On May 10, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz will gavel in the conspiracy trial of three gay men linked to the murder of D.C. attorney Robert Wone. His stabbing in a Dupont Circle-area townhome is nearly four years old, and still maddeningly cloaked in mystery and speculation.
Four years is too long to wait for some measure of justice; and while the trial will, we hope, bring a verdict, it’s doubtful to move the community much closer to understanding what happened that night of Aug. 2, 2006.
Short of actually solving the crime of who murdered Robert Wone, his killing offers important lessons moving forward for all who live and socialize in the District. They are lessons that carry responsibilities not yet fully met.
No doubt many readers have at least passing memory of the murder. Certainly my longtime friends Michael Kremin, David Greer, Craig Brownstein and myself recall first hearing of the strange Swann Street stabbing of Wone in the home of prominent gay couple Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky. Then came the slow trickle of fact and rumor.
Facts such as domestic partners Price and Zaborsky sharing their home with Dylan Ward, and rumors about the details of their private living arrangements. Facts like the three housemates’ claims of complete lack of knowledge of what happened, and rumors about the intruder theory. Facts of the housemates’ very public work on LGBT equality issues, and rumors about Wone’s sexual orientation. (For the record, we are convinced that Robert Wone was straight.)
Years passed, and with it local media and community attention ebbed. But while the MPD, news organizations and the gay community appeared to lose interest, we did not. We four took as our task doing what we could to re-awaken awareness of the case, and in so doing perhaps assist in solving the mystery. The web site whomurderedrobertwone.com was born. (None of us personally knew Robert or the three Swann Street housemates and no one has been charged with the murder itself.)
So what have we learned? First, a police force is only as good as its community support and oversight. Crime investigations are necessarily messy, and as in this case, errors will be made. It’s not enough for citizens to merely complain after the fact; we must make sure the MPD has the resources it needs and demand the organization make improvements where it must. A good first step would be un-freezing hires into the MPD’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.
Second, news organizations are responsible for keeping attention on cases like this, but they cannot do it alone. In these days of increasing pressures on newsrooms and dwindling revenue, it’s understandable how important issues and developments can be missed. We have learned that ordinary residents have at hand the tools necessary to help shoulder some of that burden. All it takes is a keyboard, curiosity and commitment.
And lastly, all of us in the LGBT community bear some responsibility to help assist solving cases where we are not just the victims, but perhaps the perpetrators as well. Gays and lesbians have admirably stepped up to keep attention on the murder of Tony Hunter, the assault of Mitch Graffeo and his friend Jaime, and other hate-related crimes. We must do likewise especially in cases that may be unsettling, and that don’t conform to the “gays as victims” meme.
Although we never knew Robert during his lifetime, we know our city is poorer for his absence, and the absence of far too many others. But we can make a difference, if we pay attention to the lessons this tragedy offers. Lessons that can make our community safer for all who live here.
It’s a tribute we think Robert Wone would have appreciated.
Doug Johnson is one of four editors of the web site whomurderedrobertwone.com. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.