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As far as we know, Robert Wone stayed really still for his murderer. Even as the killer plunged a kitchen knife, estimated at between four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half inches long, through him three times, one time with enough force to break through the bone of his sternum. Even as he oozed blood into his gray William and Mary t-shirt and the waistband of his black William and Mary shorts. In the throes of death, he didn’t stir much either. As if the characteristically tidy Wone was committing one last act of neatness, he remained on his back and bled only two small spots of blood onto the blue Ralph Lauren sheets he was found on.
To hear prosecutors tell it, Wone suffered from weirdly uniform wounds that lack tell-tale tears that would indicate he moved at all as the murder weapon left gashes in his torso. For the lawyers attempting to convict Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward for conspiring to cover-up Wone’s murder, the lack of any evidence that Wone tried to defend himself, or that he even reflexively reacted to the pain of being knifed, is proof that the defendants are hiding something about the August 2, 2006, slaying that happened at their Dupont Circle home.
Early in the trial, D.C. Deputy Medical Examiner Lois Goslinoski, who performed Wone’s autopsy, told the court that “Wone should have responded to the wounds.” Goslinoski (whose findings were later backed up by forsenic pathologist Dr. David Richard Fowler) said that the only way a person wouldn’t have reacted is if he had some kind of neurological problem. Or, she said, “They could be under the influence of some substance that would not allow them to respond.” The prosecution believes needle marks found on the body prove it was the latter. They believe the defendants, or someone close to the them, drugged Wone prior to the stabbing.
Attorneys for the accused have come up with what seems like an unusual counter-narrative to the drugged-and-stabbed story: Wone didn’t move because he slept through his murder. An intruder, who hopped a tall backyard fence and found the backdoor open, crept up the stairs, stabbed Wone in his sleep, and then fled without taking anything or even being seen. Though various aspects of the story might seem implausible, on Monday, an expert for the defense seemed to lend credibility to one of them.
Testifying for the defense, forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent Di Maio told the court of stabbing victims, “Some people move and some people don’t.”
“Some people get a small wound and faint, other people keep plugging away,” Di Maio added. The forensic expert asserted that it was possible that Wone went instantly unconcious after being stabbed in his sleep three times in rapid succession. As for why he didn’t react reflexively to the pain: “Once it [the knife] goes through it’s actually not painful,” said Di Maio. He pointed out that in combat, soldiers are often shot without realizing it. Di Maio also said that as far as defensive wounds go, it’s been documented that some 60 percent of stabbing victims don’t acquire them.
One thing bothersome about Di Maio’s theory that Wone slept through his slaughter, however, is that during a police interrogation Price told cops that he and Zaborsky rushed to Wone’s room when they heard him make several noises. “It was like yelling but it wasn’t like…it was grunts or something,” Price told police. So Wone was awake enough to grunt, but not enough to move?
Defendants Price, Ward, and Zaborsky are charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection to the death of their friend Wone, who was staying the night in their guest room when he was killed. Price also faces charges of evidence tampering.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery