By John Clarke
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The man accused of killing a wealthy Washington businessman and his family and torching their mansion ditched his lawyer on Thursday in favor of the public defenders first assigned to him.
Daron Wint, 34, of Lanham, Maryland, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the May deaths of businessman Savvas Savopoulos and his wife, son and housekeeper. Their bodies were found in their burned home near the official residence of Vice President Joseph Biden.
During a preliminary hearing in District of Columbia Superior Court, Wint replaced his attorney, Sean Hanover, in favor of the public defenders initially appointed to represent him, Natalie Lawson and Arthur Ago.
"It was a difference of opinion," Hanover said outside the courtroom. Wint had dismissed Lawson and Ago at a June 14 hearing and replaced them with Hanover.
A preliminary and detention hearing before Judge Rhonda Reid Winston set for Thursday was tentatively rescheduled for July 20.
Wint is accused of holding captive construction business owner Savopoulos, 46; his wife, Amy, 47; son, Philip, 10; and housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa, 57, until he got $40,000 in cash, then killing them and setting fire to the house.Police have said Wint, who was identified by DNA left behind on a pizza crust at the home, once worked for Savopoulos' company, American Iron Works.
Citing two people familiar with the investigation, the Washington Post reported on Thursday that a blood-covered samurai sword and torn fragments of duct tape allegedly used to subdue the victims were found at the crime scene.
(Editing by Ian Simpson and Mohammad Zargham)