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The reward for information on the unsolved 2001 slaying of Thomas Wales, a federal prosecutor in Seattle, has been increased to $2.5 million

The announcement was made at a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Wales’ death in his Seattle home on Monday.

The Department of Justice has increased the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assassination of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales in 2001 by $1 million, bringing the total to $2.5 million.

In addition, the Justice Department announced that it was handing over control of the investigation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. A special prosecutor in New York was in charge of the case.

A Japanese maple tree, a personal favorite of Wales’, was planted at Tom Wales Park, just west of Lake Union, during the ceremony. On the tenth anniversary of Wales’ death, the park was dedicated.

Wales, 49, was a veteran white-collar prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the president of Washington Ceasefire, a grassroots gun-control organization, when he was shot while sitting at a computer in his Queen Anne home’s basement.

The assailant crept into Wales’ backyard on the night of Oct. 11, 2001, apparently disabling motion detectors on outdoor lighting, and fired at least four shots through a basement window as Wales sat composing an email. He was hit in the neck and torso and later died in the hospital.

Almost from the start, investigators have been focusing on a commercial airline pilot whom Wales had unsuccessfully prosecuted for fraud the previous year, alleging that he and his business partners forged documents and violated Federal Aviation Administration safety rules while attempting to convert a military surplus helicopter for civilian use.

However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homicide investigation was hampered early on by poor leadership and a lack of manpower.

Early mistakes by investigators, as well as their suspect’s seemingly perfect alibi — he was on the phone at his home in Beaux Arts Village, just outside of Bellevue — have dogged the case.

Since then, the FBI has maintained a full-time task force of Seattle Police Department agents, analysts, and detectives, pursued tens of thousands of leads, and offered a $1.5 million reward.

At previous anniversaries of the killing, two U.S. attorneys general, Alberto Gonzales and Eric Holder, issued public pleas for information. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a similar plea three years ago.

In recent years, the FBI has concentrated its efforts on a “small group” of people, mostly from Snohomish County, who they believe have information about the murder.

The special prosecutor assigned to the case, Steven Clymer, the criminal chief in the United States Attorney’s Office in Albany, New York, indicted a Marysville woman, Shawna Reid, in 2019, alleging she lied to a grand jury about her knowledge of a man identified in court documents as “suspect #1,” an individual agents believe acted as a lookout for the killer.

That case unraveled as a result of prosecutorial blunders and Reid’s troubled memory and past. In August, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was released.

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The FBI believes it has identified the shooter, a drug user and low-level dealer from Everett who, according to sources, carried out the hit on Wales to pay off a drug debt.

Agents are looking for evidence that he was recruited for the job by a Mexican drug cartel for which the airline pilot, who now resides in Delaware, had been smuggling drugs.

According to sources, agents are compiling information from two decades of investigation in order to bring criminal charges against a variety of individuals suspected of direct involvement in the killing or obstructing investigators.

Image by (Daniel Kim / The Seattle Times) 

Seattle Times News

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