The tragic murder of 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich last July remains unsolved, but the past week has seen the launch of two privately funded efforts to further investigate.
On Tuesday, Rich’s family in Omaha launched a GoFundMe, saying the funds will go to raise awareness, pursue new leads and otherwise aid the Washington police.
And on Thursday, Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman announced the opening of the Seth Rich Center for Investigation. The initiative, which is operating wholly independently of the Rich family, will maintain an office in Arlington, VA and operate a 24-hour tip line. An investigator and a forensic psychologist will lead the effort, working with a team of collegiate volunteers studying forensic science to pursue leads.
Rich was shot around 4 a-m on July 10, near the front door of his home in Washington, and died a few hours later in the hospital on July 10. He was shot in the back, and his killer or killers did not take his money or his watch. Almost immediately, the murder spawned conspiracy theories.
Former Trump campaign operative Roger Stone suggested the Clintons had murdered Rich as part of a cover-up, a theory echoed by Tomi Lahren, the outspoken commentator on The Blaze. Julian Assange implied Rich had been a Wikileaks source, even offering a $20,000 reward for information about his death. Others posited online that Rich was murdered by the Russians.
To this date there has been little or no evidence to support these theories.
The Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s investigation remains open, and police spokeswoman Rachel Reid told Heat Street that “our detectives continue to track down every lead related to this case.”
“Our hearts go out to Seth Rich’s family, who has been waiting for the answers they deserve. … We will not stop searching until this case is closed,” said Reid, who also included the department’s tip line, 202-727-9099. The police department has offered a $25,000 reward for information.
In the first four days of the GoFundMe, the Rich family has raised nearly $10,000. They will use the money to offer hire professional investigators to develop new facts and leads, to offer additional rewards for information, and to send out flyers and direct mailings maintaining public awareness and seeking tips.
“One thing that no one tells you, and something we weren’t prepared to hear when we lost Seth, is that if a case isn’t solved immediately, it could take months or years before justice is served,” wrote Aaron Rich, Seth’s brother. He said his family isn’t wealthy, but they want to do what they can to support the police department’s investigation.
“The GoFundMe is being done to allow our family to be able to help assist in solving my brother’s murder,” Aaron Rich told Heat Street. “The funds raised will give us the ability to make sure we do everything we can to help solve the murder and to make such actions are done to support, and not interfere with, the MPD investigation.”
In an email to Heat Street, Aaron Rich said he didn’t know about Burkman’s initiative until the lobbyist held a news conference Thursday. “Mr. Burkman does not represent the family in any capacity nor does he speak for the family,” he said. “His statements are his and his alone.”
Burkman, who is funding the Seth Rich Center for Investigation with his own money, said the police department “didn’t really do their job” and basically stopped investigating the case after a month. He has also offered $105,000 in reward money.
“I will honor my commitment to the Rich family that I have to solve this thing,” Burkman told Heat Street on Friday.
Burkman said he became passionate about Seth Rich’s murder after imagining his own mother getting a similar phone call from the Washington police. He also said he wanted to do something because “we’re all a political fraternity, Republicans and Democrats,” and the crime could have happened to any of the young people he’s employed.