WASHINGTON (May 22, 2015) – The case is as full of twists and turns as it is tragic.
A prominent family in Washington, D.C. is found dead inside a burning home, allegedly bound, in what may have been a targeted killing over money.
Late Thursday night, authorities arrested the man suspected in last week’s gruesome slayings of the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper, after his DNA was purportedly found on a pizza crust at the scene. They have identified him as 34-year-old Daron Dylon Wint.
The bodies of Savopoulos, along with his wife, Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and the family’s housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, were discovered the afternoon of May 14 after firefighters responded to reports of a fire.
Lanier sought to reassure the public by saying the killings were likely not a random crime. Wint apparently used to work at American Iron Works, where Savvas Savopoulos was CEO and president. It was unclear whether Wint had been fired.
Authorities believed that Wint, who was wanted on first-degree murder charges, fled to New York City.
Police looked into whether Wint spent the night at this girlfriend’s home in Brooklyn, a law enforcement official said. She told police he arrived by bus Wednesday night.
“We tracked him up to NYC and barely missed him last night,” U.S. Marshall Commander Robert Fernandez told CNN affiliate WJLA.
Authorities found him staying at a Howard Johnson Hotel in Washington.
The pizza crust
Investigators identified Wint in an unusual way.
They discovered his DNA on the crust of a Domino’s pizza — one of two delivered to the Savopoulos home May 14 as the family was held hostage inside — a source familiar with the investigation said.
The Savopouloses lived in a mansion in a tony, embassy-dotted neighborhood near the home of Vice President Joe Biden. They have two other children, both daughters, who were away at boarding school at the time.
The victims suffered from blunt force trauma. Authorities believe the four were killed before the house was set ablaze, according to the source familiar with the investigation.
The source said the victims were bound with duct tape, and there were signs that Philip had been stabbed and tortured before he was set on fire.
The pizza apparently was paid for with cash left in an envelope on the porch, according to police.
Wint has a previous criminal history. According to court records, he has faced multiple charges over the years, including theft, assault and a sexual offense.
He attended Marine Corps recruit training in 2001, but left before completing the camp. It was not clear why.
“I feel very sad for them, for the pain they’re going through, which is not their fault,” said Devera Zianal, a neighbor of Wint’s parents. “Whatever happened, if he is guilty, he had choices. I know he was not raised this way.”
Lanier said the possibility of additional suspects has not been ruled out.
While the motive for the killings has not been divulged, investigators are considering that money may have been a prime factor.
“Whoever was in the house was looking for money,” a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Wednesday.
According to the Washington Post, as the episode unfolded inside, one of Savopoulos’ employees came to the home and dropped off $40,000.
A separate law enforcement source disclosed that the suspect or suspects made off with $40,000.
The missing housekeeper
Phone and text communications from the Savopouloses’ suggest the horror inside the house may have started a day before the fire.
Bernardo Alfaro, the husband of the slain housekeeper, told CNN affiliate WJLA that Veralicia Figueroa never came home the night of May 13. When he went to the Savopoulos home the following morning, he said Savopoulos’ blue Porsche was parked on the street and he immediately knew something was wrong, according to WJLA.
As Alfaro knocked on the mansion’s door, he said he received a phone call from Savopoulos, offering an explanation for his wife’s absence. “I’m sorry because I didn’t call you,” Alfaro said Savopoulos told him. “(Veralicia) is at the hospital … she has to stay with my wife because she was feeling bad and asked Vera to go with her.”
Alfaro said he thought that explanation was curious.
“I started thinking, ‘Why? She doesn’t drive. She doesn’t speak very good English,'” he said.
A second housekeeper, Nelitza Gutierrez, also received a suspicious text message from Amy Savopoulos, just hours before the fire began, telling her to stay home.
The day before, Gutierrez had received a voicemail from Savvas Savopoulos telling her not to come the following day because his wife was sick.
“Sometimes you never understand why something happens, but I’m lucky I’m still here,” Gutierrez told CNN’s Joe Johns.