David Payne on the unsolved case of murdered prosecutor Thomas Wales

NewsNation PRIME

FILE – In this Feb. 21, 2018, file photo, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, stands near a photo of slain Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Wales in Seattle. Rewards totaling $2.5 million are now being offered for information that helps solve the killing of Wales in Seattle 20 years ago. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

(NewsNation Now) —  It’s been 20 years since the murder of Thomas Wales and yet the case remains unsolved. Wales, who was an 18-year veteran federal prosecutor focusing on white-collar crime in Seattle, was fatally shot Oct. 11, 2001, after someone crept into the backyard of his home and fired several shots through his basement window while he was working. 

Investigators believe the killing was a hit job by a commercial pilot in revenge over a fraud case Wales prosecuted. But David Payne, host, writer and executive producer of the “Somebody Somewhere” podcast, told Marni Hughes on NewsNation Prime that there may be a new lead into the case. 

“The new information that was released this week by the FBI, through leaks to the Seattle Times, was that this pilot was somehow working for the Mexican drug cartel,” Payne said. “And the pilot asked the cartel to get somebody to kill Tom Wales.”

That new information was released Monday, the 20th anniversary week of his death. The Department of Justice also announced a new reward for information on the case, from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. Payne said the new reward shows the Justice Department’s commitment to solving the case. 

“It reflects the priority that this case has been given by the Justice Department that they want this solved.” Wales is the only assistant U.S. attorney to be killed in the line of duty. 

The pilot who was believed to have killed Wales has never been charged. Payne said there is a pretty good reason why.

“The problem with the pilot being the suspect has always been that he has a pretty firm alibi,” Payne said. “There are phone calls that were placed to or from his home at the time of the murder.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington  — where Wales worked and was long recused from the case — is taking on leadership of the investigation. Payne said this shows that the community is still seeking justice for Wales.

“He was a beloved father. He was a very active person in his community in Seattle.”

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