attempt to revive Robert, and he is loaded into the ambulance and rushed to George Washington University Hospital where he is pronounced dead at 12:24am on August 3rd. Police begin questioning the three men that night, and Dylan Ward’s attorney described the questioning as a “interrogation” focusing on sexually charged accusatory questions.
During questioning, Dylan ward stated that following the chatting in the kitchen, earlier that evening, “Joe went outside for a second because he saw a spider or something on the light.” He then says that it was “completely plausible” that Joe had forgotten to lock the door upon reentering the townhouse. The men were further questioned about what occurred that evening, and according to investigators, gave a consistent narrative of the night’s events.
According to Ward, Price and Zaborsky, Ward and Price led Robert to the second floor guest room where they helped Robert pull out and set up his bed. They all then went to bed, with Ward claiming he heard Robert in the shower before he fell asleep. Interestingly, Price and Zaborsky state that after hearing the door chime, they heard noises. These noises were described as a “kind of low scream” which caused the two to get out of bed and investigate. They headed towards the stairs when they heard another low scream and ran towards Robert’s room.
The two men allege to have looked into Robert’s room and seen him wounded. Price immediately rushed to his friend and began to give aid while informing Zaborsky to call the police. Ward, who had taken a sleeping pill, states that the screaming and ruckus woke him and he came to see what was going on. According to Price, Ward stepped out of his room and “it looked like he had no fucking clue.” Price states that upon checking Robert he found a boning knife from the kitchen laying on his stomach. He moved the knife to the bed side table and lifted Robert’s shirt, finding stab wounds on his torso and blood all over his chest.
Despite the wounds, which one EMT described as big enough to fit fingers into, there was a startling lack of blood in the room, described as only a few small stains on the sheets and pillow. Police report no evidence of forced entry into the home and that no items had been stolen. Expensive electronics on the first floor are undisturbed. Cadaver dogs alert to blood on the rear stairwell, drain and the lint filter of the clothing dryer which leads investigators to believe that blood stained clothing was cleaned outside and then placed in the dryer. The hose in the backyard is uncoiled, the drain cover isn’t fully on. A drug dog alerts to two locations in the home, but only ecstasy is found.
Detectives began to wonder if this crime had been sexually motivated and perpetrated by one of the men living in the townhouse and brought them down to the station for questioning. On this subject, Joseph Price stated “I know Victor and Dylan better than I know my mom. There is no chance on the face of the earth that anybody did anything to Robert. They couldn’t even spank a child that was being bad.” The men were questioned thoroughly, with Price interrogated for six hours, Zeborsky for eight and Ward for approximately 12. During interrogation Price is reported to be arrogant, unconcerned, aggressive and self centered. Zaborsky who was initially tearful becomes passive and unmotivated to help the investigation. Ward is unmoved, detached and calm. After leaving the police station, all three men retained legal counsel and stick with their story that Robert had to have been killed by an intruder. The three men refuse to speak to police without their lawyers present, though they do provide DNA and fingerprints to the police.
Lois Goslinski, a deputy DC medical examiner performed an autopsy on Robert the day after his death and filed an eight page report. According to her examination, she found two broken capillaries in Robert’s right eye and left eyelid. The spots, referred to as petechial hemorrhages, are caused by unoxygenated blood in a person who is fighting for air, such as in the case of suffocation or strangulation, though she did state that the asphyxia was not fatal in this instance. She relates the burst capillaries to the concept that Robert was likely alive for at least sixty seconds following his stabbing, his digestive system began filling with blood and he was struggling to breathe. He was killed by the stabbing, the blade pierced his heart, pancreas and right lung. She noted that the stab wounds were “perfect, slit-like defects” both clean and symmetrical which is unusual. Each wound was four to five inches deep and oriented towards the right side of his body. Typically a victim will move and try to get away, but the manner of these stab wounds suggests that the victim was either unconscious or restrained during the stabbing. There were no defensive wounds on his body and after swabbing his mouth, genital and anus, she found evidence of semen in his anus and on his genitals. DNA tests showed that the semen was his own. There did not appear to be any injuries suggesting sexual assault, though.
She also found six premortem needle marks on his chest, right foot, left hand and the left side of his neck. Goslinski ran toxicology on Robert but the problem is, when you don’t know what you’re searching for, it can be impossible to find. There is no single test which can be run to identify every foreign substance in a victim. They ran a standard battery of tests looking for alcohol, cocaine, barbiturates, opiates and amphetamines as well as GHB, benzodiazepines, a class of sedatives that includes at least three other so-called “date rape drugs.” They also checked for PCP and ketamine. All test results came back negative.
During the examination of the wounds, it was determined that the knife found in the bedroom that night was not the murder weapon as it was not consistent with the stab wounds. The knife in the room had been wiped on its sharp edge and cotton from a white towel was found on the blade. There were no fibers from the shirt which would have been stabbed through. Police, frustrated and dealing with witnesses and possible suspects who had lawyered up, began dismantling the townhouse. For three weeks following the murder they seized computers, appliances, slabs of floor, walls and staircases, bags of sludge scooped out of sink and shower drains and boxes of men’s belongings. According to investigators, they also discovered a large collection of sadomasochistic sexual implements including but not limited to floggers, spacer bars for keeping legs spread apart, clamps, metal probes and an electrical shockwave generator. One item they found was what is known as a “milking” machine which is used to force someone to ejaculate, which many speculate may have been used and caused Robert’s semen to have been on as well as in him. They also found books such as “Erotic Bondage Handbook,” “S&M 101” and “Juice: Electricity for Pain and Pleasure.” They also found a three-piece culinary set which was missing one of its knives.
Investigators felt that the lack of blood in the room suggested that the scene had been wiped down. They began using forensic chemicals such as luminol and discovered trace blood evidence on the walls, floors, sofa bed and door frame. Unfortunately, this evidence ran into a snag. Some of the chemicals used react not only with blood, but other substances containing proteins or iron. The reaction isn’t proof of blood. The forensics team used a product called Ashley’s Reagent, which reacts with proteins, causing a blue stain. Unfortunately, the team used the chemical improperly and, according to prosecutor Kirschner “in a manner not intended by the manufacturer.” This resulted in officials being unable to confirm in the lab that they had found blood.
The bloody towel found at the scene also piqued the interest of investigators. Price claimed he used this towel to compress Robert’s wounds as the 911 operator suggested, but EMTs arriving at the scene stated that Price was not holding the towel on the wounds when they arrived. According to forensics, the towel appeared to have been used to transfer blood to the knife found in the room, not to try and compress the wounds on Robert’s body. EMTs also said that Price was behaving in an odd manner and it unnerved them. According to several reports, one of the EMTs felt so uncomfortable in the room with Price that rather than approach the victim from the closer side, he went around to the opposite side of the bed so that he could keep Price in his peripheral vision and not have his back to him.
The scene and crime confounded investigators. Kirshner was quoted as saying “None of it made sense. The intruder theory had problems. The theory that it was one or all of these guys had problems. There was simply no cohesive theory that we could come up with to account for everything.”
Following the murder of Robert Wone, his wife Kathy goes to the hospital where she learns that Robert has died. She contacts Robert’s ex-roommate an co-worker Jason Torchinsky to sit with her during her meeting with police, and he does. The next day, Joseph Price calls Torchinsky and asks questions about what the police had to say. Torchinsky feels that Price is digging for information and refuses to tell him anything, quoting attorney client priviledge in terms of his sitting in with Katherine Wone. Six days after his death, Robert is laid to rest in a funeral wherein Joseph Price participates as a pall bearer, reportedly at Katherine’s request.
Several months later, in October, Price’s brother uses his key to break into the townhouse and burglarizes it. Michael Price reportedly has a substance abuse problem and needed some money to score drugs. This raises several questions about the intruder theory, and just how many people possess a key to the apartment. Fascinatingly Michael Price was a phlebotomy student at the time of Robert’s murder, and is reported to have missed his class on the night Robert was murdered which his college advisor said is highly unlike him. This detail raises questions considering that needle marks were found on Robert’s body. In subsequent investigation it’s discovered that outside of the three men and Sarah Morgan, Joseph’s brother as well as a maid service all have keys to the townhouse. Price eventually sells the townhouse in June of 2008 for 1.47 million dollars. Price and Zaborsky move into an apartment together while Ward moved to Florida, living in a home the three have purchased.
From 2006 to 2008 there wasn’t much movement on the case. Police were baffled and frustrated trying to figure out who murdered Robert, and why. During this time, Katherine became more and more upset by the lack of action. In an interview with the Washington Post, Katherine was quoted as saying “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.” During the course of one year, the case has handed off to three different prosecutors. On the one year anniversary of Robert’s murder, Katherine held a press conference where she plead for public to assist in finding the killer.
Finally, in October of 2008, Dylan Ward was charged with obstruction of justice. The next month, in November, both Price and Zaborsky were arrested and also charged with obstruction of justice. Also in November, Kathrine filed a $20 million civil suit against the men. All three men would be released, but subject to electronic monitoring devices and necessary curfews. On December 19th, 2008, all three men were charged with conspiracy. During the hearing for charging conspiracy, prosecutors announced pending charges for tampering with evidence.
An affidavit filed by authorities against Ward stated that the men were not telling the truth about what happened the night Robert was murdered. The report stated “The evidence demonstrates that Robert Wone was restrained, incapacitated, sexually assaulted and murdered.” It goes on to say that there is “overwhelming evidence, far in excess of probable cause” that Price, Zaborsky and Ward “obstructed justice by altering and orchestrating the crime scene, planting evidence, delaying the reporting of the murder to authorities, and lying to the police about the true circumstances of the murder.”
Lawyers for the three defendants called the affidavit “speculation, innuendo, assumptions and irrelevant inflammatory comments.” It was theorized that the arrests and charges were designed to get one of the men to turn against the others, specifically Ward, but all three men continued to maintain their original story that an intruder had entered the home and this unknown person was responsible for Robert’s murder.
Investigators believe that a knife was taken from the kitchen and smeared with Robert’s blood while the knife missing from Ward’s culinary set was more consistent with the stab wounds. In a follow up related to the toxicology run on Robert during his autopsy, and the lack of any chemicals found, it was further theorized that a paralytic had been used on Robert which might account for the hypodermic puncture wounds found on his body. In addition to this, the two emails which had been written but never sent from Robert’s Blackberry were theorized to have been written by the killer or one of the other men, but this was unable to be verified due to their failure to save the evidence.
Formal defense in the conspiracy case began on June 17th, 2010 but it concluded without any of the defendants testifying. Judge Lynn Leibovitz found each of the three men not guilty of charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence on June 29th, 2010. Leibovitz in explaining her ruling for almost an hour stated she personally believed that the men know who killed Robert, but was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the offenses with which they were charged.
On November 25th, 2008, Katherine Wone filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that the three defendants “negligient failure to rescue Robert Wone after he was injured, the defendants destruction of evidence of Robert Wone’s murder, and the defendants conspiracy to destroy evidence and obstruct the police investigation into Robert Wone’s murder.” The lawsuit was officially settled on August 3rd, 2011 for an undisclosed sum of money. It’s believed that a settlement was agreed upon partially because the three defendants lawyers stated that they men would invoke their fifth amendment rights to refuse to testify on the grounds that their testimony could incriminate them. Eric Holder, who would later become a United States Attorney General advised Katherine Wone on a pro bono basis.
Despite the criminal charges filed by police and the civil lawsuit filed by Katherine, no charges of murder have ever been filed in this case and it remains open. It is one of the darkest unsolved crimes in Washington DC, and yet, has received little media attention outside of local publications and newscasts. Unlike many of the cases covered on Trace Evidence, there are not a wide assortment of theories regarding this case. There are three main theories which have been put forth by either police, the three men at the townhouse that night and civilian investigators.
The first theory has been put forth by Price, Zeborsky and Ward. The three men have said that Robert must have been murdered by an intruder. They speculate that sometime during the night someone gained access to the townhouse. They point to the fact that both Price and Zaborsky reported hearing the chime indicating that the door to the home had been opened. It is at this time they believe that the intruder entered the home. For unknown reasons, they say, this intruder retrieved a knife from the kitchen and proceeded up the stairs, to the second floor and rather than entering Dylan Ward’s bedroom, which was at the top of the stairs, the intruder proceeded down the hallway to the guest room.
Upon entering the room, the men speculate that this intruder stabbed Robert Wone for unknown reasons, and fled the home shortly thereafter. This intruder couldn’t have been inside of the home for long, since both Zaborsky and Price went to Robert’s room when they heard two low screams. Interestingly, the two men do not report ever hearing the door chime again, which would indicate that the intruder never left the home, or left by some other method than through a door. It is also possible that the intruder had entered the home previously, and was hiding inside somewhere, and that the door chime heard was the killer exiting rather than entering. The three men were unable to provide any motive, or any guesses, as to why someone would break in, murder Robert, and flee without taking anything or attacking anyone else. It should also be noted that Robert had not been there previously, and only the men living in the home, and possibly Sarah Morgan, knew he would be there that night.
Some people have suggested that an intruder could have broken in and murdered Robert as a way to frame one or all of the men for it, perhaps someone who had anti-gay beliefs or was involved in hate crimes. This theory would follow the thought process that someone committed this horrible crime in order to shine a negative light on one or all of the men. Joseph Price worked with a lot of gay rights groups, and some believe that his public exposure in these groups angered those with opposing viewpoints. Some have even gone so far as to say that the police were biased in their investigation because of the fact that the three suspects were engaged in a homosexual relationship together. It should be noted that three days after the murder the Gay and Lesbian Liason Unit of the DC police were called in, though it is unknown to what level they were involved in the investigation.
The second theory has been put forth by the police and prosecutor’s involved in the case and alleges that one of the men in the townhouse that night committed the murder and that the others either witnessed the murder or were involved in the coverup. According to this theory, Robert Wone was approached and invited to engage in sexual activity with one or all of the men in the townhouse that night. Robert turned one or all of them down, and this resulted in a confrontation. Some have speculated that Robert became angry by the suggestion that he might be interested and said something which offended one of the men to the point that he became physically aggressive and stabbed Robert. Others believe that at some point during the night, Robert was injected with a paralytic or sedative, and that one or all of the men in the townhouse that night planned to either sexually assault him, or perhaps use some of the sex devices found in the home on him. It’s believed that Robert was restrained, and possibly hooked up to the so-called “milking” device. At some point he may have regained consciousness and threatened to call the police or report the incident, which resulted in him being drugged once again and stabbed while he was unconscious. The evidence of semen on and in Robert suggests that, at some point that night, he was aroused and climaxed either willingly, or against his will. Use of the “milking” device may have caused this, or perhaps it was the shockwave device which was found. Either way, for his own semen to end up inside of him, it really could only have happened if his semen was on some object or person who then penetrated Robert.
The so-called shockwave device was an Erostek 302R. This is an electronic device which is used to send electrical current through the body. In several blogs and review sites for this device, it is described as sending electric impulses through the body, specifically when focused on the penis, that causes arousal and leads to ejaculation. It has been suggested that many use this device in masturbatory acts, but it can also be used on someone else. Suffice it to say, it is possible that this device can be used to force ejaculation on an unwilling person. Is this what causes Robert to ejaculate that night? Also, this device can be used in conjuction with a butt plug, which could possibly explain Robert’s semen ending up inside of himself.
It’s a confusing set of circumstances, because the theory still doesn’t possess much of a motive. It’s difficult to imagine that a friend of Joseph Price would come to stay with him and he would allow this to happen. It doesn’t seem like the behavior of three men who had no legal troubles prior to, or after this event. However, it has been theorized that this may have been something they had done before, but that a male victim raped or sexually assaulted by other men may have been too ashamed to report it to police. Some have even put forward a different theory that Robert consensually engaged in sexual activity with one or all of the men living there, but at some point became upset, ashamed or angry which resulted in him being drugged and murdered. Katherine and Robert’s family disagree strongly with this theory, stating that Robert was straight and had no history of homosexual encounters in his life.
So what happened to Robert Wone that night, and what do Joseph Price, Victor Zeborsky and Dylan Ward know about it? This past Tuesday marked the eleventh anniversary of the murder, and still there are no answers. Joseph Price and his roommates have stuck to their story of an intruder entering the townhouse and committing the murder. Many people have found flaws in their side of things, and view them as the prime suspects. Their lack of cooperation and apparent disinterest in Robert’s murder has caused many to speculate that if they didn’t commit the murder, they know exactly who did. Why they would kill Robert, or cover it up, remains unknown.
Police believe they know what happened, and at a minimum have laid out a theory which heavily implicates the three men, but due to forensic errors and a lack of leads, have been unable to obtain the evidence necessary to get a conviction. Since the night Robert was murdered there have never been charges related to murder brought against anyone. It’s a terribly tragic case with no answers that make sense, or at least no ability to prove any of the theories. Katherine Wone has moved on with her life, but never forgotten the loss of her husband, nor the names and faces of the men she holds responsible. Police say the case remains open, but in the past eight years, there have been no new developments or evidence discovered. Robert Wone was a successful lawyer with a focus on the community. He was devoted to helping his fellow man, and gave selflessly of his time and his energy. His death was a needless incident without any rhyme or reason. The murder of Robert Wone remains one of the most haunting and disturbing unsolved cases in Washington DC and baffles family, friends, police and civilian investigators to this day.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The murder of Robert Wone is one of those cases where it seems like you have all of the pieces of the puzzle but when you try to put it together you realize you’re missing vital pieces that clarify the image. When you take a look at everything that happened that night, or at least what we were told happened versus what the evidence tends to show, there is no logical explanation for any of it. This has been an extremely frustrating case to cover because, unlike other cases, there seems to be so much information and yet no single thread to tie it all together. There are theories, there is speculation, but no single accounting of events can answer every question that has been asked.
I came across the case not too long ago, and I was pretty blown away when I started reading about it. It seems to be the kind of thing that should have been splashed all over the headlines. A murder with sexual overtones involving a prominent Chinese American lawyer in a 1.47 million dollar Townhouse in the nation’s capital. So why hadn’t I heard of it, and why haven’t any of the people I’ve discussed it with? That’s a complicated answer, and to try and wrap your head around the way cases are selected or ignored for media coverage typically revolves around money, something that they believe an audience can dig its teeth into.
Some people have suggested that the homosexual overtones of the case are the reason the media didn’t dig into it as much as they could have. Robert was murdered in 2006, and even though that seems like yesterday, we haven’t progressed that far in terms of gay rights. It’s still considered a taboo issue that major news sources don’t dig into too much, as ridiculous as that may be. If this were a case of a man or woman being murdered by members of the opposite sex and there were clear signs of sexual assault, would it have been kept under a lid? Part of me strongly doubts that, and that makes me feel angry for the bias against it. Then again, it’s entirely possible that this is just one of a hundred terrible murders that happen every day that don’t get the attention they deserve. It’s a sad story, but the murder of Robert Wone, as chaotic and confusing as it is, is one of many more similar tales.
Robert Wone was a fourth generation Chinese American born in New York. He went to college at the University of William and Mary where he met and became friends with Joseph Price. According to accounts I have read, Joseph chaperoned Robert around campus when he first came to the school and gave him the tour. Their friendship started almost immediately, and throughout their years at college, they only grew to be closer. When Robert left William and Mary and attended law school in Pennsylvania, he and Joseph stayed in touch and continued their friendship from a distance.
To what extent the two remained friends following both of them entering into the real world is hard to know for sure. They were obviously close enough that Robert felt comfortable with Joseph, at least comfortable enough to ask if he could stay over at his place on that fateful night. Some people have looked at Robert’s friendship with Joseph and questioned whether or not there was ever any involvement in a more intimate relationship. I haven’t found any evidence of this, and no one in Robert’s life had any indication that he may have been bisexual or ever experimented in any way. I tend to chalk this kind of thought process up to homophobia, frankly. Robert was defined as a kind and caring man, he was heavily involved in the community and very protective of those he cared aboutI have been friends with a lot of different gay men in my life, and never for a second did I hesitate or second guess anything in relation to them. It sounds like Robert was a progressive man, and didn’t care for labels or segregating people into groups. To him, a friend was a friend, regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately we still live in a world where things like that matter to people, but not for Robert. He was heavily involved in human rights, and while in law school wrote a published paper on harassment in the workplace. If anything, he was highly sensitive to the way people were treated and he turned his life into fighting for their rights. In 2002 Robert met Katherine Yu at a law conference in Philadelphia and the two fell madly in love. Despite the distance between them, with Robert living in New York and Katherine in Chicago, they were devoted to each other. Robert began flying out to see her every weekend, and in short order, he proposed and in June of 2003 they were married.
Together, they moved to Oakton, Virginia, not far outside of Washington DC where the two found work. They began building a life together, and from all accounts of friends and family, Robert doted on his wife and was extremely dedicated to the future they were building together. Both of them had busy, demanding jobs, and yet they made the best of it. They shared public transportation to work together every morning, kissing goodbye and then would call each other throughout the day. They were in communication frequently, and would meet back together at the metro station after they got off work, riding home together. They had a bright future, they were both successful and hard working. Unfortunately, that future would be stolen from them.
Robert had taken a job working for Radio Free Asia. Over the weekend of July 29-31st in 2006 he was making plans that would keep him in DC over night. Typically, Robert and Katherine would ride the metro home together, but on August 2nd, he had a Continuing Law Education course to attend and he wanted to meet and get to know the overnight crew at Radio Free Asia. According to Katherine, Robert’s plans would keep him in DC until ten or eleven that night, and rather than take the train and get home late, and then have to get up early the next morning to go back to work, he thought the best plan of action would be to stay in DC overnight and meet up with Katherine on the way home the next day.
Katherine helped him pack an overnight bag for the 2nd, and Robert reached out to two people about possibly staying with them. The first person he reached out to was a female friend whose name I’ve been unable to obtain, but regardless, she was unavailable to host for him that night. The second person he contact via email was Joseph Price, his old college buddy. Joseph was living in a Townhouse on Capitol Hill and had an extra room to spare. He told Robert that he could stay with him that night, and that it would be cool to catch up with him.
Now that his plans were set, Robert took the metro into DC with Katherine on the morning of the 2nd and kissed her goodbye for the last time. He worked his normal day, attended his CLE course and met with the overnight crew. Several witnesses report seeing him that night, and Robert calls Katherine at approximately 9:30 telling her that he has finished with the course and is about to meet the night crew. The next phone call Robert makes is to Joseph Price at approximately 10:24. Robert’s office is an eight minute taxi ride to Joseph’s townhouse.
Joseph’s townhouse is occupied by four individual. Joseph, his domestic partner Victor Zaborsky, their roommate and sometimes sexual partner Dylan Ward, and a woman named Sarah Morgan who lived in the basement apartment. The Townhouse has a basement and three levels above it. The kitchen and living area are on the ground level with bedrooms and bathrooms on the second level and the master bedroom suite on the third level. Joseph and Victor share the third floor bedroom, Dylan Ward has a bedroom on the second floor and there is a guest room also.
There has been a lot of debate and speculation about what the exact situation was between Joseph, Victor and Dylan. From everything I have read, Joseph and Victor were in a committed relationship, but one which they considered polyamorous. Dylan lived with them and was a sexual partner with them, though the details are somewhat thin. We do know that Dylan was heavily involved in Sadomassochism from the books and sex toys found in his bedroom. According to the three men, and friends of theirs, Dylan was a dominant practicioner of S&M and Joseph was his submissive. The relationship is often referred to as a “truple” which is a merging of the words “three” and “couple.” Victor often referred to them as “family” and that while Dylan was involved, at the time of Robert’s murder, he wasn’t as deeply engrained in the relationship as some have suggested.
On the evening of August 2nd, Robert arrived at the Townhouse sometime between 10:30 and 10:40. We know that he told Joseph he was on his way at 10:24 and the cab ride would be 8 minutes. This means the earliest possible arrival time would have been 10:32pm. From 10:32 until the paramedics arrive at 11:54, it cannot be known for sure exactly what occurs in the Townhouse. We know from the statements of the three men that, according to them, Robert enters the Townhouse and joins Dylan and Joseph in the kitchen where they chat and drink water. Victor alleges to be upstairs in bed watching television when Robert arrives.
Joseph has stated that the three men decided to go to bed sometime around 11pm. Victor would slightly contradict this, saying that Joseph entered the room to catch the last few minutes of Project Runway on TV, and estimates he was in the bedroom by 10:50. This means that sometime between 10:32 and 11:00pm Robert is brought into the home, given some water, then led up to the second floor guest room where he is going to be sleeping on a pull out bed from a love seat or small sofa.
Dylan has stated that after showing Robert to the guest room, he went to his own bedroom where he took sleeping pills and began reading. He hears Robert turn the shower on sometime before the sleeping pills take over and he falls asleep. We have a statement from the neighbor, William Thomas, that he hears a scream emanating from the Townhouse between 11 and 11:35pm. Victor and Joseph disagree with Thomas, saying that they heard a scream for the first time closer to 11:45pm. Regardless of the actual time, which is still hotly debated, we do know that at 11:49, Victor calls 911 and at this point, Robert has already been stabbed. From that point on, it is utter chaos trying to discern what exactly happened.
Paramedics arrive and find the situation to be very strange. According to them, none of the men seem disturbed or upset about the situation. The first man they run into is Victor, who meets them on the front step and directs them upstairs. To me, it’s hard to believe that Victor doesn’t seem upset. He is on the phone up until the moment the paramedics arrive, and listening to that 911 call, he doesn’t seem calm to me at all. If anything, he’s freaking out. He’s talking in a high pitched voice, you hear him breaking down and crying at several points. He is afraid to go downstairs, he doesn’t seem to know what happened, and he is struggling to deal with it. The paramedics stated that Victor was dressed in a white bathrobe when they arrived. They proceed up the stairs, where they encounter Dylan. Dylan is also dressed in a white bathrobe and doesn’t speak to them, simply pointing toward the guest room. Upon entering the room they find Joseph dressed in boxer shorts, standing next to the bed. Despite what is said on the 911 call, Joseph is not applying pressure to the stab wounds with a towel, but is instead standing next to the body.
Joseph supposedly tells the EMT’s that they found Robert on the porch, and brought him into the bedroom. This isn’t talked about much during the investigation, but could account for the startling lack of blood in the room. According to the paramedics, there is a bloody towel in the room, a bloody knife on the bedside table, and other than that, there are just some small spots of blood on the bed and on the pillow. Robert is laying on the bed at an angle with his head on a pillow and it has been stated that the pillow appeared very fluffed, only indented where Robert’s head was. In addition to this, Robert is dressed in his boxer shorts, a William and Mary T-shirt, which Katherine says he always wore to bed, and he has his nighttime mouth guard in also.
The paramedics immediately begin life saving measures on Robert, and as Police arrive, they explain to them that they find the situation odd and the three men’s behaviors disconcerting. This is hard to really understand, but everyone handles situations like this differently. Obviously the paramedics have experience arriving at similar scenes, and their opinions have to be taken into consideration, but considering the likelihood that none of these three men has ever seen a man stabbed to death before, it’s hard to judge exactly how they would react. Some people freeze, some people scream, some people freak out and others withdraw internally and become extremely quiet and calm.
Investigators also find the scene strange, and from their first line of questioning, the three men have a story about a possible intruder. According to Victor and Joseph, they heard the door chime sound indicating that someone entered the home prior to hearing the screams. In his interrogation, Price notes that the chime had to have indicated the back door. The front door was still locked when Zaborsky went to let the paramedics in later, but the back door is described as being slightly ajar. Price states “They came through the back door. I heard the chime. The front door of the house was definitely locked.” They state that someone must have broken in and murdered Robert, but police find no signs of forced entry and cannot wrap their head around any particular reason that someone would break into the home to murder a man who was only staying there as a guest. Not to mention, if an intruder entered the home and proceeded to the second floor, the first door he would come to would be Dylan’s, not the guest room Robert was staying in.
All three men are brought down to the station for one on one interrogations. There are tapes of these conversations available, but not being there and in the moment, they are highly open to interpretation. Also, as I previously stated, it’s very difficult to judge someone’s reaction to a situation like this. What I find extremely disturbing about the interrogations is that none of the men express any concern for Robert himself. They are only interested in themselves, and they all want the questioning over so that they can leave. According to investigators, Joseph is described as aggressive, flippant and interested only in Victor. He continually asks where Victor is and when he can see him. On the video, you can see Joseph when he is in the room without investigators and he seems very focused and thoughtful in their absence. It’s impossible to interpret what is going on in his mind at the time, but he seems calm.
Victor is also described as calm and somewhat detached, perhaps in shock, perhaps scared, perhaps a combination of many different emotions. Dylan they describe as the least responsive and involved in the conversation. Investigators say that he seemed most like he wasn’t really concerned with what happened and just wanted to leave. What’s interesting is that Joseph is the first one released from interrogation. Rather than going home, he calls a friend to give him a ride, and when the friend arrives, he sits in the car, waiting for them to release Victor and Dylan. This friend has reported that while waiting for Victor, Joseph stated on two separate occasions that he personally pulled the knife out of Robert’s chest. This, if true, is an interesting detail because he does not tell the paramedics nor the police about this. This series of interrogations is essentially the last time that Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward are cooperative. They hire lawyers following their questioning and going forward, all communication is done through them.
A lot of people look at this as a clear indication of guilt, but I can’t see it that way. First and foremost, Price himself is a lawyer and almost any lawyer will tell you, whether you’re questioned about a major crime or a minor one, you should have a lawyer present. There are plenty of stories of people who confess to crimes they didn’t commit, or give police reason to suspect them simply because they answer questions the wrong way, get confused or simply behave strangely. It isn’t hard to imagine that in a situation such as this one you might want someone there who is going to be able to help you, but that isn’t exactly what happens. All three men answers questions and allow themselves to be interrogated. They don’t get lawyers until after this initial line of questioning.
Despite deep and thorough investigation, Police are unable to find that one key piece of evidence which will break the case open. They take a great deal of items from the townhouse, they run forensic testing over the inside and out, but due to errors in their use of specific chemicals, most of it has to be thrown out and can’t be used in their investigation. In 2008, the men finally face charges, but they aren’t murder charges. The police his them with obstruction of justice and conspiracy. It’s theorized that the police hope these charges will force one of the men into turning on the others and confessing, or at least open up a line of dialogue where they might find new details about what really happened that night, but this doesn’t work. The trial is short, and the judge dismisses the charges sighting a lack of evidence. She does state that she believes the three men know what happened to Robert that night, but that there simply isn’t enough evidence to convict them of the charges facing them.
Katherine simultaneously files a $20 million civil suit against the three men. The details of this suit aren’t public record, but it’s been rumored that, through their lawyers, the three men explain that they will not be testifying and will plead their fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination. The civil suit is settled, for an undisclosed sum of money and that is the last time the three men, or anyone for that matter, faces anything in a court of law in relation to the murder of Robert Wone. The question remains: What exactly happened to Robert Wone, and why was he murdered? There are theories, but not a great deal of them. Most people tend to fall into two camps: either Robert was murdered by a total stranger who broke into the Townhouse that night or Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward know exactly who murdered him, and in may in fact have been, one or all of them.
The intruder theory was put forward by the three men. According to them, on the night of Robert’s murder, everyone has retired to their own bedrooms by 11pm. Robert is heard taking a shower and sometime later, both Price and Zaborsky report hearing their door chime. The Townhouse is equipped with a security system, and the system puts out a digital chime every time a door is opened. They believe it’s possible that their fourth roommate, Sarah Morgan, has entered the home even though she had told them she wouldn’t be back that night. Thinking nothing of this, Zabosky and Price say that though the chime woke them, they drifted back to sleep. According to their claims, sometime between 11:30 and 11:45pm, they hear what they described as a low scream. This sound disturbs them enough to get out of bed and investigate. Their master bedroom is on the third floor, and as they approach the stairs to go down to the second, they hear the scream again. Concerned, they run down the stairs and immediately proceed to Robert’s room.
I’ve always found this detail intriguing. If they heard a scream, why did they run to Robert’s room first? It would have been just as likely that the sound could have been coming from Ward’s room. I’ve looked at layouts of the townhouse, and done virtual tours of it. From everything I have seen, Dylan’s room is at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor. The Stairs leading to the third floor are right above these steps, which would mean that Price and Zaborsky actually had to pass Ward’s room to get to Robert’s that night. According to statements from Ward, he heard the screaming when the body was discovered and this woke him from his sleep. This would suggest that not only did Zaborsky and Price run straight to Robert’s room, they didn’t even come back to check on Ward. For whatever reason, upon hearing the scream, they just immediately assumed it was Robert. Even if they knew Ward’s voice well enough to have identified the scream as not belonging to him, wouldn’t you have gone back and checked to make sure the other man sleeping on the second floor was safe? It’s a strange piece of information, but one which doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.
Upon discovering Robert’s body, Price directs Zaborsky to call 911. The way in which Robert is discovered is somewhat in debate. Price reportedly told paramedics that they found Robert on the patio, and brought him inside, laying him on the bed. This is consistent with what paramedics report, saying that the room had very little blood in it, and Robert is found laying on the bed, at an angle, on top of the sheets and blankets. It appears as if the bed was prepared for the night, but Robert never had a chance to actually get under the covers. During the 911 call, Zaborsky is extremely distraught, breaking down several times. The operator instructs him to have someone place a towel over Robert’s wounds, and to apply pressure. Zaborsky says this is happening, but when paramedics arrive, they find Price standing in the room. They see a bloody towel, but it isn’t being used on Robert. It’s hard to translate someone’s feelings, or to interpret their response to something, and this is the case for both the paramedic and Price. Price is standing there, looking at Robert. Is he in shock, is he scared, is he covering something up? That’s impossible to say. What we do know is that the paramedic states that Price seemed off, and gave him a strange vibe. Strange enough that the paramedic didn’t want to turn his back to Price.
A lot has been debated about the arrival of the paramedics. They have said that the three men seemed calm and distant, that they were unhelpful in directing them to the bedroom. The thing I find odd about this is we can hear Zaborsky losing it on the 911 call. He stays on that call until the paramedics arrive, and I don’t see how anyone could call his behavior that night calm. He is totally freaking out. Maybe he calmed down later, maybe shock set in, but he seems a lot more responsive than is described by the EMTs. The EMT’s make several other statements regarding the men. They describe all three men as appearing freshly showered, and they also say that Robert himself appears to have been cleaned. It’s almost immediately that the EMTs feel the body has been tampered with in some way. They see the bloody towel in the room, and are unsure if this towel was previously used to try and help Robert, or if perhaps it was used as a cleaning device to distort the scene of the crime.
EMT’s take Robert from the home after Police arrive, and despite the severity of his wounds, they continue life saving measures. Upon his arrival at the hospital, he is pronounced dead. Within a few days, the medical examiner will conduct and autopsy and make several strange discoveries about the shape that Robert’s body was found in. Police on the scene begin questioning the three men about what happened, and all three insist that it must have been an intruder who entered the home and murdered Robert. They have no knowledge of or guesses as to motive. Many people have a problem with this theory, including the police. And me.
Why would an intruder enter this home and either take a knife from the kitchen, or have brought his own knife, climb to the second floor, pass by an occupied bedroom and enter the guest room in order to murder Robert? Most intruders enter with the intention of theft, and if murder is on the list, they usually have a reason. There doesn’t appear to be one here, and nothing is missing from the home. In addition to this, police find no sign of forced entry. The three men point to the fact that the kitchen door may not have been locked that night. Price, in his interrogation, says it was ajar when they came downstairs that night. Both Price and Ward report that at some point that night, after Robert arrived, they were in the kitchen talking when Price saw something and stepped outside. It seems like a strange detail, and if you live in an expensive Townhouse with an alarm system, are you really the type who is going to forget to close a door? Possibly. It should be noted also that the system wasn’t armed that night. The police find this odd, and during the interrogation, they point out the fact that the men live in an area with a high burglary rate. They ask Price about this, and he claims to not be aware of it.
If it didn’t make sense before, it’s going to make a lot less sense after the medical examiner files her reports. According to DC Medical Examiner Lois Goslinoski, the state of the body is highly inconsistent with an intruder murder scenario. Robert’s wounds are uniform, and medically precise, indicating that he wasn’t moving during the stabbing. Goslinoski states “medical evidence firmly establishes Mr. Wone was alive, but incapacitated, at the time the stab wounds were inflicted. Indeed, even if he were merely restrained as opposed to entirely incapacitated or immobilized, he would likely have indications of defensive wounds.” According to her, Robert is likely not conscious when he is stabbed. If you’re conscious, and someone stabs you, you’re going to move, to wriggle, to recoil, but that doesn’t happen here. Robert is stationary during the stabbing. This would suggest that Robert was either unconscious due to an unknown reason, or he was drugged.
The medical examination finds burst capillaries in Robert’s eyes, petechial hemorrhages, which suggests asphyxia. Some have theorized that someone held a pillow over Robert’s face at some point in time, smothering him. There are no signs or marks of strangulation discovered, so it would have to be something like this to cause those burst capillaries. So if Robert was drugged, and partially asphyxiated, why was he stabbed instead of completely smothered? It’s yet another strange piece of information in this case which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Stabbing is messy, it’s difficult to do and it requires a certain kind of person. Smothering is much less messy, and if you have the man drugged, you could easily have done this and not had to go to the extreme of stabbing.
Fascinatingly, there is a knife in the room where the murder took place, and yet it is deemed to be inconsistent with the wounds. Let me explain this again: There is a knife, on the bedside table, with Robert’s blood on it, and yet it is believed to not be the murder weapon. In fact, when examined forensically, it had cotton fibers on it matching a towel, but not fibers from Robert’s shirt, which he was stabbed through. It is suggested that the knife was actually smeared in Robert’s blood, or was run through the bloody towel, and that this is how his blood came to be on it. In his interrogation, Price says that the knife was laying on Robert when he entered the room and that he moved it to the bedside table. In his conversation with a friend, Price says that he physically pulled the knife out of Robert. Neither of these stories can be true since that knife was almost certainly not the one used to stab him.
Then the medical examiner releases information that, to me, is the biggest indicator that the intruder theory is absolutely manufactured: when the medical examiner swabs Robert’s body, she finds evidence of semen on his pelvis region, and inside of his anus. One immediately thinks this would be suggestive of rape, until it’s proven through DNA analysis that the semen found on Robert’s body is his own. How does your own semen end up inside of you? I can’t begin to imagine how many different scenarios make this possible, but there are a few which come to mind. There’s the possibility that a sex toy was used post ejaculation, and that Robert’s semen ended up on it, and then it was forced inside of him. There’s also the connection to the Erostek machine, the one used for electrical stimulation. Regardless of the actual method, since all thoughts on this are speculative, because of the fact that Robert was obviously incapacitated, it’s highly unlikely he was a willing participant.
During his interrogation, Price is directly asked whether or not Robert was gay and he responds “No. Not gay. Never has been, didn’t think about it. You know, no drugs, no booze, nothing. Robert was like the, you know, best, you know, absolutely straight A, you know, no nonsense guy I ever met.” If Robert was straight as all evidence suggests, then how does he end up in this situation outside of the possibility that Robert was sexually assaulted? Nothing comes to mind outside of that possibility. Robert is staying in the home of a friend, with three gay men, and ends up murdered and there are clear signs of sexual assault. This makes the intruder theory extremely difficult to buy, unless of course there was an angry ex boyfriend who came in and wanted to kill someone, but ended up in Robert’s room by accident. Even under that possibility, we are talking about a very small window of opportunity here. Sometime around 11pm, Ward hears Robert entering the shower. The phone call to 911 is placed at 11:49pm. It doesn’t seem like 49 minutes is a long time for someone to enter the home, go to Robert’s bedroom, somehow force him to ejaculate, murder him and escape. I’m sure by some standard this is possible, but it just seems so completely unlikely.
Police find no foreign fingerprints, no signs of forced entry, no suspicious vehicles or people seen in or around the neighborhood. There is nothing to indicate that anyone other than Robert Wone, Joseph Price, Victor Zaborky and Dylan Ward were in the Townhome that night. The Medical examiner discovers marks on Robert’s body that suggest that he was injected with something, they are what appear to be marks made by a hypodermic needle. This would follow the logical thought that Robert could have been injected with something to incapacitate him, whether this was done to open the door to sexual assault, or if murder was the plan all along, is something nobody knows for sure. To me, the idea that this crime was committed by an unknown intruder is extremely unlike. Now, what about a known intruder?
We know that in the months following the murder, Price’s brother Michael is arrested in connection with breaking into the Townhouse and a theft of over $7000 worth of electronics. We also know that he had a key to the home, struggled with drug issues, and at the time of the murder was in school taking classes in phlebotomy and just happened to miss his class that particular night, which his advisors all state was unlike him. In fact, up until that night, Michael Price had perfect attendance in the class. Michael had a domestic partner named Louis Hinton. According to prosecutors “Hinton stated his diary / journal also has entries about Michael Price relapsing with crack cocaine immediately following the murder and described that relapse as the worst one.” Is it possible that Michael Price murdered Robert Wone and then his brother and partners covered the crime up? Absolutely. Though I do find it difficult to imagine that all three of the men would be willing to risk their freedom to protect someone who they describe as a drug addict, and who they later had arrested for breaking into their home and stealing electronics. Police have stated that Michael is a person of interest, but have recovered no solid evidence linking him with the murder. Keep in mind that the judge who dismissed the charges against the three men stated that she believed they knew who murdered Robert. Michael is certainly a possibility.
So if it wasn’t a total stranger, or Michael, who broke into the home that night and murdered Robert, that really only leaves the possibility that one or all of the three men were involved in this crime. Police firmly believe that the crime scene was tampered with, and that Robert was cleaned prior to their arrival. They also speculate that the three men had showed and cleaned up before calling them, and that they in fact delayed the call itself. The neighbor, Mr. Thomas, stated that he heard a scream between 11 and 11:30. Price and Zaborsky claim the scream occurred later, between 11:30 and 11:45. There are also the emails on Robert’s blackberry, which police believe were faked. According to my research, you can change the time on a blackberry, type out emails which get time stamped, and then change the time back to being correct and the emails will remain time stamped. Police believe that one of the men in the home did this as a way to establish that Robert was alive later than the police believe he was. The emails don’t really make sense either, since Robert was more likely to have called his wife to tell her he had arrived at the townhouse and was getting ready for bed, rather than to write her an email about it.
Regardless of the belief on the emails, they were lost due to improper processing of evidence. In addition to this mistake, forensic investigators also improperly used some chemicals to check for blood, and all of that evidence had to be thrown out. Suffice it to say, Police develop a scenario in which Robert is sexually assaulted, then murdered. Following this, they believe that one or all of the men went outside where they washed off their blood clothes and then took showers before calling 911. They believe that blood evidence found in the dryer suggests that the clothes were washed, and sometime in between the murder and the 911 call, that the murder weapon was disposed of and the second knife was substituted in.
All three men stand opposed to this theory, and when you examine it, it’s truly difficult to determine a motive for the crime. The only motive that makes sense is that one or all of them either engaged in consensual sexual activity with Robert, or he was drugged and assaulted, and the murder was committed to cover this up. The only way this would make sense to me is if Robert regained consciousness at some point during the assault and threatened legal action. What doesn’t make sense is that he was incapacitated when he was stabbed, so is it possible that he was injected with a drug, sexually assaulted, came out of it and yelled, but was then injected again and murdered? Certainly possible. Remember, the neighbor heard the scream, and Zaborsky and Price say they heard one also. Incapacitated people don’t scream, so Robert had to be awake at some point and able to shout.
Both Price and Ward state that they stood in the kitchen with Robert and drank water before going to bed. Some have speculated that they could have slipped something into Robert’s drink and drugged him that way, and that perhaps the injection sites on his body were the result of that particular drug not keeping him incapacitated enough. It’s possible, though this would suggest premeditation on the part of the men, and I don’t think the evidence suggests that. If you were going to drug a man and assault him, it seems sort of strange to make that choice and to try and squeeze it all in to such a tight and compacted time frame. Unless, of course, one or all of them had done something like this before. There’s no way to know for sure, and like most of this case, that makes it even more frustrating and hard to wrap your head around.
To me, it seems most likely that one of the men in the house that night is responsible for the murder of Robert Wone. I don’t think all three of them were in on it, and it could have a myriad of motives. The two which seem most likely to me are that Robert was either murdered to cover up the sexual assault, or Robert was murdered out of jealousy. Is it possible that one of the three men was jealous of Robert being there that night, or perhaps his closeness with Joseph Price?
We know that Zaborsky and Price were lovers, and that Ward was a sometimes third person invited into the bedroom. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to assume that perhaps Zaborsky or Ward could have become angry that Robert was staying there that night and wanted to do something to make sure he never came back, or perhaps to do something to him in order to get to Price. I think the sexual assault occurred and I sincerely doubt that anything that happened to Robert that night was consensual. Anything I could say about it would be completely speculative, but to me, the evidence all points to one of the three men being involved and that the others were participants in a cover up for one reason or another. Regardless of theories, of evidence, of speculation or assumption, I find it remarkably difficult to imagine that someone in that house doesn’t know more than he is saying. At a minimum, someone has an idea of what happened, and at a maximum, someone knows exactly what happened.
In the years since Robert’s murder, little new information has come to light and no charges of murder have ever been filed. The three men who spent Robert’s last night with him have had little to say about the crime itself. This is a terrible thing that happened, and for Robert’s wife and family, they spend every day wondering what happened to him, and why. As of today, we don’t have these answers. It’s been just a few days over eleven years since Robert Wone was murdered, and we know about as much today as we knew the day it happened. Somewhere someone knows the truth, and at some point in time, perhaps the dark cloud of that information will force someone to speak out. Until then, the murder of Robert Wone remains unsolved.