By Steve Miletich and Mike Carter
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — A woman indicted two weeks ago for allegedly obstructing a grand jury investigation into the 2001 shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales has ties to two men entangled in the investigation into the unsolved killing, according to court documents and interviews that shed new light on what led to the indictment.
Shawna Reid, 34, of Everett, once had a romantic relationship with one of the men, a 38-year-old Camano Island resident who has been repeatedly questioned by the FBI and may possess key information in the case, the court documents and interviews with relatives show.
According to the man’s mother, her son and Reid moved in a small circle of friends that included another man, who the group believed to be the hit man who shot Wales.
Reid is charged in an indictment unsealed Aug. 20 for allegedly lying to a Seattle grand jury about statements made to her by an individual identified as “suspect #1,” who federal agents believe bragged to Reid about being involved in Wales’ death. Reid has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the first indictment to be filed in the case, spurring new momentum in the 18-year-old investigation.
The FBI has long focused on a commercial airline pilot, who was living in Beaux Arts Village south of Bellevue at the time of the shooting. He was prosecuted by Wales and, according to sources, is now suspected of arranging Wales’ death with the help of someone who served as an intermediary with the hit man.
Federal prosecutors allege that Reid told investigators during an August 2017 interview that the man identified as “suspect #1” bragged to her that he had been involved “in the murder of a quote, judge or attorney that lives on top of a hill, end quote.”
But when Reid testified before a grand jury in February 2018, she denied making those statements, according to the two-count indictment.
Wales, 49, was shot several times on Oct. 11, 2001 while sitting at a computer in the basement of his hilltop Queen Anne home. The killer slipped into Wales’ backyard, fired several shots through a basement window about 10:40 p.m., and then fled.
If Wales was killed as a result of his job, he would be the first federal prosecutor killed in the line of duty in U.S. history.
The Camano Island man who was once romantically involved with Reid has not been charged in the shooting, although he has been “interviewed on numerous occasions in connection with claims he has made that he has knowledge about and that he may have had some involvement in the October 2001 murder of Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Crane Wales in Seattle,” according to a federal search warrant issued in June 2017 in an unrelated drug investigation involving the man.
The warrant not only sought evidence about drugs, but asked a federal judge to allow agents to obtain and keep information on the man’s cellphone in connection with the Wales investigation. It states that, over time, the man made “demonstrably false statements” to investigators regarding the Wales case and that evidence might be uncovered about “possible steps” he had taken to obstruct the investigation.
The mother of Reid’s ex-boyfriend said in an interview with The Seattle Times on Tuesday that her son dated Reid several years ago, in what she described as an on-and-off relationship.
“To me, she was a sweet girl,” said the woman, who lives in Marysville. The Seattle Times is not naming the man or providing identifying information about his family, because no criminal charges have been filed.
Reid’s grandmother, Sharon Finch of Grover Beach, California, also confirmed the relationship in an interview Tuesday.
The man’s mother said the FBI came to her home during the time Reid and her son were dating, and questioned him regarding the Wales case.
When her son lived in California for a time, the FBI on several occasions paid for him to fly to Seattle and stay in a hotel so investigators could question him, the mother said.
The woman said that, through her son and his social circle, she learned of a second individual who was “supposed to be the hired hit man.” She said she could only remember his first name, which she provided to a Times reporter.
Her son, in a brief telephone interview Tuesday, provided the full name of the second individual, a 50-year-old Snohomish County man, suspected to have shot Wales.
Asked if that individual killed Wales, he responded, “I don’t know” before he hung up the phone. He initially agreed to meet with Times reporters, but in a subsequent text said he had been advised by his attorney not to “talk to anyone cops or reporter’s (sic).”
The Times is not revealing the second individual’s identity because he has not been charged in Wales’ death. Efforts to contact him were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Records show a Snohomish County man with the same name has three felony arrests for attempting to elude pursuing police, twice within a month after Wales was killed.
The two eluding cases from 2001 led to the man being sentenced to 19 months in prison and ordered not to possess a firearm. He also has convictions for burglary, possession of stolen property, theft of a firearm and drugs.
Reid’s grandmother said Reid and her former boyfriend were members of a close-knit group of individuals — which included the man identified by others as the hit man — who spent time together in Snohomish County and the Seattle area during the early 2000s. Reid, while younger than the others, was familiar with the group through an uncle, Finch said.
Shortly after Reid was indicted, Finch told The Times that Reid had informed her several months earlier that the FBI “thinks she knows something about something, but she says she really doesn’t and she’s afraid she’s going to go to jail.”
“I’ve told her if she knows something, the best thing she can do is tell the truth,” Finch said. “She says she doesn’t know anything.”
The FBI and Reid’s attorney, Kevin Peck, declined to comment on the case. She remains free on her own recognizance pending trial.
The FBI’s path to Reid began in 2004, when agents learned that days before Wales was killed, one of his neighbors had reported a suspicious man in the area, according to a source familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment on the investigation.
The neighbor’s action wasn’t discovered until then because it had been made in person at a Seattle police precinct and the paperwork fell through the cracks, the source said.
Agents contacted the neighbor, who helped them produce a sketch. After trying unsuccessfully to identify the man, the FBI made the sketch public during a news conference on the fifth anniversary of the killing.
Officials said the sketch was of a man seen with a black nylon suitcase in Wales’ neighborhood weeks before Wales was killed. The man was described as white, in his late 30s to early 40s, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a slim build, black hair, tobacco-stained teeth and a chipped left front tooth.
At the time, the sketch wasn’t considered a significant break because investigators believed the pilot had personally carried out the shooting and he didn’t fit the description of the man.
The investigation continued, with agents conducting an elaborate sting operation against the pilot several years later, modeled after an undercover technique called “Mr. Big” long used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the source said.
The goal of “Mr. Big” operations is to lure a suspect into a fake criminal organization, then get the suspect to participate in illegal activity and ultimately confess to past crimes to gain the trust of the head of the organization.
It didn’t work with the pilot, although he joined in illicit activity and agreed to help dispose of a fake, shrouded corpse he believed was someone killed by the organization before he figured out what was going on, according to the source.
Early in the investigation, the pilot was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) but as the probe dragged on, he began flying again. He currently has an FAA commercial airline certificate.
About the same time as the Mr. Big operation, the FBI received a tip related to the sketch, which led them to the small group of individuals that includes Reid and her ex-boyfriend and is now at the center of the investigation, the source said.
The sketch bears a resemblance to a Department of Corrections booking photograph of the man described as the possible hit man.
The indictment against Reid hints at a conspiracy, similar to the one outlined last year by an FBI official who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity in order to discuss confidential matters.
The official said investigators had uncovered fresh evidence indicating the airline pilot — who had been target of a bitterly fought, unsuccessful fraud prosecution headed by Wales — had hired a gunman, rather than carrying out the shooting himself, as long suspected.
Investigators are further looking into the possibility the pilot, who appears to be living in Delaware, used an intermediary to hire the killer, according to a source with knowledge of the matter but who isn’t authorized to comment on the investigation.
The indictment gave prosecutors leverage to seek Reid’s cooperation — under threat of going to prison — in the case they are building against the suspected shooter and possible accomplices, according to other sources familiar with the investigation, also speaking on the same condition of anonymity.
Reid’s ex-boyfriend has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for forgery, malicious mischief and possession of methamphetamine.
In a sordid case investigated by Marysville police in Snohomish County, he pleaded guilty in 2015 to attempting to extort money from a woman by threatening to disclose to her husband and others that they had sex after meeting online. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Subsequently, the FBI opened the separate drug-trafficking investigation into the man, based on evidence found in the extortion case that indicated he might be illegally distributing oxycodone.
FBI Special Agent David Narrance sought the 2017 search warrant, obtaining approval from U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez to examine the cellphone and seize a copy of the man’s telephone records and other items.
While the warrant ostensibly focused on the drug investigation, Narrance informed the judge that the phone also might contain evidence related to the Wales investigation.
Narrance noted he had discussed the warrant application with Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Clymer.
While no further description of Clymer was included, he’s been the U.S. Justice Department’s special prosecutor in the Wales case since 2002 after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, where Wales worked for 18 years, recused itself.