On July 10, 2016, at 4:18 a.m., Seth Rich, an employee of the Democratic National Convention, was shot two times in the back and killed.
Rich’s death sparked a media circus, as rumors and theories started to spread about why a young man in the prime of his life had met his end on a dark street in Washington, D.C. The police said it was an attempted robbery gone wrong—but stories soon started to spread that Seth’s death was planned, and that he was the man who had leaked the Democratic Party’s e-mails to Wikileaks.
No matter what the truth is, the murder of Seth Rich is deeply troubling. Either he was bumped off in a Democrat conspiracy to keep him quiet—or else his real killers are getting away because of a Republican plot to pin it on the Democrats.
We won’t say who is right. We will just present the facts from both sides of the argument—and let you decide for yourself.
10The Robbers Did Not Take Anything
Seth Rich fought his attacker. When he was found, his hands, knees, and face were bruised. There had been a struggle—but it had ended when his assailant shot him two times in the back.
There had been a string of robberies in the area, with six reports coming in the last few weeks. None of these had ended in homicide, but the police believe that Rich was just the next victim in a string of holdups. He had fought back, they believed, and things took a dark turn.
The robbers, though, did not take anything. “If it was a robbery, it failed,” said Seth’s father, Joel Rich, “because he still has his watch, he still has his money—he still has his credit cards, still had his phone.” Seth’s watchband was damaged, but it was not stolen—and neither was anything else, including an expensive pendant he had draped around his neck.
The police think that Seth’s killer panicked. Seeing what he had done, they believe the killer fled, too terrified to pry anything off the body. Others, though, think that this is a sign that whoever killed Seth Rich was not after his possessions. They just wanted his life.
9Julian Assange Heavily Implied He Was the Leak
Wikileaks has never officially said that Rich was the source of their leak, but they have done pretty much everything they can to suggest it.
In an interview, Julian Assange said, “Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks.” Then he gave an example: “A 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons.”
When the interviewer pointed out that Seth Rich died in a robbery, Assange told him, “No. There’s no finding.” When asked what he was suggesting, Assange made it as clear as he could: “I’m suggesting that our sources take risks.”
Later, Assange explained that he promises his sources he will never reveal who they are. “We’re not saying that Seth Rich necessarily is connected to our publications,” he later said. He announced he was offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who has information, though, and that he wants people to know WikiLeaks will go after anyone who would “kill a potential source.”
8He Made an Unexplained Stop on the Way Home
Nearly three hours before he died, Seth Rich was at Lou’s City Bar. The bar was closing, and the manager, Joseph Capone, offered him a ride home. “No,” Seth told Capone, “I’m going to go somewhere else and then I’ll go home.”
Nobody knows where Seth went—but he was only a 40-minute walk from home, and he did not die until two hours and 49 minutes later.
There is an explanation. Seth spent a lot of that time on his phone. At 2:05 a.m., he called his girlfriend in Michigan. The two, reportedly, had been having trouble, and Seth was depressed over it. After a night in the bar, he dialed her up long distance and used his liquid confidence to talk their problems out. They spent more than two hours talking.
Seth’s girlfriend has said that he did not seem alarmed or like he was in any danger during the call. They ended their call, and just two minutes later he was shot— a death, it seems, that was completely unexpected.
Still, there is the question of what he meant when he told Capone he was “going to go somewhere else,” and why he refused the ride home. Was Rich just making an excuse to call his girlfriend—or did he have a plan to stop somewhere on the way?
7He Talked to Emergency Responders
If Seth was killed by someone he knew, he certainly did not tell anyone. When the emergency responders found him, he was still alive. He was conscious, breathing, and according to the officers who found him, “quite talkative.”
While Seth was rushed to the hospital, he chattered on—something he had a reputation for. He was known to be a joker and a talker. When Seth’s brother heard how he had babbled after getting shot, he joked, “Yep, that was 100 percent my brother.”
The police refuse to reveal exactly what Seth told them, saying that it could compromise the investigation, but they do not accept the theory that he was killed because of his job at the DNC. They are still pursuing the theory that it was a robbery gone wrong—suggesting that, whatever he said, Seth did not state that he knew his killers.
But, he was confused. When asked where he lived, he gave an old address he had lived at years before, even though he was a barely a block from home. Reportedly, he did not even understand that he had been shot.
6An Anonymous Tip Claimed He Was the Leak
In May, 2017, an anonymous tip came into Fox News from someone who claimed to be a federal investigator. Seth Rich was the leak, the source claimed, and he had proof. He told them, “I have seen and read the e-mails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks.”
Seth sent 44,053 e-mails and 17,761 attachments to Gavin MacFadyen, according to the source. MacFadyen was a strong supporter of WikiLeaks and tightly connected to Assange—but he died of lung cancer in October 2016. Tragically, he did not live long enough for anyone to ask him if it was true.
Shortly after the tip came in the FBI denied everything. They had no involvement in the Seth Rich investigation, they claimed, and nobody in the FBI had ever seen Seth’s computer.
Since the source is still anonymous, they have not been able to prove whether they work for the FBI or whether the evidence really exists. To some, the FBI’s denial is a nail in the conspiracy theory’s coffin—but others believe it is just one more part of an ongoing cover-up.
5Private Investigator Rod Wheeler Claims the Police Investigation Was Shut Down
A private investigator hired to look into Seth Rich’s murder backed up Fox’s anonymous source, saying, “My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of e-mail exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks.”
Wheeler claims that he has a source within the police department who said they were “told to stand down on this case.” The order, he believes, came from the DNC, who were worried they would learn too much.
Wheeler, though, ended up putting his foot in his mouth and ruining his own reputation. In an interview on Fox News, he said it was “confirmed” that the FBI had Seth’s e-mails. He later backtracked and completely contradicted what he had said, admitting that he had no sources within the FBI and he has “never, ever seen Seth Rich’s computer.”
Wheeler has been all but discredited—but he has not backtracked on his story about the DNC shutting down the case. The police insist it is not true and that they are still “actively investigating” the case, but the debate rages on as to whether Wheeler is a source worth trusting.
4Rod Wheeler Was Hired by a Fox News Correspondent
Rod Wheeler claimed he was hired by the Rich family—but it was not exactly true. He worked with the Rich family, but he was hired by someone else: Ed Butowsky.
Ed Butowsky is a financial advisor who works with Fox News and Breitbart, two Republican-supporting sources that have pushed the idea that Seth Rich’s death was part of a DNC conspiracy. He did not just help the Rich family get in touch with Rod Wheeler—he introduced them and offered to pay Wheeler’s fees.
At first, Butowsky denied everything. “I’m not involved with any of what you said,” he told NBC when they found the first hints that he was involved. “I didn’t pay anybody. I didn’t hire anybody.”
He was forced to tell the truth when the Rich family announced he was the one who had hired Wheeler. Butowsky justified his statement to NBC by saying that he did not want to talk to them about it. Technically, he argued, he was not lying—because Wheeler had agreed to do the job without pay.
His choice of investigators, though, has people a bit suspicious. Wheeler, like Butowsky, is a Fox News contributor and an avid supporter of Donald Trump. Wheeler has tweeted pictures of himself at the White House with the caption, “Doing my part to Make America Great Again!”
Butowsky, though, denies any wrong-doing. “You have a family who can’t afford a PI. Their son was killed,” he has explained. “So I offered to help out.”
Butowsky has not dropped the case, either. Recently, he filed a Freedom of Information Appeal to try to get documents about Seth Rich’s homicide released. His request was denied.
3The Rich Family Denies He Was The Leak
For all the stories coming through the media, the Rich family themselves insist their son was not the DNC leak. “We are a family who is committed to facts,” they said in a statement after Wheeler’s comments hit the news, “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.”
Seth’s father, Joel, has complained about Julian Assange in particular, who he feels is legitimizing a conspiracy theory that is keeping the police from solving his son’s murder. When asked, he refused to say much about it except to deny that Seth was the leak, adding only, “I don’t want to play WikiLeaks’ game.”
Seth’s friends deny that he was the leak, as well. “All those lies that are being bandied about in the news are just that,” his best friend, Michael Cass-Antony, stated. Everyone who knew Seth, he has said, knew “how much he cared for the DNC and for where he worked and how much he believed in his cause.”
2The Story Could Be a Distraction from Trump’s Problems
No matter how Seth Rich died, there is a conspiracy at play. If he did not die in a Democrat plot, meant to bump him off for opening his mouth, then his death was used by Republicans to deflect attention away from Trump and against Hilary Clinton.
One theory is that this whole story started as a way to get Trump elected and that it is coming back up now to keep him in power. Rod Wheeler made the comments that reignited the whole story on May 15, 2017—the very day Trump was accused of sharing classified information with the Russians.
Some think that the whole story is a conspiracy meant to distract the public from Trump’s problems. Wheeler and Butowsky, the theory goes, are putting the story in the news to get the media to talk about something other Trump’s ties with Russia.
It does not help that the Russian embassy has been spreading the story, too. On May 19, 2017, they tweeted about Seth Rich’s death, calling him the “WikiLeaks informer” and heavily implying that he was killed by the DNC.
1John Podesta Said They Should Make an Example of Leakers
Regardless of whether Wheeler and Butowsky can be trusted, though, the conspiracy actually started with Julian Assange—the one person who knows for sure who was behind the leaks.
Shortly after Assange suggested that Seth Rich was his source, WikiLeaks made a tweet reminding the world of something John Podesta had said in an e-mail they released to the public: “I’m definitely for making an example of a suspected leaker.”
The other people in the e-mail chain voiced their support. “We are in massive agreement,” Joel Benenson wrote back. “I think we have to make examples now of the people who have violated the trust of HRC [Hilary Rodham Clinton] and the rest of the team. People going forward need to know there are stiff consequences for leaking.”
There is no way to know for sure what those “stiff consequences” are—but Assange’s timing made it pretty clear what he was trying to say. These two men were talking about murder, and they went through with it—by killing Seth Rich.