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William Thomas, a slight, silver-haired and amber-colored man with a methodical way of speaking, took the stand early in the senational trial of three Dupont Circle men accused of covering up the 2006 murder of D.C. attorney Robert Wone. (A verdict is expected early next week.) Thomas told the judge he heard “a desperation scream” come from his neighbors’ house the night of the murder. He was able to estimate the time of the shriek at between 11 and 11:30 p.m., based on the voice of newscaster Maureen Bunyan. Thomas and his wife are big fans of the WJLA-TV anchor, who comes on nightly for the 11 o’clock newscast. Thomas said he could hear his wife watching Bunyan in the background when the scream occurred.

Thomas seems a linchpin to the prosecution’s case, as defendants Joseph Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky didn’t place a 911 call about the overnight guest who’d been stabbed at their house at 1509 Swann Street NW until about 11:49 p.m., leaving plenty of time between the scream to the 911 call to concoct the alleged coverup plot they’re accused of.

Entering an episode of the ABC program Nightline as evidence this week, Thomas Connolly, a lawyer for the defense, claims “dear old Mr. Thomas” is mistaken. He didn’t hear Bunyan that night, Connolly said, he heard Nightline presenter Vicki Mabrey, who was on the same channel a bit later.

Starting at 11:45 p.m., on August 2, 2006, the night of Wone’s slaying, the female journalist was broadcasting a segment about record summer temperatures.  Thomas’ wife admits she left the TV on past 11:30 p.m.

Connolly wanted to play segments of Bunyan’s voice and Mabrey’s voice in court to see if Thomas could tell the difference. But Judge Lynn Leibovitz called the proposal a “stunt” and didn’t permit it.

Herewith, video of both Mabrey and Bunyan. Close your eyes and see if you can tell the difference:

Photo by Darrow Montgomery