Five years later, FBI still after Wales' killer
Five years after the killing of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales, the FBI released a sketch Wednesday of a dark-haired man who may...
Seattle Times staff reporters
Five years after the killing of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales, the FBI released a sketch Wednesday of a dark-haired man who may have information about the killing and announced a new Web site to take tips in the investigation.
The steps came as the FBI asked for help in what it acknowledged has been a difficult investigation. About 4,000 people have been questioned and more than 10,000 leads have been pursued in all 50 states and a half-dozen foreign countries.
No one has been arrested in the slaying of Wales, who was shot in his Queen Anne home on Oct. 11, 2001. But the FBI has focused on an airline pilot who had been prosecuted by Wales in a fraud case.
At a news conference Wednesday, FBI officials declined to discuss any suspect but said they are determined to obtain an indictment.
"We will not give up," said Bob Jordan, special agent in charge of the Portland FBI office. Jordan was given oversight of the investigation in June when the head of the Seattle office tried to reduce the number of agents on the case.
Jordan said if Wales was killed because of his work, he would be the first federal prosecutor in U.S. history slain in the line of duty.
In that case, Jordan added, "we are all victims in a sense."
FBI seeking help
Tips about a newly released sketch of a man agents would like to question can be provided at 866-322-7009.
A new Web site has been set up to provide information on the case and to receive tips: http://wales.fbi.gov.
A $1 million reward has been offered for information that helps solve the case.
The sketch, the officials said, is of a man seen pulling a black nylon suitcase in Wales' neighborhood weeks before the killing. Investigators have not identified the man, who had tobacco-stained teeth and a chipped left front tooth.
It is not known if the man has any connection to the killing, but even eliminating him as a subject would be helpful, said Robert Geeslin, an FBI supervisory agent overseeing a task force of five agents, two Seattle police detectives and five investigative analysts.
The man's presence in the neighborhood was first reported as suspicious before Wales was killed. But it was not brought to the attention of the Wales task force until 2004, Geeslin said. After trying unsuccessfully to identify the man, the FBI decided to make the sketch public.
Geeslin said the FBI is continuing its search for a unique silver gun barrel used in the killing. The gun used to kill Wales — an Eastern European pistol called a Makarov — had been fitted with one of the barrels, ballistics experts found.
About 3,600 of the barrels were sold in the U.S. before Wales was killed. The FBI has tracked half of them without finding the one used to shoot Wales, Geeslin said.
The news conference followed a memorial service at the U.S. Courthouse in Seattle, where Wales' 29-year-old son, Tom, sounded a bitter note about how he and his sister, Amy, and their mother, Elizabeth, had suffered the loss. "It is a dreadful anniversary for our family," he said to more than 150 attorneys, judges, and court employees. "Time does not heal all wounds."
His father, Tom Wales said, was unconcerned over the possible danger of his job as a white-collar prosecutor. His life was "lived for the betterment of others."
"After Pops was murdered," he said, "we got letters from people he had prosecuted." All expressed condolences. "He did not believe anyone was beyond redemption."
Tom Wales, who now lives in England, said his father was a "mentor and inspiration and probably the best friend Amy and I will ever have."
"When my conscience speaks, it does so in my father's voice," he said.
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske recalled Wales' role as executive director of Washington CeaseFire, a gun-control advocacy group.
"It is a terrible tragedy that he would lose his life at the end of a gun," the chief said.
Also speaking was Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Westinghouse, who worked with Wales on the fraud investigation that targeted the man who's now the prime suspect in Wales' killing. Westinghouse was placed under 24-hour protection for months after Wales' death.
"I have not known a prosecutor who was more committed to seeking justice," Westinghouse said. "His legacy is our directive to do justice ... to live our lives as ethically as possible, to have fun, and be good stewards to our community and our country."
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