Kathy Wone Takes the Stand
The early days of Robert Wone’s murder trial reveals discrepancies in the defendants’ accounts and a warm relationship turned sour.
For more, read the full text of Harry Jaffe's investigation into Robert Wone's murder online now.
You have to marvel at Kathy Wone’s composure. How can this slight South Korean woman sit on the witness stand hour after hour—as she did for the past two days in DC Superior Court—and calmly recount the details of her husband’s final hours? On Tuesday, she described how she repacked her husband Robert’s bag for an overnight stay at a friend’s house, where he would be stabbed to death. How they started their last morning together on August 2, 2006, at the gym in Oakton, Virginia, and took Metro together to DC. That they e-mailed one another when they arrived at their downtown offices, as they did every morning. That Robert called her from his cell phone to say how excited he was about the legal seminar he had attended. How Joe Price, Robert’s close friend who was in the house and found the body, called her just after midnight, at 12:06.
“Kathy,” he said, “I can’t believe I’m calling you about this. Go over to George Washington Hospital. Robert has been stabbed in the back.”
And Kathy Wone’s tragedy began to unfold. She called Robert’s parents, who lived nearby, and took a cab with them to the hospital. In the absence of details, her mind raced.
“I wondered why Robert was walking outside this time of night,” she said from the witness stand. “Where in his back was he stabbed? His kidney? His spinal cord? If he was paralyzed, how would we make the townhouse adaptable to a wheelchair? I won’t love him any less if he’s disabled.”
Then she arrived at George Washington Hospital and saw her husband. He was dead. The details, then and now, are a mystery. Facts don’t match. The night of the murder, Joe Price told Kathy that Robert had been stabbed in the back; in fact, he knew the knife wounds were in his chest.
Yesterday and today, nearly four years after she lost her husband, Kathy was the first witness in the trial of Joe Price and his two lovers, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward. They lived together at 1509 Swann Street, Northwest, where Robert Wone was stabbed to death. He arrived at their house at 10:30 PM; 90 minutes later he was dead. They discovered his body and called the police. They said an intruder killed Wone; prosecutors don’t buy the story. The government has charged the three with conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and obstruction of justice.
Police and prosecutors haven’t been able to charge anyone with murder. Which underscores the question: Will Kathy Wone and her family get justice—and the truth?
As for a calm core, she showed it on the stand, even when she described the day her family’s routine gave way. Robert Wone, 34 at the time, was stabbed the night of Wednesday, August 2. Two nights later, Price, Zaborsky, and Ward paid an unannounced visit to the Wone’s townhouse in Oakton. Family and friends were preparing for the funeral.
“How did you react?” prosecutor Glenn Kirschner asked.
“As soon as I saw them, I wanted to comfort them,” she told him. “How are you doing? Where are you staying? How are you holding up?”
At that point, everyone but a few cops believed an intruder had killed Robert Wone. How could Joe Price, a close friend since their days at the College of William & Mary, have been involved in any way?
Kathy ushered the three into the basement so they could talk. She and Robert had recently renovated it, and there was no furniture. She sat near Joe Price on the floor.
Kathy testified: “At some point during that visit, I felt strong enough to ask what happened, even though I was scared of the answers. She said she asked Price if he heard any voices.
“Did you hear Robert’s voice? Did he scream and fight? That’s what he would’ve done.”
Wone testified that Joe Price said, “What I heard was ‘uhhh, uhhh, uhhh.’ ” And with every syllable he raised his hand and brought it down, as if he were stabbing someone in the chest.
“Stop,” Kathy said she told him. “I felt I had opened a book to its most terrifying page—and I needed to slam it shut.”
Since that time of commiseration between Kathy and the three men, they have become adversaries. The government has accused the men of covering up the murder. She has sued them for $20 million in a wrongful-death case.
Defense lawyers Bernard Grimm, Thomas Connolly and David Schertler also questioned Kathy about her relationship with Price, Zaborsky, and Ward. From her answers to both the prosecution and defense, they were more than casual friends to the Wones. Price and Zaborsky attended the Wones’ wedding. They visited often. Kathy asked Joe Price to be a pall bearer at Robert’s funeral.
More than a year after Robert’s death, they met and mingled at a friend’s wedding. Joe Price and Kathy Wone met for lunch, and he gave her e-mails from Robert that he had saved. They seemed to have had a warm and placid relationship before and after the tragic death—which will make it harder to prove that the three men had any reason to cover up Robert Wone’s murder.
The trial is scheduled to continue for many weeks in Courtroom 310.