Tortured and killed in DC: Revisiting 2015 mansion murder case as trial nears

WASHINGTON — Three years after three members of a D.C. family and their housekeeper were tortured and killed, the case remains one of the most heinous crimes in recent memory. Now — even as several frustrating, agonizing questions remain unanswered — jury selection has begun in the trial against the only man charged with their killings.

In May 2015, firefighters discovered Savvas Savopoulos, his wife Amy, their son Philip, and their housekeeper Vera Figueroa inside the family’s burning Kalorama mansion. The murder investigation captured national attention when investigators determined that all four victims were held hostage in the house near the National Cathedral for more than a day before it was set on fire.

The trauma-ridden bodies of the Savopoulos parents were found in a second-floor bedroom near Figueroa, who later died at the hospital. A medical examiner determined all three died of sharp force injuries and that Savvas and Vera were strangled. Philip, 10, died of thermal injuries; court documents say the fire was primarily relegated to his bedroom and appeared to be started with the use of gasoline.

During previous hearings, prosecutors indicated the motive was to extort Savvas, the successful owner of two businesses — American Iron Works in Hyattsville, Maryland, and a martial arts studio in Chantilly, Virginia. During the time that investigators said the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper were being held hostage, one of Savvas’ employees — at his request — withdrew $40,000 from his bank account.

Police tracked down another of Savvas’ former employee Daron Wint, 37, of Lanham, Md. from an incomplete DNA profile left on a Domino’s pizza crust found in the bedroom with the three adults.

Wint was arrested seven days later on a warrant along Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast on his way to turn himself in, police have previously said.

In the days following the killings, U.S. Marshals tracked Wint to Brooklyn, New York, then to a Howard Johnson Express Inn in College Park, Maryland, where, court documents said, he was in a Chevrolet with two women and $7,000 in cash. In a box truck behind, Owens testified that Wint’s younger brother, Darryl, and other friends had $13,000 in money orders.

The $7,000 cash was in $100 bills — the same denomination that had been withdrawn from Savvas’ bank account.

Following the release of the indictment and warrant, precious few details have come out about the case even as substantial questions linger — including the identities of any additional suspects.

The D.C. police have said from the beginning of the investigation this case that more than one person was responsible, but no one else besides Wint has been charged.

In recent months leading up to the trial, Judge Juliet McKenna has allowed the defense to move ahead with its strategy to introduce the possibility of another suspect in the killings. She reviewed the evidence the defense plans to use to make that assertion, but its strategy is not public. Wint’s attorneys have also filed paperwork exposing a potential mishandling of evidence at the scene.

The trial is expected to begin next week.

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