Family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich blasts investigator's police obstruction claims
A private investigator Tuesday said there is evidence to suggest slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich made contact with Wikileaks prior to his death -- sparking a onslaught of tweets from conspiracy theorists and Twitter bots who link his death to his work in politics, reports WTTG.
But Rich's family have blasted the investigator who was apparently not authorized to speak to the press about the investigation, according to a family spokesperson.
“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 spokesperson said. "Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove 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 voice and strict law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth’s murderers," the statement continued. "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.”
Rich was 27 years old when he was shot and killed on a Sunday in July in the posh Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC. At the time, police said his death with the result of a botched armed robbery.
Rod Wheeler, the private investigator "offered" to the family, said he was told by a unnamed source within the DC police department there is evidence on Rich's laptop to suggest he was emailing with Wikileaks, which many credit as a many disruptive force during the presidential campaign for its leak of purported Democratic National Committee emails. WTTG's initial report suggested Wheeler was "hired" by the family.
Wheeler is a former homicide detective and current Fox News contributor.
Wheeler told WTTG his source said DC police investigators were told to "stand down" and back off from looking further into Rich's death. DC Metro police called Wheeler's assertion of a stand-down order false.
The Metropolitan Police Department's public information office did not have a further reaction to Wheeler's statements when reached for comment.
Rich's death was and continues to be used by far right pundits as a example of rampant corruption on left. Messages, many of them hate-filled, propelled Wheeler's investigation to the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter Tuesday morning. Wheeler's disclosure comes hours after The Washington Post reported President Donald Trump may have revealed above-top-secret information to Russian officials -- which conspiracy theorists assert is meant to "distract" from Wheeler's story.
In March, a GOP lobbyist and a team of private investigators launched another independent investigation into Rich's death -- one that Rich's family have no part in. Also in March, DC police told WJLA they had no update to the case to share.
In August 2016, Wikileaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for Rich's death.
This story has been updated to reflect new information and comments from the Rich family via a spokesperson.