WASHINGTON — The defense attorney for the Maryland man charged with torturing three members of a D.C. family and their housekeeper three years ago claims it was actually Daron Wint’s two younger brothers who planned and carried out the brutal crime.
In a bombshell opening statement on the first day of Wint’s trial, defense attorney Jeffery Stein said Wint’s two brothers wore gloves to avoid leaving DNA inside the Savopoulos family’s Woodley Park mansion when the family was taken hostage, held for a $40,000 ransom and then stabbed and beaten to death before the house was set on fire.
Stein said Wint, 37, of Lanham, Maryland, didn’t know what was going on and was deceived into taking part in the crimes, which spanned two days in May 2015.
“When something this tragic happens, we all have the urge to hold someone responsible, Stein said. “Daron Wint is not responsible for these crimes.”
From the get-go, D.C. police investigators have said it would have taken more than one person to carry off the elaborate crime. However, Wint is the only person who has ever been charged in the killings of businessman Savvas Savopoulos; his wife, Amy; their 10-year-old son, Philip; and the family’s housekeeper, Vera Figueroa.
In its opening statement, the prosecution said Wint’s DNA was found on multiple pieces of evidence inside the Savopoulos home — including on the crust of pizzas that had been delivered to the house while the family was being held hostage inside.
“This is what nightmares are made of,” Assistant U.S. Attorney for D.C. Chris Bruckmann said in his opening statement, in which he laid out grisly details from the crime scene.
The upstairs bedrooms where the bodies of Philip and Amy Savopoulos and their housekeeper were found was spattered with blood. All of the victims had multiple stab wounds; there was also evidence the adults had been bound and restrained on chairs, Bruckmann said.
There was also evidence Savvas Savopolous and Figueroa had been strangled.
Investigators found two baseball bats covered in blood. A samurai sword was found in an adjacent bathroom.
The Savopoulous’ young son had also been stabbed multiple times; his body was also badly burned when the house was set on fire.
In addition to the pizza crusts, prosecutors said Wint’s DNA was also found on the handle of a knife propping up a basement window and on a reflective vest found inside Savvas Savopoulos’ blue Porsche, which was found burning in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In addition, investigators said they found two hairs belonging to Wint that linked him to the crime scene, including one found in the room where the adult victims were found dead.
“You cannot silence DNA by suffocating it or stabbing it,” Bruckmann said during his statement.
The defense disputed some of the DNA evidence. Stein, the defense attorney, conceded Wint was at the Savopoulos home and ate a piece of leftover pizza there, but did not go upstairs where the family was being held hostage and “had no idea what his brothers had done upstairs,” he said.
Regarding the hair evidence, Stein said the defense planned to call experts during the trial who would explain that hair DNA between siblings with the same mother and who are the same sex, is basically identical.
“DNA does not lie, but it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Stein said.
Some of the prosecution’s evidence is more circumstantial in nature. Bruckmann said Daron Wint frequently used Facebook, sometimes sending as many 80 messages or calls a day. Between May 13 and 14, his phone recorded no activity, Bruckmann said. Wint’s attorney said his client was at another home without Wi-Fi access.
After the killings, but before Wint had been identified as a suspect, prosecutors said Wint made several “blatant” searches on his cellphone, including “10 hideout cities for fugitives” and “5 countries with no extradition treaty.”
The defense’s explanation: “As he’s panicking about what his brothers have got him into, he’s looking up where he could live in peace,” Stein said.
He pointed out that Wint never made an attempt to change his appearance — by cutting his distinct dreadlocks hairstyle, for example — and despite briefly fleeing to his girlfriend’s house in Brooklyn, New York, he came back to D.C. to turn himself in, Stein said.
When Wint was arrested May 21, 2015, one of his brothers was with him. However, neither of his brothers have never been charged with any crime in connection with the Savopoulos killings.
As for the motive, prosecutors point to greed. Savvas Savopoulous owned a construction company, American Iron Works, in Hyattsville, Maryland. Wint worked at the company between 2003 and 2005.
While the family was being held hostage on the night of May 13, Savvas Savopoulos contacted his bank, an employee and several others about withdrawing $40,000 from his account. An employee eventually delivered the bundle of cash — a total of 400 $100 bills — to the home.
“Why did this happen? Money, greed and ransom, that’s why,” Bruckmann said. “That’s the motive in this case.”
Jury selection in the trial began last week. The final jury — eight men and eight women — includes four alternate jurors. The trial is expected to last two months.