WASHINGTON — Jurors in the murder trial of the Maryland man accused of killing three members of a D.C. family and their housekeeper in 2015 were shown a graphic photo of the youngest victim as the trial neared the end of its second full week.
It was the first time a photo of one of the victims has been shown during the trial of 37-year-old Daron Wint, who’s charged with killing Savvas and Amy Savopoulos; their 10-year-old son, Philip; and the family’s housekeeper, Vera Figueroa, in May 2015.
Wint’s team of public defenders objected to the use of the photo of the 10-year-old boy’s badly burned body, calling it “graphic and disturbing.”
“The only purpose is to inflame the passions of the jury,” defense attorney Judy Pipe argued outside the presence of the jury.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Bruckmann sought permission to use the photo as he questioned the D.C. firefighter who discovered the bodies inside the burning Woodley Park mansion. Judge Juliet McKenna allowed the use of the photo, saying it was not “unduly prejudicial” and helped jurors understand the extent of the fire damage to the victims.
Firefighter Corey Goetz testified he found Philip Savopoulos’ body on a mattress in an upstairs bedroom that had nearly burned through the room’s floorboards. “I could tell it was in a pretty bad state of decomposition from fire,” Goetz said.
D.C. fire official Tomi Rucker later testified a team of fire investigators, detectives and ATF agents determined the fire started in the bed where Philip was found and that gasoline was used to intensify the flames.
Philip’s parents and the housekeeper were found in the bedroom next door, beaten and stabbed.
The room where the boy was found suffered what Rucker called a complete “flashover,” Rucker said. “This room got so hot that everything in this room burned,” she said.
Jurors were shown photos detailing extensive fire damage to the upstairs bedrooms. The fire burned so hot it blackened walls, charred furniture and exposed beams in the walls.
Rucker testified that investigators trying to reconstruct the scene never found a gas can or bucket, although they did find matches at the scene.
Prosecutors say Wint, a former employee of Savvas Savopoulos’ ironworks company, took the family hostage for $40,000 ransom, then killed them and set the house on fire before fleeing. He was tracked down and arrested several days later. Prosecutors say Wint’s DNA was on key evidence found inside the burning house, including on crusts of pizza that had been delivered to the Savopoulos house while the family was being held hostage inside.
Wint’s attorneys claim it was actually his two younger brothers who planned and carried out the killings.
Jurors Wednesday also heard from the lead D.C. police evidence technician who took the stand as prosecutors opened box after box of evidence recovered from the Savopoulos house, including a bloody baseball bat that had been given to Philip Savopoulos as a birthday present from his grandfather and was engraved with his name; duct tape found in the driveway and on chairs in the upstairs bedrooms; a knife found propping open a bathroom basement window; bloody plastic bags; a blood-soaked comforter; and two empty Domino’s Pizza boxes.