Robert Wone’s Grisly D.C. Murder Inspires Four Gay Men to Seek Out the Truth

11On August 2, 2006, Robert Wone, the happily married general counsel for Radio Free Asia and president-elect of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association-D.C., was found stabbed to death in the apartment of a prominent D.C. gay couple. Police reports later said that Wone had been drugged, stabbed with a needle, tied up and sexually assaulted before being stabbed in the heart with a butcher knife. Now, Joseph Price and Victor Zaborsky, the gay homeowners, and their roommate, Dylan Ward, are facing multiple obstruction of justice charges in a trail that begins in April.

All four men have deep ties to the D.C. establishment. Price was general counsel and co-founder of Equality Virginia, and has ties to the Human Rights Campaign, having worked on a pro-bono basis for several high-profile gay rights cases. Price and Zaborsky were featured in a USA Today story on gay parents after donating their sperm to a lesbian couple. Ward also worked at Equality Virginia and, according to court documents, was in a consensual S&M relationship with Price, with Ward as the dominant. They were all college friends of Wone, who often stayed at their apartment when he worked late, as he did on that night in 2006, spurring rumors that Wone was living a double life.

It’s a story that has all the makings of a major Washington scandal, but, according to four amateur gay sleuths who’ve made it their mission to find out who killed Robert Wone, the media’s been asleep at the wheel.

wone-robertCraig Brownstein is a media relations director at Edelman and has been a journalist for 17 years, serving as a producer at C-SPAN. His partner, Doug Johnson, is a broadcaster and webcaster at Voice of America, and also a journalist, having contributed to NPR, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post. Their friend David Grier is currently the senior speechwriter for a trade association and a former member of the President’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS. And Michael Kremin is a digital media consultant and an expert in internet-television convergence.

In December, “the Scooby gang,” as they call themselves, went out for Brownstein’s traditional birthday dinner at one of the group’s favorite Vietnamese restaurants in Arlington, Virginia. The conversation turned away from the usual birthday chitchat as David began to tell them about Zaborsky, Price and Ward’s original affidavit.

They wound up talking for four or five hours, trying to piece together what had happened from what they knew, trying to determine motives and time lines and at the end of the night, they collectively decided they ought to do a blog about what was happening in the case.

Which is how Who Murdered Robert Wone? was born.

David got the site up and running and Michael upgraded it to Word Press. Their goal is to raise awareness about the crime and, according to Brownstein, “To begin painting a portrait of what was going on and the nature of the crime … beyond what was being portrayed in the mainstream media.”

“Because the people in this case are not camera-ready, they get ignored.”

So far they’ve wracked up an impressive amount of information. They’ve aggregated coverage, interviewed mortuary specialists about the drugs supposedly used on Wone and how they could be detected. Michael found Price’s sex profiles online and deciphered his online screen name. The group discovered the USA Today story that, as they put it, “posed them as the model gay couple.” And David recently found a personal email that Price sent friends asking for money for his legal defense.

While they have no personal connection to the defendants, they say, “As four gay guys who have lived in Washington D.C for nearly 20 years (some more), it didn’t take long for us to ask … to find people that knew them. You know, it’s a small town.” According to Craig:

Just last weekend we had dinner with two guys who had a couple of playtime, drugged up go-rounds with one of the defendants (Dylan Ward) at the Crew Club, what passes for a gay bathhouse in DC. We learned last week that an acquaintance of Doug’s was Dylan’s roommate at Georgetown University. We’re hearing from other people who knew them professionally, socially and sexually.

Doug feels lucky his job made him aware of the case so early, as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America are both government-funded entities.

“I was aware immediately of Robert Wone’s death given that he works for an affiliated agency [of Voice of America] – and there was some discussion within Voice of America – shock mostly, but then what happened is what we saw over the past two years; a general silence on the part of the mainstream media, perhaps out of the result of squeamishness. You know, all of us have discovered it doesn’t take very much conversation, talking with people, gay/otherwise, legal/otherwise, within Washington, who are aware of this case and are puzzled by the curiosities of it, and frankly, its lack of coverage.”

pricejoseph-cropped-copyJohnson believes the MSM has avoided the case because it involves solely minorities:

It was about people who are not, let’s be honest, the sort of people they normally cover. Robert is Asian-American and the defendants are gay guys. To be blunt, none of them are young blonde girls. Take a look at the Chandra Levy case: it was all over the networks, but because the people in this case are not – how do you say? – camera-ready, they get ignored.

When it comes to gay media coverage, they believe that the gay press is simply not equipped to handle a story of this size. “While the [Washington] Blade has done coverage,” they note, “they have limited resources and can only cover so many stories.” Though they also point out that the defendant’s close ties to gay Washington make the story a problematic one for gay press, as the accused hardly put the gay community in a good light. Says the Scooby gang, “The best way to encapsulate the idea of certain squeamishness over this crime and its more sensational elements almost makes this maybe “the case that dare not speak its name.’”

The four maintain that their only goal is to get to the bottom of the case and that they have not judged the defendants or made up their minds. Although Doug pipes up, “Some of us have!” Doug’s latest blog post, in which he tries to test whether the defendant’s intruder theory holds water, might give you some indication of which way he’s leaning:

“Twenty minutes: for an intruder to enter, go upstairs, both stab Mr. Wone as well as administer six small puncture wounds, somehow sexually stimulate Mr. Wone with the end result of the coroner finding the victim’s own semen in his rectum, allow enough time for the victim to continue living for a period after the stabbing (see coroner’s report) and for possible suffocation, flee the scene silently through the back door (this time not setting off the chime) while Price and Zaborsky upstairs hear muffled grunts and run downstairs – seeing or hearing no-one – to find Mr. Wone on his bed, ultimately leading Mr. Zaborsky to scream. Try as I might, I cannot see how this makes any sense, even presuming the absolute best of the defendants.”

None of the men think the defendant’s will ever be tried for murder. Brownstein says:

[The D.C. District Attorney] has a good case against them for obstruction of justice and evidence tampering, but there are too many holes to try for murder. We’re not interested in seeing justice done. That’s not for us to do and it’s not our intention with the site. There’s a difference between justice and truth and what we want is to know what happened, so that [Wone’s wife] can have some peace and so the truth can be known.

We admit the story is a fascinating one and how such prominent members of the D.C. gay establishment could wind up implicated in a murder as grisly and deranged as Robert Wone’s is a deeply troubling question. What are your theories? Why is there so little coverage on such a scandalous story? And, as gay folks, do you want the coverage?

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  • Alan down in Florida

    “the coroner finding the victim’s own semen in his rectum” Just that one sentence is enough for me to understand why the MSM isn’t touching the story. Just imagine the uproar if that info was in a format that straight children might see. OMG!!

    The attitude of the media and the police is ADF (another dead faggot). It’s one of those cases which they can tie up with a bright ribbon and dispose of quickly – regardless if justice be done.

  • blake

    @Alan down in Florida:

    By all accounts, Mr. Wone was not gay. He was a college roommate and friend of one of the homeowners. That night, Wone was working late at the office. He spoke to his friend, a college buddy, who offered to let him crash at his place instead of having to drive home. Wone called his wife to let her know what he was spending the night at his friend’s house.

    (In previous postings, people have assumed that Wone was gay. However, because a man is the victim of rape we should not jump to the conclusion that he is gay; doing so in this circumstance adds to the stereotype that no straight man can have gay friends unless that straight man is either secretly gay or bisexual.)

    The coroner reports theorized that Wone was sleeping when someone injected him with a paralytic, tied him up, raped him, and then stabbed. Imagine the horror of Mr. Wone’s experience.

    As for the mainstream media not investigating this story, Wone was an Asian-American man and he died after being raped. The media have a long history of ignoring the deaths and disappearances of people of color as well as stories that have to do with male rape.

    Had Wone been a straight, pretty, young white woman/girl who had died under similar circumstances, there is much greater likelihood that the media would have played up the story as they did with Chandra Levy or Elizabeth Smart, for instance.

  • John

    There are some errors in this article. First, the police reports did not say Wone had been “tied up.” He had been incapacitated, probably by drugs/injections, and therefore there were no defensive wounds on his body. Second, Wone was not college friends with all the men. He only knew Joe Price from college. Third, the police investigation found that Aug. 2 was the first time Wone had spent a night over at Price’s home. This visit was planned days in advance because Wone had a legal seminar to attend and also was going to work after that.

    It is so true that had Robert Wone been a pretty white girl, this would be all over the news and Nancy Grace would be crowing every night about it. Natalie Hollaway, Laci Peterson, Cayle Anthony, etc. As if dead men and people of color are invisible, and their deaths don’t matter!

  • Moishe Feinbaum

    I would strongly disagree.If the victim was white the media would just pass over it with a minimum of concern if the victim was a “person of color” a term used in modern media parlance then of course it would be time to summon the race racketeers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Moprah.I myself would suspect the victims closest friends and lovers as the perpetrators.

  • Arlen Rothberg

    These victims were white.The crime was perpetrated by blacks.This horror will not be mentioned in our objective and unbiased if you dare.

    Stone also pointed out that Boyd, when initially confronted by the U.S. Marshals Service’s Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force, denied knowing Davidson.

    Late Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning, jurors heard graphic testimony from Knox County Acting Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan about the deaths of Newsom and Christian.

    She told jurors that Newsom was repeatedly raped and then blindfolded, gagged, arms and feet bound and his head covered. Barefoot, he was either led or dragged outside the house to a set of nearby railroad tracks, where a gun was placed to the back of his head and fired. He was shot twice more, once in the neck and once in the back. His body was then set afire, she said.

    Christian’s death would come only after hours of sexual torture, Mileusnic-Polchan testified.

    “It’s much more than a simple sexual assault,” she said. “It’s extreme.”

    Christian suffered horrific injuries to her vagina, anvs and mouth. She was not only raped but savaged with “an object,” the doctor testified. She was beaten in the head. Some type of chemical was poured down her throat, and her body, including her bleeding and battered genital area, likely scrubbed with the same solution – all while Christian was alive, the forensic expert said.

    She was then “hog-tied,” with curtains and strips of bedding, her face covered tightly with a small white trash bag and her body stashed inside five large trash bags before being placed inside a large trash can and covered with sheets, Mileusnic-Polchan testified.

    Christian died slowly, suffocating, the medical examiner said.

    “My conclusion was she actually died in the trash can,” Mileusnic-Polchan testified.

  • Detective L

    It’s definitely true that the media’s saying there’s no evidence of Robert Wone being gay, but what I can’t figure out is WHY he spent the night at his friends’ house in Dupont. As a Fairfax resident, it seems so strange to me that one would spend the night in Dupont because they had to work late. Fairfax is a bedroom community–the whole point of it is that it’s easily accessible from DC. He could have taken a cab from Dupont and been home in less than 15 minutes. It just doesn’t make sense to me that he would have stayed in Dupont for the night. It makes me think he HAD come for sex.

  • Manhattan mystery lover

    I know this really isn’t politically correct to state, but based upon what I have viewed in the gay community over the years, often just tangentially, I confess-nothing surprises me. Here we see the elite in action, if you will. For that matter what was the opinion of homosexuals held be the American Psychiaric Association until 1973 when everyone was instantly cured, for those who recall a modicum of history.

  • Pete No Meet

    @Arlen Rothberg: WTF are you talking about? Some other killing???????????

  • MarkF

    Can I just point out tangentially something that we all know and have experienced? We all know that there is a LOT of kink in the male homosexual world. There is a lot of sexualized violence, humiliation, submission. There is a lot of use of erotic props, some quite unusual. All of this is present a lot more among men with same-sex attraction then it is among straight men. We all hang around straight guys. Yeah some can be kinky, but most of them are all about one thing and one thing only – vanilla vaginal sex with women. For most straight guys, that’s all that sex ever means and if you ask them to get creative, all that they can come up with is to want two women at the same time.

    We see a lot more prevalence of kink in men with same-sex attraction and the kink that we see there is a lot more kinky. Just take a look at gay porno versus straight porno. This is certainly not a well kept secret.

    So can we please stop with all this nonsense where we pretend that homosexuality and heterosexuality are interchangeable? They’re not. Homosexuality is a pretty dark quality. Are we so insecure that we can’t recognize this? Do we need constant approval of ourselves in all aspects?

    Personally I can’t blame the standard straight people for fearing homosexuality. They want to have their kids, have their kids feel safe and go on with their lives without all of our nasty fun being pawned off as normal. It’s not. It never will be. But what’s so wrong about saying that?

    Personally I think that homosexuality should be tolerated but not accepted, not promoted and not normalized. DADT would be a good policy for the whole country. We’re a bit off. We’re more than a bit off really. Deep down most of us know that.

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