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Police search NY home, question suspect of girlfriend in DC murder mystery

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Posted at 11:47 AM, May 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-21 15:57:35-04

WASHINGTON — Police searched a home in Brooklyn Thursday for the man suspected of killing a prominent Washington, D.C., family, after his DNA was found on a pizza crust at the scene, officials said.

Authorities named Daron Dylon Wint, 34, as a suspect in the gruesome slayings last week of Savvas Savopoulos, a wealthy manufacturing executive, along with his wife, Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and the family’s housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa.

Thursday, U.S. Marshals and NYPD detectives questioned a woman believed to be Wint’s girlfriend, according to two law enforcement sources involved in the investigation. The sources said the girlfriend, who lives in Brooklyn, told authorities that she spoke to Wint and that he was planning to turn himself in.

At a news conference in Washington around noon, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters there were links between the suspect and the family: Wint apparently used to work at American Iron Works, where Savvas Savopoulos was CEO and president.

That leads authorities to believe the killings were not a random crime, she said. Lanier added that she didn’t know whether Wint had been fired from his job.

Investigators discovered Wint’s 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 all 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.

The forensic evidence, though it would be the first major break in the case, wouldn’t be the only peculiar twist in the mystery.

The $40,000

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 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

A few details offering hints at the run-up to the incident have emerged in the days following 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, a day before the fire. 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.

The text message

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 voice mail 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.

The suspect

Lanier said authorities believe that Wint, who is wanted on first-degree murder charges, fled Washington for New York City.

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.

The possibility of additional suspects in the D.C. murder and arson has not been ruled out, according to Lanier.

The motive

Detectives have not released an official motive for the killing, but investigators believe money was a prime factor.

“Whoever was in the house was looking for money,” a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Wednesday. A separate law enforcement source disclosed that the assailant — or assailants — who set the mansion on fire and killed residents Savvas Savopoulos, his wife Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and the family’s housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, got away with $40,000.

The Washington Post and a local NBC station reported Wednesday that one of Savopoulos’ employees came to the mansion while the incident was ongoing and dropped off a package with $40,000 inside. A source said the money was earmarked for a martial arts studio Savopoulos was involved in.

Four people died in a house fire near Vice President Joe Biden's home in Washington, D.C. on Thursday afternoon, and the police are still searching for the reason why.

Four people died in a house fire near Vice President Joe Biden’s home in Washington, D.C. on Thursday afternoon, and the police are still searching for the reason why.

The crime scene

The victims were found to have suffered from blunt force trauma, and, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, authorities believe the four victims were killed prior to the house being set ablaze. The source said the victims were bound with duct tape and held captive by the perpetrators. There were signs that Philip had been stabbed and tortured before he was set on fire.

Investigators are looking at whether he was being used to get something out of the parents.

The developments offer some clarity to an incident that’s puzzled observers since firefighters were called to tackle a fire on the second floor of the Savopoulos’ home. At that time, police flagged a blue Porsche that went missing from the home and was found May 14, abandoned and ablaze.

Domino’s delivered pizza to the house on Wednesday according to an employee at the nearby franchise.

Savvas Savopoulos was the CEO and president of American Iron Works, a building materials manufacturer based in Hyattsville, Maryland. He has two other children, both daughters, who were away at boarding school at the time of the incident.

The family’s home drew notice in part because of its location in a tony, embassy-dotted neighborhood in northwest D.C., just a few minutes from Vice President Joe Biden’s residence.

The early clues

A few details offering hints at the run-up to the incident have emerged in the days following the fire.

Bernardo Alfaro, the husband of the slain housekeeper, added another piece to the puzzle in an exclusive interview with CNN affiliate WJLA Wednesday. He said he received a phone call from Savvas Savopoulos when he went to check in on his wife on Thursday, telling him she hadn’t come home the night before because she was at the hospital with a sick Amy Savopoulos.

“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.

Alfaro saw his wife for the last time after 10 years of marriage on Wednesday, when he took her to the bus to go to work. His last words to her were, “I love you, God bless you.”

When he tried to call his wife that afternoon, Alfaro said, the phone went straight to voicemail. She didn’t come home that night, and when Alfaro went to the house the next day to investigate, he saw something was amiss.

“I saw the two cars … the Porsche was on the street … I kept knocking on the door,” he said.

Before he could investigate further, he received the call from Savopoulos offering the explanation for her absence.