Inside the Investigation of the Mysterious D.C. Mansion Fire That Killed 4
American Iron Works CEO Savvas Savopoulos was found dead last Thursday along with his wife, their 10-year-old son and their housekeeper
Savvas and Amy Savopoulos were the toast of Washington society. Neighbors described the wealthy couple as “wonderful” people who were active donors to various charities and causes throughout the D.C. area. So who would want to kill them?
It’s a question investigators have been scrambling to answer since police were first called to the pair’s multimillion-dollar Woodley Park home to put out a fire last Thursday, the smell of gasoline hanging in the air. Inside, authorities found four bodies – later identified as Savvas, Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip and their housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa. Savvas and Amy’s two teenage daughters, Abigail and Katerina, were away at boarding school at the time of the fire.
The deaths immediately raised suspicion. Police said at least three of the victims had suffered stab wounds or blunt force injuries prior to the fire being set. Sources told NBC that the family was “bound and threatened” for a day before the house was set ablaze, after Savvas finally gave the killers whatever it was they were looking for.
The only clue? The family’s blue Porsche, found torched in the parking lot of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Lanham, Maryland. Just a short distance away, a camera captured footage of the one person of interest in the case, a hooded individual carrying a bucket. That person has not yet been found.
The Gentle Executive
Savvas, 46, was the President and CEO of American Iron Works, the construction company that helped build the Verizon Center sports arena. “He was a very kind man, a very gentle man,” AIW Vice President of Environmental Safety and Health Robert Hodge tells PEOPLE. “He was the best person I ever worked for.”
Hodge says that Savvas, a devoted father of three, always made time for his family, despite being in charge of a major business. “He was very family oriented,” he says. “His family meant the world to him.”
Together, they started a school called the American Institute of Welding to “help people who had lost their jobs for whatever reason get back on their feet,” says Hodge.
“I am in shock,” he adds. “This is such a terrible tragedy. He was so kind. A wonderful, wonderful man.”
The Mysterious Voicemail
On Wednesday evening, the Savopoulos’ part-time housekeeper, Nelitza Gutierrez, received a strange voicemail from her employer telling her to stay home because his wife was sick.
“It was something very suspicious because I felt his voice was really tense,” Gutierrez told The Washington Post. “And it was different than what he had said to me before.”
In the voicemail, Savvas also asked Gutierrez to call his other housekeeper’s relatives to let them know that Figueroa was planning to stay the night, but her phone had died and she had no charger.
Gutierrez called Amy the next morning to check on her, but she never answered. Gutierrez did, however, receive a text from Amy’s phone: “I am making sure you do not come today.”
She didn’t come in. It was only later that Gutierrez revealed how odd the whole situation was: “Never, never did she stay over,” she said of Figueroa.
After the family’s bodies were found, Gutierrez couldn’t believe it. “I don’t understand why,” she told ABC News. “God saved my life.”
But Figueroa wasn’t so lucky. The 57-year-old housekeeper, who’d been planning to move back to her native country of El Salvador to be with her children, was killed with the family.
“All I can say is I’m very sad,” Bernardo Alfaro, Figueroa’s husband, told The Post Monday. “I don’t want to do anything.”
The Savopouloses’ relatives are equally distraught. Savvas’ sister Debra Masser told The Post she spoke to her brother on Thursday morning and nothing seemed amiss.
“I can’t even express my sorrow,” she said. “I can’t even say anything.”
Police still haven’t commented on a motive for the horrific killings. And, apart from the person of interest, they haven’t commented on any suspects either.
What authorities did say was this: Whoever killed the three Savopouloses and Figueroa had knowledge of the family’s habits – and of their expensive security system, which Gutierrez has said was always on. There was no sign of forced entry into the home.
Neighbors have pointed at the family’s large and valuable art collection as a potential motive, while sources told WUSA that money was missing from the home, though they didn’t say how much.
And both the Savopoulos family and American Iron Works were involved in lawsuits, but it’s not clear whether that it is relevant to this case.
For now, the investigation continues. But the upscale neighborhood is in mourning. “The community where they lived really loved them,” friend Coco Palomeque told The Post. They were “a beautiful family.”
A funeral for the three Savopouloses is scheduled for June 1.
• Reporting by SUSAN KEATING
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