WASHINGTON – A top Democratic National Committee official has contacted Washington, D.C., police and the family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich demanding to know why a homicide detective is examining the unsolved case, a private investigator told WND Tuesday.
Detective Rod Wheeler, who started his investigation into Seth's death in March, told WND he was stunned Monday when he learned from Rich's family that the DNC contacted them about the case.
"How did that DNC person know I had called the police? That is what is baffling me," Wheeler said. "I just found out from [Rich's] family that the DNC knew I contacted the police – they hadn't told me that all this time."
After Wheeler went to the police for insight into Rich's murder, the detective assigned to the investigation never replied to Wheeler's inquiry.
"The family said, 'Rod, there is something that you need to know," Wheeler explained. "The police detective never called you back because the information was given to the DNC that you called the police trying to figure out what was going on."
Wheeler, who began working as a homicide detective in 1989, said he is perturbed by the odd reaction the police have when he approaches them with questions about Rich.
Cops in Washington, D.C., he said, suspiciously respond to his inquiries about Rich's murder with an ominous "blank stare."
"It's a blank stare – it's scary," he said. "I'm getting nothing from police, just nothing."
A federal investigator, who remains anonymous, claims to have proof that Rich sent thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. After learning about the investigator's evidence, Wheeler notified Washington's police chief in an attempt to inform law enforcement of the revelations before they became publicized by media.
But the response of the police chief – whom Wheeler knows well and characterized as a "very good guy" – unnerved the veteran homicide detective.
"I wanted to share what I heard with the chief and the senior officials at the police department because I knew Fox News was going to run this story, and I thought it was only fair that I tell the police what we got before this hits the media," he said. "I shared it with the police last week. And you know what they said? Nothing. They didn't say, 'Rod, don't go with it. Rod, let's talk about it' – blank stares."
"I can't figure it out," he continued. "Typically, and what I was hoping, they'd say is, 'Let us check into this before you go with the story' and thank me for bringing them that information."
On Tuesday afternoon, Rich's family repudiated the notion that the leaked DNC emails have anything to do with the reason the DNC staffer was killed. Brad Bauman, a professional Democratic Party crisis public-relations consultant and the family's spokesman, released a statement denying the report that Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks. The statement condemned what the family sees as an attempt to politicize Rich's death.
"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 statement said. "The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was [sic] offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and [Wheeler] contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family."
In an interview with Business Insider, Bauman blasted the media for suggesting a DNC connection to Rich's conspicuously timed death.
"It's sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda," Bauman said. "I think there is a special place in hell for people like that."
Detective Wheeler said Rich's parents seem genuinely concerned about finding out who murdered their son. However, he believes their disregard for the possibility that Rich's death may be related to leaked emails and his line of work at the DNC is alarmingly conspicuous.
"Seth's brother said to me, 'Rod, we do not want you to look at this aspect of the emails.' And I asked him, 'Do you want the case solved? You cannot tell a detective, 'Don't look at certain things.' [If] you want to solve the case, that detective is going to look at everything."
Wheeler continued: "I don't know the reason why they pushed back so much on the whole idea of the emails. I think they may think that if that information gets out, it may taint Seth's legacy. I am just speculating. Why would they even care? As long as the bad guy is caught, does it matter how it happens?
"I don't know what the reason is; it's peculiar. If it were my loved one, I wouldn't care about the legacy. Let's catch the bad guy. We'll worry about the legacy later."
While Wheeler has not yet contacted WikiLeaks or spoken to Julian Assange for leads regarding Rich's death, he doesn't believe Rich was killed during an attempted robbery, as police have suggested.
"I've been hitting the ground out there talking with people – typical things we do in a homicide investigation. I haven't found anything to support the theory that this was a street robbery," he said.
The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department is offering a $25,000 reward for anyone has information about Rich's death. Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman is offering $100,000 for tips in solving Rich's murder.
The fact that not a single person has come forward with information, Wheeler explained, is suspect in itself and is prompting him to investigate other motives.
"It is highly unusual because, in that particular area, if you offer $10,000, you are going to get five people that are going to come forward," he said. "For $1,000, they will tell you something and you can remain anonymous too – sure they're going to come forward. Nothing. Not one person has come forward."
Wheeler said he's subsequently exploring the possibility that Rich's death could be linked to his relationships or his work at the DNC.
"So you work that scenario, and if you can't seem to figure it out, then you say to yourself, 'Well, maybe I need to look at another scenario. Maybe something else happened. Maybe it's related to the job or relationships' – so that is how I started down the path of looking at his relationships on the job," he said.
Contrary to the report by Fox News' local Washington, D.C., affiliate, which thrust Seth Rich's July 2016 murder back into headlines Tuesday morning, Wheeler said he has no hard evidence proving Rich revealed DNC emails to WikiLeaks – but an unidentified federal investigator who corresponded with the Fox News Channel's investigative journalist does.
"I did not find the emails. As a matter of fact, I haven't even seen the computer. I've been looking for the computer that belonged to Seth Rich," Wheeler said. "Information pertaining to the emails and the communication between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks came from another source, who at this point appears to be very credible. It was a federal investigator who had very specific information about the emails and who they went to, when they were received."
Wheeler suggested the complexity of Rich's case, combined with what he sees as the police department's lack of aggressiveness in pursuing it, leads him to believe the murder of the DNC staffer may have been politically motivated.
"As an investigator, you say to yourself, 'If this person's [case] has that much specific detail, maybe what they are saying is credible,'" he said. "Then you take that and combine that with everything else that I've been finding – such as the lack of aggressiveness from the police department as far as investigating this case and everything else.
"It just makes me wonder whether or not there was some degree of email exchange [between Rich and WikiLeaks], but I don't know that firsthand, and definitely don't know it 100 percent for sure."