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Investigator: Murdered DNC Staffer Was Communicating with WikiLeaks Prior to Death

New information has come out regarding the mysterious death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich almost a year ago. Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C., and although nothing was stolen from him, police have suggested the killing was a botched robbery.  A private investigator is now claiming that police sources have told him that there is evidence on Rich's laptop that shows he was emailing WikiLeaks prior to his death. The sources also say that they were told to "stand down" on investigating the crime.

The murder happened shortly before Wikileaks released emails that prompted the resignation of several Democrat leaders on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has insisted all along that the DNC emails were not hacked by the Russians and has strongly implied that Rich was the source of the trove of damaging emails.

On August 9, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on the murdered DNC staffer.

"Whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks," Assange said. "As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington."

Online conspiracy theories have tied Rich's murder to his activities at the DNC. According to FOX 5 DC, new information has emerged that lends credence to the theories.

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death.

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].

Fox 5 will have more information that will air Tuesday morning apparently showing how many times Seth Rich made contact with Wikileaks and when the communication took place.

Update: 10:00 P.M. PST 5/16/2017

Rod Wheeler told CNN on Tuesday afternoon that the source for his claim that there was "tangible evidence" on Rich's laptop that proves that he was in communications with WikiLeaks was the reporter who worked on the story for FoxNews.com (presumably Malia Zimmerman, who based her story on multiple investigative sources).

He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News' Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News," Wheeler told CNN. Asked about a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story in which he said his "investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks," Wheeler said he was referring to information that had already been reported in the media.

In an appearance on Fox News' "Hannity" on Tuesday night, however, Wheeler had a different story.

He said a "federal investigator that was involved on the inside of the case" saw Rich's computer and the case file. Wheeler told host Sean Hannity the investigator "came across [as] very credible.

 When you look at that, with the totality of everything else that I found in this case, it’s very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think, 'Well, perhaps there were some email communication between Seth and Wikileaks.'"

Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, said the family was "reviewing possible legal action against Wheeler for speaking about the case publicly."

 A contract between Wheeler and the Rich family prohibited from speaking to the media about his ongoing investigation, Bauman said.

Update: 6:19 p.m. PST 5/17/2017

Another update via Newsweek: A representative from Seth Rich's family is refuting the Fox News report, saying there is no FBI investigation.

Speaking with Newsweek on Wednesday, Braud Bauman, the family’s representative, says he also has knowledge that the FBI is not investigating Rich’s murder. “We have said all along that the fundamental facts that underline yesterday’s story were false, including the FBI’s investigation, which does not exist, and their role in ever having, seeing or otherwise possessing computer equipment or other equipment that belonged to Seth Rich, either in a personal or professional capacity,” he says.

The Fox News story is still up and they appear to be standing by it:

Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in a statement, “We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants.”