Robert Wone · Alabama Snake · Norco '80
Plus Loki, 1-percent shenanigans, and missing Nick Dunne
|Best Evidence||Dec 14, 2020||3||3|
On the seventh day of Best Evidence, my Susan gave to me…the murder of Robert Wone. Our esteemed colleague Susan Howard pitched the case, of which I’d not heard, as follows:
One of my long-running obsessions is the unsolved murder of Washington, DC attorney Robert Wone. I feel like this is a pretty well-known case for those of us living in the area at the time (2006), but really is a doozy and should be more widely known. The Swan connection is that Robert's body was found in a rowhouse on Swann Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
Exactly the kind of tangential connection we had in mind when we cooked up this project — and exactly the kind of under-the-radar case, too! Susan suggested a few resources, and I was hooked after 90 seconds on the Wikipedia page. I mean, less, really; “the trial judge found that unbelievable” in the opening summary is going to get my attention like little else. After devouring that, I moved on to an excellent longread from Washingtonian Magazine in 2010, on the eve of the trial of the three men thought to be involved — somehow — in Wone’s death. Harry Jaffe’s article does a good job centering Wone (who went to high school just a few blocks from B.E.’s East Coast HQ), and the experience of grief for Wone’s widow, who has a lovely line about “what used to be and what will never be” that is the most elegantly complete description of loss I’ve heard. But it’s the housemates’ account, or lack of one, of the crime that’s sticking with me several days later.
By their combined accounts, someone had stabbed Robert Wone and left the house. They did not explain who cleaned the room of blood, washed the body, discarded the murder weapon, disposed of the bloody towels or sheets, and changed the bedding—in 45 minutes.
… Jeffrey Baker, an Emergency Medical Services worker for more than ten years, had seen dozens of crime scenes with people screaming and blood everywhere. Here there was quiet, three men looking freshly showered, and a victim with three stab wounds but little blood.
The scene “made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” he said.
Y…eah. The case also has its own website, which seems not to have updated in over a year and which I’m avoiding for now because I’m afraid I’ll read the whole thing and get really obsessed. Did I mention that Eric Holder figures in the case? Because he does. Outstanding tip, Susan! — SDB
And I’ve got another hot tip: Norco ’80 is becoming a podcast. The source on that tip is actually my friend Melissa’s wide-ranging and essential podcast newsletter, Pod People, which you should get yourself some of today (it’s free!). Melissa saves me the trouble of gigging the interminable subtitle, “God, Guns, Survivalism and the Bank Robbery that Changed Policing Forever,” with “It comes out Jan. 11 so you may be done reading the title by then” (hee), but I also have to note that the podcast’s description at LAist.com seems…rushed?
Using eyewitness testimony and never before heard police tapes, Norco ’80 takes listeners on a wild ride, and serves as a cautionary tale in the context of America being immersed in the middle of an economic crisis, revamped end of the world paranoia and a complex conversation about policing.
Like, I’m all for mimicking the headlong pace of the book the podcast is based on, but a couple of hyphens won’t kill you (as it were). And if it’s NOT based on the book, guys, I don’t know. I really liked Peter Houlahan’s expertly constructed narrative a lot when I reviewed it for paid subscribers last year:
Houlahan gives you just the right amount of background info on each cop and perp, enough to distinguish them from one another without slowing the pace down -- and I've said many times before that a key to my personal enjoyment of a narrative like this is an authorial understanding that not everyone is so great with conjectural spatial relations.
The story is bonkers, and doesn’t get less bonkers once everyone gets into court, so I understand why, both narratively and timing-wise, the LAist team wants to take a run at it. But part of the bonkers-osity is the shoot-out’s complexity and wide scope, and if you can’t marshal an intro graf that makes sense (“revamped” in the what now?), it’s concerning. That said, LAist has had some intriguing content on the audio side, and host Antonia Cereijido is no rookie, so I hope I’m wrong! — SDB
Anyone watch Alabama Snake over the weekend? It debuted last week on HBO, towards the end of a veritable barrage of doc content that’s really kept me hopping over at Primetimer. A week after filing my review, I still can’t decide if director Theo Love’s artistic decisions were a cop-out — or the only sensible way to approach a blooming onion of nutty material:
Did I mention that Summerford escaped from prison in 2003? Because he did. Okay, he was located 45 minutes later "in a dumpster," but still. When your documentary tacks this information into the last five minutes as a near throwaway, you may have bitten off more than a feature-length documentary can chew. And look, maybe there really isn't that much more to say about his truncated escape beyond "Summerford threw himself in the garbage; it didn't work out."
I do think Love missed an opportunity to unpack the “when country come to town, town don’t always like it” aspect of the incident and ensuing trial, but I’d love to hear what you guys thought. Did this need a nice long Netflix eight to luxuriate in, or even a tight Netflix five? Was poor Darlene on something? I really can’t tell if AS is brilliant, or a messy first draft. — SDB
Okay, OKAY, FINE, Disney+! I will watch Loki when it comes out! You could have just asked me nicely! I don’t reeeeeally care that much about MCU product but I’ve always liked Hiddleston in…uh, whatever one of the movies my husband has on when I walk through the living room? You really didn’t have to drag one of my other favorite Dans, Cooper, into it!
Is this because I stopped watching The Mandalorian after one episode? (I beg of you, dear readers, do not at me about this.)
…But seriously, folks: with Everything Else Going On, I’d forgotten Loki even had a series coming down the pike, and while I might have watched it to keep DP Brady company, I’ll definitely watch it now, because this frankly is the best explanation I’ve heard of DB Cooper’s whole deal. You in too? — SDB
Speaking of “in,” you can still get “in on” subscriptions, for yourself or denizens of your gift list, until Christmas Day — and beyond! No shipping delays to worry about, no wipedown with alcohol wipes when it arrives, just click click boom.
The vaccine is coming, the vaccine is coming! And with it, probably, fraud and influence-peddling. Holly Peterson’s piece for Airmail over the weekend looks at the ways the 1 percent have of getting the vaccine before plebes like you and me. Peterson’s concise rendering of the fact that it’s not the money, but the privilege, and of what that privilege looks like and how it’s carefully built and maintained over decades, is top-notch writing that made me want to backhand half the Upper East Side:
Black and brown communities had little or no access to tests or any therapeutic interventions.
Meanwhile, behind the Hamptons hedges, residents hired bespoke emergency-room firms with doctors and nurses on call with $5,000 to $15,000 annual fees—charging extra for house calls—to administer rapid P.C.R. tests for the whole family while they binged on Tiger King. I know a few people who even bought up dozens of the $109 rapid tests and traveled to the Caribbean with a “testing nurse” so they could instantly test friends who came over for lunch or met up with their children on the beach.
A…testing nurse. Friends coming over. For lunch.
Of course, it’s much more satisfying to fume in the direction of the Ivy set than it is to contemplate all the other, grimier ways this could — and likely will — break bad: counterfeit and expired doses on the black market; red hats refusing to take the vaccine because something something contrails fake news; that Pfizer doesn’t have a shot for food insecurity; the list goes on for awhile. But those variables remain, as of now, unknown. That $200-polo-wearing Chad who’s leveraging the wife’s alleged gluten sensitivity to get them and the twins shots late-night from his roommate at Choate? I know that guy. That guy was half my class at uni and a good 80 percent of my dad’s colleagues.
Every now and then, I miss Dominick Dunne acutely. The tightrope he walked, getting intel about These People while shitting on them relentlessly in Vanity Fair every month? We could really use that dude lately. — SDB
Tuesday on Best Evidence: Hold for maids, Mueller, and Man In The Window.