Robert Wone worked late at the office, then went to spend the night at a friend’s house. Ninety minutes later, he was dead from three stab wounds. The three men in the house with him that night are scheduled to go on trial May 10, but no one has been charged with the murder.
Harry Jaffe’s gripping tale of this confounding crime delves into the lives changed forever by the murder. In exclusive interviews, Robert’s widow, Kathy, describes their romance, their lives together, and how she’s tried to piece her life back together. The suspects, the the lawyers and Wone's friends come alive on the pages.
Read on and see what you think about who murdered Robert Wone.
Robert Wone’s last words to his wife were “I love you.”
It was 9:30 on the night of August 2, 2006. Robert Wone, general counsel for Radio Free Asia, called his wife, Kathy, on his cell phone and told her he was on his way back to his office on M Street in downtown DC. He was new in the job and wanted to meet the radio jocks who worked the night shift. Rather than take Metro all the way home to Oakton, he planned to stay in DC near Dupont Circle at the home of his old friend Joe Price.
“Have a good night,” Wone told her.
Price and Wone had been friends since their days at the College of William & Mary in the mid-1990s. Price had given Wone and his parents their first tour of the campus. The two young men shared a passion for politics and student government. Price, three years older, became Wone’s mentor and collaborator on campus projects.
Price graduated and earned a law degree at the University of Virginia. Wone got his at the University of Pennsylvania. Both went to work at white-shoe law firms in Washington. Price became a partner at Arent Fox; Wone worked at Covington & Burling before moving to Radio Free Asia. They were part of a tightly knit group of friends from William & Mary.
Price and Wone remained close, though their personal lives were very different. Price lived with two men in a three-way relationship; Wone was straight—he and Kathy married in 2003.
“I loved being his wife,” Kathy Wone says.
Wone arrived at Price’s home at 1509 Swann Street, Northwest, around 10:30. About 90 minutes later, Kathy got another call—this one from Price.
He told her Robert had been stabbed and was being taken to George Washington University Hospital.
Kathy called Robert’s parents, who had moved to Northern Virginia from Brooklyn that March to be near their son and daughter-in-law. They sped to George Washington University Hospital in Foggy Bottom. When they arrived, they learned Robert had been pronounced dead at 12:25 am.
That Robert Wone suffered three stab wounds is one of the few certainties about his death.
Two paramedics arrived at the Swann Street house five minutes and 40 seconds after a 911 dispatcher received a call about the stabbing at 11:49. They found Wone lying on his back on a pullout couch in a second-floor guest room. He was wearing a gray William & Mary T-shirt, gym shorts, and underwear. He had been stabbed three times in the chest. One thrust had pierced his heart. The slits were precise and clean. There was little blood on Wone, a few spots on the bed.
It appeared that the body had been “showered, redressed, and placed in the bed,” one paramedic reported.
Joe Price was sitting on the bed wearing a pair of white briefs.
“What’s going on?” the paramedic asked.
“I heard a scream,” Price said. He got up and walked away from the bed.
A knife was on the bedside table, but it might not have been the murder weapon.
Paramedics and police found Price’s two housemates looking showered and dressed in white bathrobes. One was talking on a cell phone. The paramedics asked, “What’s going on?” Neither replied.
Police took Price and his housemates, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward, to the bunker-like homicide headquarters across the Anacostia River. Detectives put them in separate rooms and questioned them until dawn. In oddly clinical terms, each said an intruder had entered the house, stabbed Robert Wone, and left.
“I know it sounds crazy,” Price told detectives. “In fact, if you told me this and I wasn’t in this place all night, I would say, ‘No way, it cannot happen—that’s crazy.’ But damned if it didn’t.”
The detectives used standard interrogation techniques to try to wring a confession. They told each housemate the others had told a different story. None of them budged.
For nearly four years, DC homicide detectives, the FBI, and federal prosecutors have been seeking clues and answers. The basic facts of the case haven’t changed. But officials have no motive, no murder weapon, one vial of blood, suspects but no murderer.
Joe Price and his two housemates are scheduled to go to trial May 10 in DC Superior Court. Prosecutors have charged them with evidence tampering, obstruction of an investigation, and conspiracy.
Was the murder of Robert Wone a perfect crime? We may never know exactly what happened that night on Swann Street. We’re left with the tragedy of Wone’s killing—an unexplained act of violence that has tested the power of friendship and brought out the best in some prominent Washington figures. It has forced Kathy Wone to search for the beauty of the human spirit after the love of her life was taken away.
“Right after Robert died, my world was blown into so many pieces—not even pieces but mountains of ash,” she told me in one of two exclusive interviews about her life with Robert; she declined to talk about the pending cases. “I wondered: Is there even really a finish line to putting one’s life back together?”