Around the Nation
Tue October 4, 2011
On 10th Anniversary Of Murder, FBI Seeks New Clues
The Justice Department is focusing new attention on the decade-old murder of a federal prosecutor in Seattle.
Tom Wales was killed in his home in 2001, one month to the day after Sept. 11. The case remains unsolved.
But a new public information campaign is designed to bring in new leads.
On an overcast fall morning, Amy Wales returns to the home she grew up in on Seattle's Queen Anne Hill.
"The cherry tree in front of the house — I remember when my father planted it. It was so small," she says.
For Wales, now 32, this 1905 two-story is a place of fond childhood memories. But it's also the scene of what she calls the violent dismantling of the life she knew. On Oct. 11, 2001, her father Tom, an assistant U.S. attorney, was home alone working at a computer in his basement office. Shortly before 11 p.m., shots rang out.
"It is my understanding that the assailant was in the backyard perched above the window and able to shoot down into the basement," Wales says.
If killed because of his work, Wales would be the first federal prosecutor murdered in the line of duty as far as anyone can recall. There's also the possibility he was targeted because of his public advocacy of gun control. Whatever the motive, Amy Wales calls the murder of her father "calculated" and "brutal."
"No one deserves this," she says. "And the person is out there and he should not be free to roam."
An Attack On The Rule Of Law
Over the years, attention focused on an airline pilot Wales attempted to prosecute in a fraud case. But a decade later, there have been no arrests in the case. As the 10-year anniversary approached, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to Seattle to announce a new media campaign including TV and radio ads featuring Amy Wales and her brother.
"Although this case remains unsolved and Tom's killer remains unknown, our resolve to uncover the truth has never been stronger," Holder said.
Holder's presence in Seattle was welcomed by those close to the case – including some who feel top officials in Washington, D.C., should have done more over the years. These critics include former United States Attorney John McKay who calls the murder of Tom Wales an attack on the rule of law.
"To kill a federal prosecutor that is a very, very troubling thing and we can't allow that to stand in our country," McKay says.
But McKay says during his term as U.S. attorney for Western Washington, he had to fight for the attention he thought the case deserved.
"It did not seem to be a national priority in either the Justice Department or the FBI," he says.
McKay, a Republican, was later one of eight U.S. Attorneys fired by the Bush administration. The FBI notes the murder came in the wake of Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks. Today, a full-time taskforce continues to work the case.
Greg Fowler, the FBI inspector who supervises the investigation, says with this 10th anniversary it may now be easier for someone with information to come forward.
"Particularly for those who were involved or may have more intimate knowledge of the murder — time changes relationships, time changes loyalty," he says.
Amy Wales is more blunt.
"We know that there are people who have information and there are some people who are very afraid to come forward and share that information," she says.
A new FBI web page dedicated to the case features a photograph of the type of handgun used in the murder — a Makarov semi-automatic with an aftermarket barrel. A $1 million reward remains in the case.