Why is Robert Wone’s murder case unsolved?
True crime is an industry of entertainment that continues to fascinate viewers, readers, and conspiracy theorists alike. No true crime sparks the fascination more than a cold case. And no cold case is more fascinating than an unsolved murder. The list of unsolved murders is long enough to fill season upon season of investigative shows.
One of the murders that continues to be on the cold case list took place in August of 2006. After fifteen years, there are still more questions than answers surrounding the unsolved murder of Robert Eric Wone, but what went wrong? Why has no one been charged with his murder?
Wone was a fourth-generation Chinese-American born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, he attended William and Mary before the University of Pennsylvania Law School, eventually becoming an attorney.
Wone joined Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. in 2000 as an associate focusing on employment law & commercial real estate. In 2002, he met his wife, Katherine Ellen Yu, an attorney, at a conference in Philadelphia. After many weekend flights to Chicago, Wone proposed, and the two were married the following year, in June 2003.
He served as a board member 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 and American Bar Association public education committee, and treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association-D.C.
On August 2nd, 2006, Robert Eric Wone was fatally stabbed while staying overnight at a Swann Street, NW rowhouse in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The home was owned by Joseph Price and his domestic partner Victor Zaborsky, where they lived with Dylan Ward in a polyamorous relationship as a family. After working late, Wone had gone to Price’s residence at about 10:30 PM, as had been arranged days before.
Neighbors reported hearing a scream, later identified as Zaborsky’s, during the 11:00 PM newscast. Zaborsky made a 911 call at 11:49 PM, and paramedics arrived five minutes later, followed by the officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Price phoned Wone’s wife, and Wone was pronounced dead at George Washington University Hospital at 12:24 AM on August 3rd.
Price, Zaborsky, and Ward initially spoke with the police without attorneys, and attorneys showed video recordings of those interviews at the subsequent conspiracy trial. The three men denied any involvement in Wone’s death and speculated that an intruder had killed him. The three also denied any sexual relationship with Wone, and Wone’s family have described him as both “straight and happily married.”
All three men attended Wone’s funeral, where Price served as a pallbearer. Future U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who at that time worked at Wone’s former employer Covington & Burling, called Wone “a kind and gentle man” who was “killed in the most horrible of ways.”
Investigation & arrest
Paramedics responding to the emergency call “found the three residents’ calm behavior unusual; none were screaming or even helping direct the paramedics.” According to Ward’s attorney, detectives who interrogated the three housemates on the night of the murder informed them that they were the main suspects in the case and asked many sexually charged, accusatory questions.
Three days after the murder, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the MPDC was called in, but unit head Sgt. Brett Parson declined to discuss the unit’s involvement. Within two weeks of the murder, police publicly alleged that the crime scene had been tampered with.
Investigators spent more than three weeks examining the rowhouse in detail, “removing flooring, pieces of walls, a chunk of the staircase, the washing machine, even sink traps.” Allegations that someone had cleaned the area around Wone’s body were revealed in an affidavit in support of a search warrant for Price’s offices at the D.C. law firm of Arent Fox.
An affidavit filed by authorities supporting an arrest warrant for Price, Ward, and Zaborsky showed that investigators had concluded the men were not telling the truth about what happened.
The report states, “Robert Wone was restrained, incapacitated, sexually assaulted, and murdered,” and there exists “overwhelming evidence, far beyond probable cause” that Price, Zaborsky, and Ward had 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.”
On June 29th, Judge Lynn Leibovitz found each of the three men not guilty of conspiracy charges, obstruction of justice, and tampering with evidence. In explaining her ruling for almost an hour from the bench, Leibovitz stated that she believed that the men knew who killed Wone but was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the offenses with which they were charged.
Wone’s death has proven to be one of the most mysterious homicide cases in Washington, D.C., history. In light of the arrests, the Washington Examiner listed the Wone case as one of eight top crime stories in D.C. for 2008. The Washington Blade stated that the case “has captured the interest of the gay community because it occurred inside the home of a prominent gay male couple.”
In March 2009, a MyFoxDC story on the crime highlighted a website cataloging the investigative efforts of “four amateur sleuths who live in the neighborhood.” Fifteen years after the death of Wone, no killer has ever been charged with the crime; even though law enforcement believes they know who was responsible, no evidence has been found to prove their theories, making Wone’s murder a continual cold case.