A group of students investigating the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich have concluded that he was likely killed by a hired hitman or serial killer, a finding at odds with police and likely to spur conspiracy theories that have swirled around the case.
The Profiling Project, a group comprised mainly of graduate forensic psychology students, released its first report Tuesday analyzing Rich’s unsolved murder in Northwest D.C. last summer. For three months the independent group has studied the killing examining previous cases, outside general crime analysis and a profile of Rich to reach its conclusion.
The project concluded the death was not the cause of a robbery because Rich’s wallet, phone, watch and necklace were still in his possession when police arrived, according to the report. Project members suspect a hired or serial killer may have committed the crime because of the lack of evidence left behind at the scene.
The group found it was unlikely Rich’s murder was connected to WikiLeaks or the Russian government because he was not killed at the scene, something a professional would have ensured.
Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist opposed to President Donald Trump founded and funded the group in February, he said out of sympathy with the Rich family. About 17 volunteers work for the project, including about 12 GW students, Burkman said in the previous interview with The Hatchet.
Last month, the group filed a lawsuit against the city, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine to push the Metropolitan Police Department to release video footage and reports to help the group and the public piece together the case.
For months, conspiracy theorists, bolstered by some right-wing media outlets, have claimed, without evidence, that Rich had leaked internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks, not the Russian government as U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded. The theories claim, without evidence, that Rich could have been killed in retaliation.
Police investigators suspect that Rich was killed as part of a botched robbery.
Despite the group’s conclusion that the murder was likely not connected to WikiLeaks, the finding that Rich could have been killed by a hitman or serial killer drew widespread attention to the report in a politically-charged case.
The Rich family, which has consistently rejected conspiracy theories in the case, said the group’s findings were not “credible.”
Family spokesman Brad Bauman released a statement to ABC7 saying that the family was not consulted in the preparation of the report. He said the group had limited access to information about the case to draw conclusions.
“Given that fact, 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 take any findings contained within as new, credible or otherwise lending credence to conspiracy theories surround the circumstances of Seth’s death,” he said in the statement.
Bauman said in the statement that he hopes the report does not continue to affect the police investigation and convince people with information to stay silent.
Rachel Reid, a Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman, told The Hatchet this month that the department is still considering the murder a result of a botched robbery.