WASHINGTON– Just over a week after a prominent Washington couple, their son and housekeeper were found bound and dead in a charred mansion, the man authorities believe killed them was arrested — after federal authorities tracked him from New York City back toward the nation’s capital.
Having “barely missed” quadruple-murder suspect Daron Dylon Wint on Wednesday night in New York, according to Cmdr. Robert Fernandez with the U.S. Marshals Service, authorities remained hot on his trail.
Members of the Capitol Area Regional Fugitive Task Force followed him to a Howard Johnson hotel in College Park, Maryland, just outside the capital, only to see him leave as they arrived.
About 20 task force vehicles and a helicopter then took up the pursuit, eventually surrounding Wint — who was traveling in the back of a Chevy Cruse — and a small box truck that was traveling with him about five miles from the hotel.
“Great take down,” Fernandez said of the stop late Thursday in northeast Washington.
In addition to Wint, Washington police arrested three males and two females who were in the car and the truck, according to Fernandez.
Meanwhile, two families — those of Savvas, Amy and young Philip Savopoulos and their housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa — are in mourning.
But at least there’s some movement toward closure, now that the man authorities believe killed their loved ones is in custody.
“While it does not abate our pain, we hope that it begins to restore a sense of calm and security to our neighborhood and to our city,” the Savopoulos family said in a statement Friday.
The mystery began to unfold last week as firefighters responded to reports of a fire at a Washington mansion, not far from the home of Vice President Joe Biden.
Inside were the bodies of Savvas Savopoulos, the CEO and president of American Iron Works, his wife Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and the family’s housekeeper, Figueroa. The Savopouloses have two other children, both daughters, who were away at boarding school at the time.
The victims showed signs of blunt force trauma. Authorities believe all four were killed before the house was set on fire, 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 crust
The case got a big break when investigators identified Wint through his DNA in an unusual way.
They found it on a crust of pizza.
Domino’s delivered two pizzas to the Savopoulos home on May 14 as the family was held hostage inside, a source familiar with the investigation said.
Cash in an envelope left on the porch paid for the purchase, according to police.
But bigger dough was in play.
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.
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 money had been earmarked for a martial arts studio Savopoulos was opening up.
The 34-year-old 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. Wint has three assault convictions in New York.
He attended Marine Corps recruit training in 2001, but left before completing the camp. It was not clear why.
Wint has a supporter in his former attorney, Robin Thicker, who doesn’t believe he could have been involved in these latest crimes.
“It’s not his act. He’s a nice guy. He’s patriotic. He’s kind,” Thicker said. “I defended him in six cases. He was not found guilty in any of those cases in 2005 and 2006. They’ve got the wrong guy. It’s not him.”
A neighbor of Wint’s parents expressed sympathy for his parents.
“I feel very sad for them, for the pain they’re going through, which is not their fault,” said Devera Zianal. “Whatever happened, if he is guilty, he had choices. I know he was not raised this way.”
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.
By Mary Kay Mallonee and Ed Payne
CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Deborah Feyerick, Greg Botelho and Diane Ruggiero contributed to this report.