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Friday, May 22, 2015

DC murder suspect did not act alone

More than one person likely was involved in the slayings of four people who were held captive inside a Washington, D.C., mansion until $40,000 was delivered last week, authorities revealed Friday.
Daron Dylon Wint, a welder with a criminal record of assaults who once worked for the mansion's owner, has been charged with murder. But authorities said they believe he did not act alone: A court document made public Friday said they believe the crimes "required the presence and assistance of more than one person."
Savvas Savopoulos, 46; his wife Amy, 47, and their housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa, 57, died from "blunt force and sharp force trauma." The couple's 10-year-old son, Philip, died of "thermal and sharp force injuries." All four bodies were found by firefighters after a flammable liquid was spread around the home and set ablaze.
"The crimes described in this affidavit required the presence and assistance of more than one person," said a court document made public Friday.
The document also confirms that thousands of dollars were delivered to the mansion before it was set on fire. Firefighters found all four bodies inside; three of them had been stabbed or bludgeoned.
The document says authorities believe "Wint and others" held the group captive until $40,000 was delivered to the home by an employee of Savopoulos. The family was then killed and the house set on fire, the document says.
Wint's DNA was found on the crust of a partially-eaten pepperoni pizza, one of two that were ordered on the evening of May 13 while the group was "being held against their will," the document said.
A woman believed to be Amy Savopoulos ordered the pizzas and paid for them with a credit card but told the delivery person to leave them on the front porch and ring the bell, because she was "nursing her sick child" and would not come to the door, the document says.
The pizza boxes were located in a bedroom where the adults were ultimately found.
The document says authorities believe "Wint and others" held the group captive until $40,000 was delivered to the home by an employee of Savopoulos. The family was then killed and the house set on fire, the document says.
The news comes as Wint was charged with murder on Friday afternoon after leading cops on a massive manhunt.
The multi-state search for the suspect in the horrific murders of a Washington businessman's family and their housekeeper ended late Thursday when police grabbed suspect Daron Dylon Wint and four associates in the nation's capital.
“Just got him,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said shortly before 11:30 p.m.
The task force took two other men and three women who were with Wint into custody during his arrest, but none were immediately charged with any crime.
The arrest capped a day that began with the revelation Wint had been identified in last week's murders of Savvas Savopoulos, 46; his wife Amy, 47; the couple's 10-year-old son Philip, and housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa, 57, by DNA left on pizza crust during what may have been an extended home invasion. Police traced Wint, a 34-year-old ex-con from Maryland, to Brooklyn, N.Y., and then back to Washington in the afternoon. 
Federal marshals had been tracking Wint Thursday night from College Park as he traveled in a white Chevrolet Cruze occupied by two unidentified women, police said. The car was following a white box truck, reportedly driven by Wint's brother and with another man inside. Both vehicles were stopped by marshals near 10th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE, the official said. Police found at least $10,000 in cash in the box truck, and all of the occupants were taken into custody, according to police.
Wint is accused of storming a Washington mansion near Vice President Biden's residence and owned by Savopoulos, the CEO of an iron works company. There, he allegedly held the family while ordering them to summon a courier with $40,000, then killed all four, dousing them with gasoline before setting the home on fire.
The four were found dead in the Savolpoulos family's burning home in a wealthy Northwest Washington neighborhood on the afternoon of May 14.
No other suspects have been identified, but police have not ruled out the possibility that other people were involved in the murders.
Wint is expected to make his initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court Friday afternoon, according to the Washington Post.
Following Wint's capture, the Savopoulos family released a statement, saying, "We are thankful to law enforcement who have worked so diligently to bring about an arrest in this case."
"While it does not abate our pain, we hope that it begins to restore a sense of calm and security to our neighborhood and to our city. We are blessed to live in a community comprised of close circles of friends who have supported us and grieve with us," the statement said. "Our family, and Vera's family, have suffered unimaginable loss, and we ask for the time and space to grieve privately."
Authorities said Thursday that Wint, a certified welder, worked for Savopoulos' company American Iron Works in the past. Savopoulos was the CEO of American Iron Works, a construction-materials supplier based in Hyattsville, Maryland, that has been involved in major projects in downtown Washington.
Wint was born and raised in Guyana and moved to the United States in 2000, when he was almost 20 years old, according to court records filed in Maryland. He joined the Marine Corps that same year and received an honorable discharge for medical reasons, the records show. Following his discharge, he worked as a certified welder, the records show.
Text messages and voicemails from the Savopouloses to their confused and frightened household staff suggest something was amiss in the house many hours before the bodies were found. Authorities believe, based on statements made by the staff, that the four victims were held against their will for several hours before being killed sometime on May 14. Sources told WTTG that Savvos and Amy Savopoulos, as well as Veralicia Figueroa, were found in chairs and doused with gasoline. Philip Savopoulos was found in his bed, covered in lacerations and burned beyond recognition.
Hours after the fire, the family's blue Porsche turned up in a church parking lot in suburban Maryland. It, too, had been set on fire.
DNA analysis at a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lab linked Wint to the crime, a law enforcement official involved in the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to discuss the investigation publicly.
During the family's final hours, someone called Domino's from their house and ordered pizza. The Washington Post reported that the DNA was found on a pizza crust. At a Domino's about 2 miles away, a worker told the AP that a pizza was delivered from there to the mansion that day. The delivery driver who dropped off the pizza told WTTG he was paid in cash placed in an envelope outside the front door.
Wint was convicted of assaulting one girlfriend in Maryland in 2009, and he pleaded guilty the next year to malicious destruction of property after he allegedly threatened to kill a woman and her infant daughter, breaking into her apartment, stealing a television and vandalizing her car.
"I'm going to come over there and kill you, your daughter and friends," Wint told that woman, according to the records. "The defendant advised he was good with a knife and could kill them easily and was not afraid of the police," a detective wrote.
Also in 2010, Wint was arrested carrying a 2-foot-long machete and a BB pistol outside the American Iron Works headquarters, but weapons charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to possessing an open container of alcohol.
Attorney Robin Ficker said Wint didn't seem violent when he defended him in earlier cases.
"My impression of him -- I remember him rather well -- is that he wouldn't hurt a fly. He's a very nice person," Ficker said.
A housekeeper who worked for the Savopoulos family for 20 years, Nelitza Gutierrez, told the AP that she believes the family and Figureroa were held captive for nearly a day before they were killed, citing an unusual voicemail she got from Savopoulos and a text message sent from the phone of his wife, telling her not to come to the house.
Gutierrez said she and Savopoulos spent May 13 cleaning up a martial arts studio he was opening in northern Virginia before his wife called around 5:30 p.m. She could hear his half of the conversation. He later said his wife told him to come home to watch their son because she was going out, Gutierrez said.
Later that night, sounding flustered, he left Gutierrez a voice mail saying Figueroa would stay with his sick wife overnight, that she shouldn't come the next day, and that Figueroa's phone was dead.
"It doesn't make any sense. How come you don't have another phone -- iPhones are all over," Gutierrez said. "He was kind of building stories."
The next morning, Gutierrez received a text message from Amy Savopoulos that read, in part, "I am making sure you are not coming today." She called and texted back and got no response.
Adding another layer of intrigue to the story, Gutierrez told WTTG an assistant to Savvos Savopoulos dropped off $40,000 in cash at the home on the morning of the fire. She said the money was meant to be used to finance the opening of the martial arts studio. It was not immediately clear if that money was what was found on the box truck when Wint was arrested late Thursday. 
A funeral service for the Savopoulos family is June 1 at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington. Family members of Figueroa said they plan to send her body back to her native El Salvador and have her buried there. AGoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for her funeral.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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