Seth Rich Update: DNC Staffer Murdered by Serial Killer, Not in Botched Robbery, Report Claims

A serial killer is likely behind the murder of North Carolina Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, according to forensic-psychology students and instructors, who spent three months investigating the homicide. Those researchers, who volunteer at the Profiling Project, an independent group, published their findings on Tuesday in an 83-page report.

The Profiling Project, based in Arlington, Virginia, consists of around 20 volunteers who are current and former George Washington University forensic-psychology graduate students and instructors. The report states that Rich’s July 2016 “death does not appear to be a random homicide” or “a robbery gone bad,” as police had suggested. Instead, the report says, the “death was more likely committed by a hired killer or serial murderer,” and that the killer is likely still at large.

“The person folks [should be] looking for and considering isn’t a robber who kills, but really is a killer, and maybe a killer that doesn’t rob,” says Kevin Doherty, a recent George Washington University graduate and one of the volunteers with the Profiling Project. “The fact that this person has gotten away with it shows a level of proficiency.”

Related: Seth Rich’s family calls Kim Dotcom claims “ridiculous”

The Profiling Project did not provide the family with a copy of the report or consult with the family while preparing it, Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, says in a statement. He points out that the Profiling Project states in its methodology that it “was given no special access to any materials, evidence or persons, and due to case sensitivity, conducted only informal, limited interviews.”

Rich, 27, was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., while walking home from a bar early in the morning on July 10, 2016. Conspiracy theorists on the right suggested Rich, a DNC staffer, was behind a WikiLeaks publication of a trove of DNC emails less than two weeks after his murder. These people said he was murdered by operatives who aimed to prevent the leak or because of it. United States intelligence agencies have said Russia was behind the leak.

Conspiracy theories about the murder have swirled over the past year, picking up in May when a private investigator working for the Rich family told a Fox affiliate that evidence connected Rich to WikiLeaks. A day later, Fox News cited an anonymous source verifying the investigator’s account. After Newsweek and other outlets debunked those reports, the Fox affiliate walked back its story and Fox News retracted its article. But people continued pushing the theories, including Kim Dotcom, the Russian embassy in London and Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

While previous investigations by the public into the Rich murder have cited unverified social media posts and anonymous sources, the report released Tuesday seems to be more credible, given the academic backgrounds of the volunteers.

The Profiling Project says the murder was unlikely a robbery gone wrong because “most robbers are not killers” and Rich still had valuables on him.

06_20_Seth_Rich_Profiling_Project The Profiling Project, consisting of forensic-psychology experts from George Washington University, published a report on June 20 about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Seth Rich Family

But given statistics, the circumstances around Rich’s death are unusual, the report states. “We may never know why Seth was targeted for attack, but we do know that so many nonroutine events had to take place prior to the interaction that it was not statistically random,” the researchers write. Those anomalies include Rich being out at around 4 a.m. and the fact that he was white, since only 6 percent of unsolved homicides in D.C. in 2016 involved non-African-Americans, according to the report.

The murderer, according to the Profiling Project, “brought a most likely unregistered firearm to the crime scene, utilized the firearm and most likely carried the firearm away from the crime scene.” The report continues, “That the crime scene appeared to be almost sanitized (no firearms casings were reported to be found, no physical evidence was reported), and that there does not appear to be excessive use of force (as only two shots were reported), the offender does not appear to be psychotic.”

The researchers believe there was just one shooter. That shooter could have been a serial killer or serial murderer, according to the report, which uses the FBI’s definition for an offender who kills two or more people in separate events. “With such a sanitized crime scene and no emotional indications,” the report says, “this is not Offender[’s] first kill.”

As for the conspiracy theories, the Profiling Project says those are unfounded, given that Rich did not die immediately at the scene: “A professional killer, whose sole job would have been to terminate Seth, did not accomplish their mission prior to escaping.”

“If this were a professional hit person, they failed,” says Doherty, the team member. “Nothing we’ve seen supports [the theory of] an assassin.”

The Profiling Project is funded by GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman, who last September announced he was offering a $100,000 reward for information into Rich’s death. “I’m not here to expound on anything even remotely conspiratorial,” he told Newsweek at the time. “The objective here really is just to get closure for this family. This is a young kid in our profession. This could have happened to any of the young people who work for me.”

Bauman, the family representative, says, “The family hopes that the general public takes the findings at face value—valuable experience in research collection and report writing for students at George Washington University—but in no way should [it] take any findings contained within as new, credible or otherwise lending credence to conspiracy theories surrounding the circumstances of Seth’s death.”

Doherty says the group will continue to follow the case and investigate new leads or information. “We’re personally tied to this,” he says. “This is a case that we want to solve. We want to provide closure on this.”

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