Initially it was a pizza crust that tied Darron Wint to the scene of a quadruple homicide in Northwest Washington, but new evidence revealed Monday indicates that his DNA also was found on a construction vest found inside a burning vehicle that belonged to the victims.
Wint is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Savvas Savopoulos; his wife, Amy; their 10-year-old son, Philip; and their housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa. Their bodies were discovered inside the Savopouloses’ multimillion-dollar home on May 14 after it had been set on fire. Wint also is accused of holding the victims hostage until a $40,000 ransom was delivered there.
During a preliminary hearing Monday, Metropolitan Police Detective Jeffrey Owens testified that Wint’s DNA was found on a neon construction vest found inside the Savopouloses’ blue Porsche.
The car was discovered on fire in a church parking lot in Prince George’s County less than an hour after the family’s home went up in flames. Savvas Savopoulos’ DNA also was on the vest, as was a partial DNA profile from a third unidentified person, Detective Owens said.
Thus far, no one else has been charged in the crimes, although police are pursuing the theory that others were involved.
After listening to four hours of questions and testimony, D.C. Superior Court Judge Rhonda Reid Winston ruled there was probable cause to hold Wint in jail on the first-degree murder charges.
Additional details emerged during the hearing, including that Savvas Savopoulos and Figueroa were strangled as well as having been beaten and stabbed. Blunt and sharp force trauma originally were listed as the cause of death for the three adults; stab wounds and burns caused the death of Philip Savopoulos, whose remains were found on a severely charred mattress in a bedroom.
Officials believe a baseball bat and a knife found in the trash outside the home, and samurai swords that Savvas Savopoulos collected, may have been used as weapons.
Investigators have altered their theory on how intruders gained access to the home, noting that the home’s security system was triggered by glass broken at 5:56 p.m. on May 13. They had been looking into a bootprint found on a door but determined that was from a firefighter.
Police initially considered Wint as a suspect after his DNA was discovered on a partially eaten pizza crust that was found in the Savopoulos home. His DNA is in a federal criminal database as a result of a previous conviction.
Detective Owens said investigators have not found any physical evidence proving that others were involved in the crime, but they believe Wint would have required assistance due to the number of victims.
During Monday’s hearing, Wint’s public defender, Arthur Ago, asked the detective pointed questions about others who have been questioned in the case. He focused on a driver for Savvas Savopoulos who gave conflicting accounts about his involvement in delivering the package containing $40,000 to the family home on the day of the homicides.
Detective Owens said the driver is not a “suspect” in the case, but he noted that the man “was told that he had more information than he was initially giving.”
The driver’s descriptions of how he received the money and when he was last in touch with Savvas Savopoulos have changed over the course of the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Bach noted during her questioning of the detective that the driver freely let police inspect his phone records and that his description of his movements from the time he delivered the money until he returned to the home after the fire was set had been corroborated.
After picking up the $40,000 from a bank with an employee of Savvas Savopoulos’ company, American Iron Works, the driver texted his girlfriend a photo of the stacks of $100 bills, saying “My job is insane. Don’t show anyone,” according to Ms. Bach.
Mr. Ago also questioned the detective about a description of a man seen driving the family’s blue Porsche erratically down New York Ave. before it was found on fire. The detective confirmed that a witness described the driver as a black man with a short, edged haircut wearing a neon construction vest. Wint, who appeared in court Monday in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, has medium-length dreadlocks.
Detective Owens said police believe they have recovered about $30,000 of the $40,000 ransom payment. Cash and money orders were found in a car Wint was riding in when he was arrested on May 21 and in a rented box truck that was traveling with the vehicle.
The detective noted that police found a receipt showing that, two days after the homicides, Wint paid a $1,100 cash retainer to an immigration law firm. It was unclear why he sought out the law firm as it was not until his arrest that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement flagged Wint, who is a citizen of Guyana, for deportation.