Seth Conrad Rich’s unsolved murder on a Washington D.C. street has sparked a flurry of conspiracy theories because he was a staffer and self-described data analyst for the Democratic National Committee.
WikiLeaks is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in Rich’s death (that’s in addition to a previous $25,000 reward being offered in the case).
Most recently, Rod Wheeler, a private investigator recanted claims he made to Fox 5 in Washington D.C. about Rich and WikiLeaks – claims that are disputed by Rich’s own family. Newsweek has now reported that the FBI is not investigating the Rich murder, and is quoting the private investigator as denying he has any firsthand knowledge of purported Rich/WikiLeaks contact. According to the New York Times, the Rich family is demanding retractions from Fox.
Rich, 27, who worked for the DNC on voting issues, was shot and killed in Washington D.C., and his murder remains mysterious. “Police have found little information to explain his death,” said The New York Daily News.
Conspiracy theories are raging about Rich’s death because of his DNC employment and also the lack of an obvious motive, eyewitnesses, or suspect in the case. Rich, 27, was shot on July 10, 2016 at 4:15 in the morning near a Washington D.C. neighborhood where he lived, said CBS News. Some are also raising questions about the August death of Shawn Lucas, who served the DNC with a lawsuit alleging fraud in the presidential race.
However, Lucas’ death was eventually labeled an accident as a result of a combination of drugs, including kratom.
In the Rich homicide case, The Washington Post wrote on July 11: “Police said they have no suspects, witnesses or motive, though they are looking at whether Rich could have been slain in an attempted robbery.”
Washington D.C. Metropolitan police public affairs told Heavy on Aug. 9: “At this time, there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC. However, we welcome information that could potentially lead to the identification of the individual(s) responsible for his death and are pleased when any outside contributors help us generate new leads.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. His Father Says Key Items Were Not Taken Even Though It’s Being Called a Possible Robbery & the Family Is Pushing Back at the New Allegation About WikiLeaks
NBC Channel 4 in Washington says that Seth’s mother, Mary Rich, said police “told her family her son may have been the victim of an attempted robbery.” In August, Mary joined police in a press conference in which she asked the public for help in providing tips.
However, after Assange spoke about the death and WikiLeaks offered its reward, the Rich family asked, through a spokesman, that people stop politicizing the tragedy.
“The family welcomes any and all information that could lead to the identification of the individuals responsible, and certainly welcomes contributions that could lead to new avenues of investigation,” Rich family spokesman Brad Bauman said in a statement to Business Insider.
“That said, some are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so, are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job,” the statement continued. The family also asked the public to stop spreading “harmful” and “unproven” theories about Rich’s death, said Business Insider.
Rich’s father told The Washington Post that Seth’s watch, wallet and credit cards were not taken, but he thinks Rich was “killed after resisting a robbery in which the assailant got nothing.”
Daily Mail says Rich was attacked across the street from a convenience store on the 2100 block of Flagler Place NW, not far from a brownstone he shared with three or four roommates. Rich was from Omaha, “where his family played a strong role in the Beth El Synagogue,” said Daily Mail.
However, Acting Capt. Anthony Haythe of the Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide branch said in a July news conference that all motives were being considered, said CBS. The New York Daily News quoted police as saying, “There is no immediate indication that robbery was a motive in the attack…but it has not been ruled out as a possibility.”
The police said they are looking into whether Rich’s death was tied to other robberies in the area, and his roommate told WUSA9 that Rich “was probably walking home from his girlfriend’s apartment when he was robbed and then shot.” The Washington Post said there were two robberies “in the city in the hour preceding the shooting, both more than one mile away.”
The family of Rich is now pushing back at the private investigator’s claims about Rich and WikiLeaks.
The PI, Rod Wheeler, has stepped back from the Fox 5 account, now telling Fox News of the claims he made, “I don’t know for sure, I don’t know as a matter of fact if the emails went out to the Wikileaks or anybody else.” He told Buzzfeed that the Fox 5 account was not accurate.
The Rich family, in a statement published by NBC News, said it has seen “no evidence” and was a “family committed to facts” not “fake evidence.”
The family also said Wheeler was paid for by a third-party and was contractually obliged to not comment in the media about the case without the family’s permission.
“As we’ve seen through the past year of unsubstantiated claims, we see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted by the press,” the Rich family statement said. It continued:
“Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we’ve seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so. We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth’s murderers. The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family.
According to UK Daily Mail, Wheeler recanted his comments, and Rich’s family sent the private investigator “a cease and desist letter threatening legal action.”
According to NBC News, a lawyer for the Rich family sent a letter to PI Rod Wheeler that said, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family. Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family.”
NBC News reported of Wheeler, “Wheeler has since completely recanted his story, both in the press and in a private message to Rich’s family. The private investigator told other outlets the Fox reporter essentially put words in his mouth by giving him information that he then repeated in an on-camera interview.” Although the family has asked for an apology and retraction from Fox 5, none has been granted thus far, reported NBC.
On August 1, Wheeler filed a federal lawsuit against Fox, the reporter on the story, and a Dallas wealth manager named Ed Butowsky. The lawsuit claims that Donald Trump and Sean Spicer were involved in pushing the story and that Wheeler’s quotes were fabricated to shift the narrative on Trump and Russia to WikiLeaks and Rich. Fox News says the retraction of the story remains under investigation but denies the network purposely tried to change the Trump/Russia narrative.
2. There Was a Struggle Before Rich Was Shot Multiple Times, Including at Least Once in the Back
Rich’s mother told NBC Channel 4 in Washington D.C. that her son’s “hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything.”
The Washington D.C. Medical Examiner’s office told Heavy that Rich died from gunshot wound to the torso and the manner of death was homicide. The office did not say how many times Rich was shot and said that autopsy reports are not publicly released to the news media in D.C.
The Washington Post says at least one of Rich’s multiple gunshot wounds was in the back. The shooting occurred in northwest Washington D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, said WUSA9. Rich was taken to the hospital, where he died, said WUSA9.
Rich was discovered by police who were patrolling the area and was conscious and breathing at first, said CNN. He was talking on the phone with his girlfriend when the shooting occurred and told her not to worry about it when she heard a noise, said NBC 4. There is a $25,000 reward being offered in the Rich murder case.
3. Hillary Clinton Mentioned Rich’s Death in a July Speech & Debbie Wasserman Schultz Praised Him
The Washington Post has posted video of that speech. “Surely, we can agree that weapons of war have no place on the streets of America,” Clinton said after mentioning Rich as an example of someone killed who doesn’t make the headlines. She said he had worked on voting rights for the DNC.
Two days before Rich died, he posted a plea on Facebook to end gun violence, saying, “I have family and friends on both sides of the law. Please, stop killing each other,” says UK Daily Mail.
According to CBS, former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that Rich was a “dedicated, selfless public servant who worked tirelessly to protect the most sacred right we share as Americans.”
To People Magazine, friends described Rich as self-deprecating, non apathetic, a bit of a goofball, and someone who “would stand up for anybody.”
4. Rich Worked on the DNC’s Voter Expansion Efforts & Described Himself as a Data Analyst
On his LinkedIn page, Rich described himself as “Experienced and impassioned data analyst. I have an enormous interest in public service and working towards making the world a better place.” The page says that Rich had worked as the DNC’s Voter Expansion Data Director since 2014.
Before that, he was a Research Data Associate for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner; a Boating Education Director and Staff Programming Director at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin; a research intern for Senator Ben Nelson; a member of the campaign staff for the Nebraska Democratic Party, an enumerator for the Census Bureau, a field organizer for Senate campaigns, and other jobs.
People Magazine says he worked on voter expansion efforts for the DNC and The Washington Post says that, as a DNC staffer, he worked on a project to “help voters easily find their polling places.”
Rich graduated from Creighton University with a B.A. in Political Science: Public Policy and History, said his LinkedIn page.
According to Town Hall, Rich had previously worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Nebraska businessman Scott Kleeb. “The Clinton Global Initiative provided funds for a clean energy business started by Kleeb, which had come under investigation after losing $300,000 in 2010 and another $300,000 in 2011 despite the subsidies,” asserted Town Hall, adding that “Rich was also previously employed at a data firm that had worked with the Clintons.”
5. Conspiracy Theories Have Sprouted up Online About Rich’s Murder
Various conspiracy theories have sprouted up about Rich’s death, without concrete evidence to back them up, but fueled in part by the WikiLeaks dump of almost 20,000 DNC emails, which led to the resignation of Wasserman Schultz.
However, numerous news sites, such as NBC, have reported that government officials and security firms believe that Russian intelligence was behind that leak; WikiLeaks denies being tied to Russian intelligence but won’t reveal its sources for the emails, which, among other things, appear to show DNC officials favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the primary.
Reddit threads devote exhaustive discussion to dissecting the Rich murder case.
In the interview with Dutch television station NOS, a public broadcasting company, on Aug. 8, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and the news anchor discussed Rich. See the second video in this story. Here is what they said in the videotaped interview conducted in English:
Assange: “Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, often very significant risks. There’s a 27-year-old that works for the DNC who was shot in the back, murdered, just two weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington. So…”
Anchor: “That was just a robbery, I believe, wasn’t it?”
Assange: “No, there’s no finding. So, ah – “
Anchor: “What are you suggesting? What are you suggesting?”
Assange: “I am suggesting that our sources, ah, take risks and they, they become concerned to see things occurring like that.”
Anchor: “But was he one of your sources then, I mean?”
Assange: “We don’t comment on who our sources are.”
Anchor: “But why make the suggestion about a young guy being shot in the streets of Washington?”
Assange: “Because we have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States. Our sources, ah, our sources face serious risks, that’s why they come to us so we can protect, ah, their anonymity.”
Anchor: “But it’s quite something to suggest a murder. That’s basically what you are doing.”
Assange: “Well, others have suggested that. We investigated to understand what happened in that situation, with Seth Rich. I think it is a concerning situation. There is not a conclusion yet. We wouldn’t be willing to say a conclusion yet, but we are concerned about it. More importantly, a variety of WikiLeaks sources are concerned when that kind of thing happens.”
WikiLeaks later put a statement out on Seth Rich: