Director Jared P. Scott Seeks the Truth In ‘Who Killed Robert Wone?’

Image via Peacock & Unsplash

On the night of August 2, 2006, 32-year-old Robert Wone decided to spend the night with friends in Washington D.C. instead of returning home. Seventy-nine minutes after arriving, 911 received a call saying that Wone has been stabbed to death.

To this day, no one has been charged.

In tackling a case with more questions than answers, director and filmmaker Jared P. Scott (Requiem for the American Dream) examines the murder and searches for the truth in the new Peacock docuseries Who Killed Robert Wone? Through interviews with friends, family, and investigators, Scott sets out to find answers in this Clue-like mystery but discovers the same challenges that puzzled so many over 15 years ago.

Ultimately, prosecutors zero in on the three residents, prominent polyamorous gay couple Victor Zaborsky, Joe Price, and Dylan Ward. As the trio maintain their innocence and fight to clear their names, those close to Wone seek justice and are still healing from this heartbreaking tragedy.

Scott sat down with Instinct to discuss what drew him to Wone’s case, what he hopes to accomplish with this docuseries, and why he thinks the true crime genre is so popular.

‘Who Killed Robert Wone?’ Key Art

Thank you for taking some time to chat with me, Jared! For those who are not familiar with the case of Robert Wone, could you give us a rundown of it?

Robert Wone was a 32-year-old prominent lawyer and promising young man, who decided to spend the night with three of his friends in Washington D.C.’s DuPont Circle area. Robert lived in Oakton, Virginia, which is a little further outside of town, and because he worked late that night, he decided to stay with his friends instead of going home to his wife. Seventy-nine minutes after arriving, one of his friends calls 911, saying Robert had been stabbed and they think there was an intruder inside the house.

It was a very bizarre call. EMTs arrived and they described odd behavior. Detectives arrived and they described seeing three men that looked like they were all just freshly showered, all wearing white bathrobes. It was an odd scene to walk into, and from there, the story gets more and more strange. It became this Clue-like mystery. You had four people in the house that night, and 79 minutes later, one person is dead. The other three are saying ‘not me.’

Investigators, detectives, and the prosecution have been on this quest trying to figure out what the heck happened. Glenn Kirschner, the former prosecutor, and he has tried more cases than anyone in the history of the U.S. Attorney’s Office – this is his white whale. What’s different about this case than any of his other cases is everything. It just doesn’t make any sense, and that has been reiterated over and over. We follow the investigation, and we follow one clue to the other.

The only people that know what happened that night in those 79 minutes are Robert, whose life tragically ended that night, and the three friends who have not spoken since the interrogations. They didn’t speak to the media, Robert’s widow, or at the trial. They didn’t testify, they took the fifth in the civil trial, and they haven’t spoken to this day. We’ve had 16 years of silence, so we are trying to piece everything together as storytellers and follow what the prosecution and investigators did that night.

Jared P. Scott

Why did you want to make this story into a docuseries?

A lot of the films that I’ve made, a throughline is always this idea of justice and injustice. There are different aspects of inequality in my work, but I find the themes of justice and injustice compelling because they are noble themes. Yes, this is a bizarre, maddening, puzzling murder mystery, but there’s also this idea that we as storytellers have this duty and responsibility to try to advocate for the victims of these tragedies.

The true crime genre can come under attack for maybe revictimization, retraumatization, or salaciousness, but we tried to steer clear of that. We tried to tell this story the way those closest to Robert saw it through their eyes and ears. There’s no voiceover or editorializing in any way. There have been podcasts and other people who have talked about this case, but this is a definitive story, and we wanted to have a definitive telling of it.

We have people who have spoken out in ways they’ve never spoken before. We have exclusive footage of the interrogations with the three suspects. We have primary source documents and crime scene photos. So, we tried to put together a picture that not only tells a great story, but also advocates on Robert’s behalf. Craig Brownstein and David Greer, the two bloggers in the film, their masthead is “We Want to Seek Truth and Justice for Robert Wone.” That was our charge as well.

Is this your first time working on a true crime project?

I would say this is my first jump into the genre.

Image via Peacock

What are some of the major challenges you encountered?

I think I’ve always come from a place of responsible storytelling. Not to toot my own horn, but it’s always been a big part of my work. There’s always journalistic principles that I find important, and I think we brought those to this. We call out speculation. We had to leave a lot of those highly speculative pieces off to the side, and people can opine about those puzzle pieces online or in other forums, because we tried to tell a cogent, factual story rooted in primary source and testimony.

What was challenging though, like anything, how do we make sure that we are checking our bias? How do we make sure that we are trying to show different sides? There are open questions, and oftentimes, one of the best resources is just raising the question. I believe that is a better way than inserting our voice and saying, well, I think this happened. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, etc. Ultimately, it’s for the viewer to watch, have a response, and form an opinion. Navigating that idea of balance.

That should come across in any good story, but with the true crime genre, again, you have to be mindful of the victim’s friends and family. I said it before, and I can’t say it enough – we don’t want to get into revictimization. Ultimately, there is a quest for victim advocacy. There is a strong quest from Glenn, who as I said, this is his white whale, and there’s a strong quest from us as storytellers. We want to see justice brought about. No one has ever been held accountable for the tragic murder of Robert Wone.

Another challenge was that we couldn’t get much video of Robert talking or smiling. We have photos, but they’re from around 2006. This is before everyone was filming stuff on their iPhone. He was a very private guy. He was the best man at a wedding, but he didn’t even want his speech to be filmed. Robert was kind of like a ghost, which added to the mystery. Anytime you make these kinds of things, you find what you can and use what you find. You try to alchemize that into a story.

Image via Peacock

We have seen a significant increase over the last couple years in shows and docuseries revolving around true crime. Why do you think this is such a popular genre?

There is controversy around this genre, and it’s clearly from the network’s perspective. The more people who want to watch something, the more it’s going to be made. I think there’s an appetite and a supply and demand aspect out there. There are positive pieces, like people are educating themselves, getting to know the criminal justice system better, and true crime shows may help make people feel safer, but there is also a counter to that. Some people feel more paranoid, and they treat these shows as just entertainment. They lose sight of the fact that there’s a real person involved. It’s very interesting.

Now that filming has wrapped and the docuseries premiered, do you have any personal suspicions or theories as to who killed Robert Wone?

I think that’s best left for the viewers, Denny! (Laughs). Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth so much on what I think truly happened that night, but I also realized my role was never to solve this case. I mean, who am I to solve it? You have career prosecutors who haven’t solved it. My role was to tell a story and shed light about what happened to Robert, how the investigation and trial unfolded, and hopefully bring some justice to him. We wanted to create something that was also entertaining, but maybe people will see that this story is getting a lot of attention and someone can provide a clue as to what happened.

Stay up-to-date and connect with Scott by following him on Twitter and Instagram. Who Killed Robert Wone? is now streaming on Peacock.


 

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