Monday, July 3, 2017

Seth Rich Hypothesis


As some of our twitter followers know, among other topics, I’ve tweeted while researching the Seth Rich case; at this juncture, it seems sensible to post a summary of my findings and what I think is a fairly solid hypothesis, based on public information only – and so people can find our information in one place (vs. assorted and disjointed tweets, some of which contradict others, depending on which phase of research I was tweeting in). Photo left: Seth Rich.

I became interested in this story during the primaries since it was viral on social media and I noticed that some of my twitter “Bernie Bros” (not a bad term to me, and not necessarily designating gender) were similarly swept into sentiments expressed by many Trump supporters that the late DNC Voter Data Expansion Director, Seth Rich, was murdered by one or more paid hitmen working for the DNC or Clintons, and in retaliation for hacking the DNC emails and releasing them to the public through Julian Assange and Wikileaks. 

Posters claimed that Seth was a Bernie supporter and dismayed by DNC favoritism towards Hillary Clinton (as we all know about now through these emails - which various intelligence agencies and the White House report were hacked from Russia in conjunction with the Russian government); in the viral narrative, however, Seth wanted the emails leaked to the public so that the public could see how the primaries were unfairly leveraged in favor of Hillary over Bernie - and when the DNC was supposed to be neutral. Others added that Seth was yet another victim in the notorious, mythological “Clinton body trail," with other recent decedents pointed out as alleged evidence of other related "hits."

To make a long story short, with respect to basic facts around the case, and to save myself footwork on what's already a long piece, here’s the Wikipedia synopsis, to date, give or take some facts and events, if you haven't been following the news saga and need more background before continuing.

In the course of my research, I noticed a lot of informational gaps as to what was released to the public, and posters often seemed to “fill in” these gaps with their own versions without citing sources; for example, a few posters seemed extremely concerned in early stages of this viral event – adamantly convinced – Seth was kidnapped, taken to a secret location and even tortured by the DNC for information. He had injuries, they wrote, on different parts of his body as evidence of this torture. He was forced to make fake phone calls, so on. This story faded as more information came out in the news showing that it just wasn't possible; however, one debunked story would only be replaced by another. 

So I began to look more closely at this viral phenomenon, and to see if anything could be substantiated or falsified. Suffice to say, for now, I have not seen anything considered “real evidence,” in the traditional sense, that substantiates any of these theories concerning the Clintons or the DNC. But I’m not going to even get into this stuff, here. I’m just going to take you, as the reader, through some of the facts around the actual homicide in the context of a D.C. crime profile – and share some of my hypotheses as to what may have happened that night – and whether or not you could even construe these events in terms of a hired killer. 

To cut to the chase - so you don't have to keep reading, if I'm not going to tell you what you want to hear, vs what I researched and discovered - I found that "hired killer" was unlikely, and more likely what the police opinion reflects ("bungled burglary.") Though of course nobody knows what really happened because we don't know who killed Seth Rich, except the murderer/s and whoever else is in on this secret, if there's anyone else, to begin with.

Research Approach

I approached my research with common sense pragmatism, keeping what I’d describe as an “open mind (but not so open that your brains fall out)” and within what I’d best describe as a kind of a “normality model.” That is, as best as I can see, Seth Rich (an everyday American) felt safe that evening and was not walking around in fear of his life, looking over his shoulder. This young man was not acting like someone who just leaked Democratic Party secrets in the middle of a major, national, presidential election - and to Julian Assange, in exile for the past seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, so he could publish the emails to the entire world via Wikileaks - and pursue - what may even be - his own personal vendetta with Hillary Clinton. (And we'll have more on this, perhaps, later in our blog. Or perhaps not. I hope Julian Assange is free soon. This is not here nor there, for me.)

Portrait of Seth Rich

So, who was Seth Rich? What did the publicly known facts around Seth’s homicide indicate about the nature of the homicide? Are we looking at a professional paid hit? A psychopath who trailed Seth from the bar? Who perhaps became pathologically incensed by something Seth said in passing about politics? A bungled burglary, as the police believe? Or, something else?

Looking at Seth’s background, the fellow from Omaha, Nebraska was clearly an intelligent, pragmatic person entrusted with a reasonable level of college educated responsibility at the DNC; he was close with his family and they spoke regularly on the phone, and his lifestyle seemed fairly typical for a 27 year old professional adult in Washington D.C.  He had a usual assortment of social activities, a girlfriend he wanted to build a future with, he shared a house in a gentrifying neighborhood with housemates, he worked full time with a salary roughly at 40k yearly, he enjoyed sports, he liked biking and walking in the city, and he volunteered with an animal shelter.  Like many young professionals, he had a favorite D.C. pub he hung out at about 1.7 miles from his home; he was a regular and buddies with the owner and staff – someone they appreciated as part of a kind of “Cheers” family (if you've watched the older t.v. series).

As per his work background and interests, Seth worked (or volunteered) – at some point - with the Bernie Sanders campaign (and – he’d worked on other campaigns - so I don't know how significant this was); short of evidence otherwise, he appears to have been a generic sort of Democrat. I'd imagine that, for a 27 year old professional in D.C. politics, the Sanders campaign was exciting with its extraordinary level of millennial enthusiasm, but upon “defeat,” like many other Democrats, and, especially in his case, as a somewhat seasoned campaign worker and DNC professional, he was also ready to support the official winner in the general. He was a consummate professional, according to friends; for example, his bar tending buddy described Seth as sociable and out-going; he liked to talk about politics in a friendly way, but he never, even to his friends at the bar, revealed his preferred candidate. 

Now, facts have come and gone in this tale. So I may write something today and something different will be printed about the case in the newspapers tomorrow. But, in sum, Seth Rich appeared to have had a busy, full life in Washington D.C. with nothing unusual or out-of-the-ordinary going on. And … it’s hard to see where he would have even found the time, let alone been interested in straying so far afield with hacking and theft - in this case, tens of thousands of top DNC officials' emails ... he also ... presumably would've been reading with great chagrin .. before passing them on .. to Wikileaks.

Seth Rich had a promising future; he was interested in increasing voting rights and access - he’d developed an AP that helped voters find their voting places - and he’s been described as someone who was feeling as if he was starting to hit his stride, professionally. "The big leagues." Indeed, shortly before Seth was murdered, he received the "job opportunity of a lifetime" working for the Clinton campaign in Brooklyn. So, for someone interested in politics, it already had to be exciting to be in Washington D.C. in the heartbeat of the national political scene, and now he had yet another great offer working on the campaign of what seemed likely to be America's first woman president. Seth was also in love. His girlfriend described him in more personal moments as what I would term inspired and visionary, even picturing a possible campaign, one day, for the White House, himself.  His parents said that he was someone who really wanted to make a difference in the world; make the world a better place.

Seth Rich and his girlfriend, Kelsey Mulka,
on a lawn near the White House. The photo supports Seth Rich's reported optimism and hope - "a bright future ahead."

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t little possibilities here and there that we couldn’t go dipping into – I’m just constructing (what I think is) a basic, common sense portrait from which to proceed.

Again, as many know, Seth received this "job offer of a lifetime,” for someone in his field, i.e. working on the general election Clinton campaign in Brooklyn, shortly before his murder. He was reportedly thrilled and started writing an acceptance email, according to his Mom, Mary Rich, who shared the computer email (on presumably Seth’s computer - and his computers are reportedly with his family) in a news video from their home in Nebraska. The rough draft, subject line, “email,” was started with one sentence that went (something like), “All my life, I’ve wanted to be in a position where I could make a difference.”

Seth and his girlfriend (also working and living in D.C.) were planning a future together, so while this promotion news was fantastic, it also came with some typical modern issues for them, as a couple. Each partner having a career, how would they make “it” work if their respective jobs were in different urban centers? (Washington and New York, that is.)

The Night Of The Murder

The night Seth was murdered, these logistical relationship issues were foremost on Seth’s mind. His girlfriend had gone out-of-town to visit family for the weekend, he missed her, he was perhaps afraid of losing her, and I imagine that, while she was glad he was getting this wonderful job opportunity, she was also concerned about how they’d make their relationship “fly,” so touching base with family and roots was perhaps a good place, for her, to reflect and think things over.

Now, here's an important point: with Seth’s girlfriend, out of town, his schedule was a bit different. Initially, I thought, "Hey, his girlfriend's out of town - and girlfriends can get in the way - so that's a window of opportunity for a planned murder." 

Not really. Seth's plans were instead fluid and up in the air. Later, a housemate talking to press said that he thought Seth was walking home from his girlfriend’s house, as he usually did. And there were other things that happened unexpectedly. First, he was going to do one thing; then he decided to do something else. So, Seth wasn’t on a predictable schedule, though he did some things, as usual, such as go out to his favorite pub.

Once there, Seth confided to his pal tending bar. He must have missed his girlfriend. He was bummed out about what was going on - that they could be apart. In the course of the evening, he drank a little bit more than usual, “drowning his relationship sorrows,” I guess, and by closing, he was even a bit unsteady on his feet – which was described by his bar buddy as unusual for Seth. At that point, Seth asked the owner or the manager for that night (the reports are a bit conflicting – perhaps because of the media circus and the owner’s need to protect his employees and friends?) if he wanted to head over to another bar for a bite to eat, i.e. “Wonderland.” But Seth’s pal was getting up early and declined, and he then offered Seth a ride home, since he appeared a bit drunk. Seth said, no – he was still going to head over to Wonderland and then walk back. This wasn’t unusual, though … Seth usually walked or biked around D.C. And he regularly walked back from his favorite pub.

Well, apparently, Seth never went to Wonderland. Right around or after closing, he made some phone calls. He tried to reach his Dad in Nebraska a few times, which was nothing unusual. The Rich family called each other on the phone like this every day and I guess, pretty much at any hour. Or – if it was unusual, as in “something’s bothering me,” it was probably about his girlfriend.  He reportedly called a few other friends, too, one of whom later shared with press, without disclosing an identity, that Seth told the friend that he never went to Wonderland. He had changed his mind.

These phone calls didn’t take much time.

Then, 35 minutes passed without phone calls.

Then, Seth (still not home) called his girlfriend (out-of-town) and they spoke for about two to two and a half hours on the phone (including, but not limited to, “relationship stuff.”) His girlfriend reported there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary about the phone call and what they talked about.

We know from Seth’s father that Seth often spoke outdoors on his cell phone because he had poor cell reception at his house. Even when he was home, he would leave the house and stroll about the neighborhood in order to have a clearer connection. We can infer, poor cell reception likely meant, any number of other people could hear your phone calls on their phones. Not such a great thing, in a house with housemates, especially if you want to have a long talk with your girlfriend!

At any rate ..

We know that, near the close of his long phone call with his girlfriend, Seth Rich was walking about 1 ½ blocks from his home, near the 2100 block of Flagler in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. The couple was concluding their phone call; Seth said he was almost home so he was getting off. It was late, they’d been talking for a long time, and we know that she was tired – she reportedly went to sleep not long after they hung up. But, as they were concluding their conversation, she heard a “scuffling sound” and/or “voices.” So she then asked Seth if everything was o.k. He responded that, yeah, everything was fine, and that he’d call her when he was home. Then they hung up. It was a very brief moment in a long conversation that was concluding, she didn’t think much of it, and she got into bed and fell asleep.

Two minutes later, though, Seth Rich was shot twice in the back at 4:17 A.M. Nearby police picked up the gun shots on a sort of gun shot detecting device, with one news report asserting (correctly or inaccurately) that the officers (also) heard the shots because they were so close. They went swiftly to the scene and found Seth Rich – to my understanding - lying in the street by the southeast corner/curb of W St and Flagler, diagonally across from the Flagler Market, a neighborhood convenience store on the northwest corner of the intersection. (See 7/11/2017 update/revision RE Seth's intersection location. He steps into the south west corner of the intersection but doesn't make it to the south east side; added information, however, only corroborates his later proposed route and the analysis, with Seth heading east on the south side of W St.)

At least two neighbors heard the two shots, according to MSM – and possibly others, since I’ve read one social media account by a poster who described running around to their various apartment windows (but not seeing anything). One of the MSM-reported neighbors said that he crossed to his window when he heard the shots – and the police had arrived so quickly, they were already out there when he looked out his window, to see police crouching over, and tending to, Seth Rich.

Seth was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced deceased about 2 hours later. One of the police officers in the ride to the hospital was later described on MSM as having said that Seth was chatty on the ride and didn’t seem aware that he’d been shot. The police officer said that, because he seemed relatively alert, he was even surprised that Seth didn’t make it.

Family reported that Seth had injuries on his face, knees and wrists, and that a watch wrist band was torn, but nothing was taken. Police believed there was struggle and that the homicide was part of a bungled burglary. As far as I know, they still do.

No ballistics or medical examiner reports have been released to the public. There were two hospitals in the immediate vicinity, much internet speculation, but no conclusive report as to which hospital Seth Rich was taken. (Update: Scott Taylor with ABC 7 in D.C. has since reported, 7/5/2017, the ambulance/medics, DC F-EMS, informing his office they went as far as MedStar WHC with Seth, but the hospital won't confirm one way or the other per confidentiality. So it looks like he went to MedStar.)

Jack Burkman, a GOP lobbyist who took an interest in the case, offered reward money, and formed a controversial graduate student forensic research “Profiling Project,” also uncovered convenience store security video which was turned over to the police. Video reportedly showed two male suspects (with conflicting reports that they were shown, in one version, fleeing, and in another, just prior to the assault) as well as Seth Rich collapsing in the intersection at the southeast corner of Flagler and W. (Again, see update; he collapses in the southwest corner of the intersection while heading east on W St towards the south east corner.)

The Profiling Project later reported two security cameras, one pointed at the intersection and another at W street, expressing some confusion about whether the police knew about both cameras. However, while PP did not draw this conclusion, I would infer police not only know about both videos, they have these videos, since the consistently described captured images correlate to the general angles of either lens; i.e. Seth collapsing (presumably by himself) in the intersection and the suspects likely filmed on the north side of W street either fleeing the assault or just prior.

The W Street video would not show the south side of W – as the Profiling Project seems to suggest – but rather, the north side only. Otherwise, we would see Seth Rich walking down the South side of W and we might also see the initial assault (which I will get back to – Seth’s hypothesized pedestrian route and time table).

Apart from video time stamps and sequencing, I've inferred that, if the assailants were heading east on the W St video, they were taped just prior to the assault, and likely heading out of the alley just behind the Flagler Market on the north side of W St. If they were heading west, they were likely heading into this alley on the north side of W, but immediately after the assault. Of course, they could have been heading around the north corner from Flagler (heading south on Flagler) to W and intercepting Seth Rich head on. But my educated guess is that they were already there when Seth came by, emerging from either of two alleys on the north and south side of W St.

It seems that the assailants were aware of the range of both cameras since they boldly assaulted Seth on the south side of W and never follow him into the intersection. And since we don’t have a ballistics or medical examiner’s report, or even access to these videos, we don’t know at what range Seth Rich was shot from, during the course of the assault. If he was shot where he collapsed, or if he was shot prior – at some other point – and walked over to the southeast corner where he collapsed in the street. (But more on this later.) No casings were found at the scene; the family reportedly shared a police theory that assailants used a revolver. {Again, per 7/11/2017 update, Seth Rich collapses in the southwest corner of the intersection while heading towards the southeast corner. The new information, however, only corroborates this portion of his proposed route and related analysis.)

Contrary to Wikipedia, one news media reported the video as only showing the assailants’ feet; while another article reported the video as only showing the assailants’ torsos. Both report the video as grainy and hard to get much information from. Again, police and family have not released these videos, so who knows.

Much speculation has been made around Seth’s ‘chattiness’ and ‘alertness’ during the ride to the hospital and his seeming lack of awareness that he’d been shot, let alone, assaulted. Here, my hypothesis is that Seth likely suffered a concussion during the course of the assault which resulted in a loss of short-term memory. I've since read, concussions of this kind aren’t unusual among assault victims who typically may not remember they’ve just been assaulted; also, he had visible injuries to the face, and these types of head injuries can be incurred through powerful face impact, as well. Seth also provided a previous address at the hospital, which is a symptom of short-term memory loss; i.e. he remembered an older address rather than the more recent one. As for the ‘alertness,’ his brother states in one article that this characteristic was very typically Seth, making it sound more like a personality characteristic. So I'm not convinced anything unusual was necessarily going on, in that respect, either.

Seth’s Route and Time Line

Using Google Maps from around 2015, I looked at a number of mapping issues with respect to local crime and the route and time line Seth Rich might have taken on his way home while talking on the phone. I used crime facts from the DC police website regarding unsolved homicides for the last few years, and read some additional news pieces about DC crime, as well as resident posts and neighborhood blogs on this issue.

But let's start with Seth's route.  
I reviewed various pedestrian routes, again, on google; using my previously mentioned “normality model,” I routed Seth home on what seemed to be a reasonable person’s route by foot at that hour of night on their own.

Now, of course, his girlfriend or a family member or the police could come forward and say they know that – for example – Seth Rich stopped off at a friend’s house on the way or detoured somewhere else, and told his girlfriend, or something else. So none of this is written in stone; it’s a reasonable hypothesis based on information available to the public and it may shed some light on the nature of the homicide.

Here’s the most current result: 

I present the hypothesis that Seth headed home in basically two steps, and so, with two maps (below). During the 35 minute gap in phone calls, he walked from Lou's Bar over to Howard University, likely heading out on Irving and making his way in a kind of south-easternly staircase through more pleasant residential neighborhoods, and so as to wind up on a more southern portion of Georgia, then heading into the Howard campus via Fairmont to 6th. And during this time, he's probably clearing his head and pulling himself together after drinking.

Leg One: Lou's City Bar to Howard University

Consider that, via google, it doesn't look like Seth had too many options as far as sitting down for a long phone conversation anywhere else on the way home at two o'clock in the morning or thereabouts. There are a couple of green spaces with benches but it doesn't look that appealing at that late hour in DC and for that length of time. Really, unless Seth stopped by a friend's house (and there's no such report), or some other incident we don't know about, Howard looks like the destination.

Prior to coming to this conclusion, I wondered if he'd meandered about various neighborhoods for this entire time, stopping here or there; in which case, he'd be inadvertently raising the odds of attracting the attention of some unscrupulous characters. For example, did he walk around this reservoir? Looking more closely at the environment with consideration to the late hour, it seemed unlikely.

He'd also been drinking; he wasn't about to go on a major hiking expedition. He was heading back, but he needed a good place to have a phone call with his girlfriend because of cell reception. So, my hypothesis is that he was going to cut through Howard. Sit down on the campus which is relatively safer and more pleasant (though certainly Howard has reported criminal issues, as well.) Howard fits quite nicely as a convenient route through to his home, regardless.

So, here's what Seth would see walking into Howard on such a hypothetical path, as far as the first area to sit down a spell and call his girlfriend. It's about a 35 minute walk from Lou's Bar.

The statue is called "Freedmen's Column" by the famous African American sculptor, Richard Hunt (1989). It's outside Crampton Auditorium. As you can see in the photo, people are sitting about the base of the statue, and if you peruse other images via google, you'll see that this wonderfully conceived statue seems to naturally invite pedestrians to sit down and rest their feet a spell. There are also some low steps in the plaza area where people might sit if it were later at night.

So, Seth Rich possibly stops here to initially call his girlfriend (in our hypothetical) after 35 minutes of walking. Perhaps he stays around here, or moves to some other inviting locations around the campus for the bulk of the conversation, maybe finding a bench on one of the nice lawn areas.

But, continuing our hypothetical, around 4:00 A.M., and still on the phone with his girlfriend, Seth gets up and starts departing the Howard campus to head the rest of the way home - which is only another ten minutes or so.

Here's my map of how he hypothetically walked the rest of the way,

Leg Two, Howard University to Flagler Market Intersection, Flagler and W Street

In this hypothetical, Seth heads out the southeastern corner of Howard, going south on 4th, east on W, then south on 2nd, to pick W up again, heading east again. 

You need an expanded detail with google to see how W St is broken up. 

This last turn on W is Seth's fateful block - in my hypothetical.

Now, Seth is ultimately going to be heading south on 1st off W St. So I have him walking down the south side of W which is supported by the video evidence, and the fact that he crosses over to the southeast corner of the intersection. (Again: see update. Seth doesn't make it to the south east corner of the intersection, though he is heading in that direction. He steps into the south west corner of the intersection where he collapses while heading east on the south side of W St. The new information, however, only corroborates this part of Seth's route moreso. With Seth still walking east on the south side of W St. to head south on 1st.)

As he walks down this last block of W St heading east towards Flagler, he passes two alleys, first on the south side that he's walking on, then, on the north side, i.e. the alley that runs behind Flagler Market.

Here's the first alley from google:

So, as above, Seth is walking east - which is heading to the viewer's left in this photo.

From this spot, here is a view of the Flagler Market - north side of W at the intersection that's up ahead of him:

So, I'm figuring, in this hypothetical, that anywhere from around here to the intersection up ahead, on this southern side of W, is where Seth Rich is initially assaulted. On this southern sidewalk shown in the photo. Note, too, the trees which might obstruct some visibility FBO the assailants. 

Here's the north alley running behind the market:

Profiling Project reports the two video cameras on one of the windows of the white building, close together. One is angled at the intersection which the students said provided a clear view of the intersection from inside the store. The other is angled at W St, but it couldn't go as far as the southern sidewalk or you'd see Seth Rich and perhaps his assault. It's this second camera angled at W St that (I'm understanding) captures the suspects.

Going back to his route from Howard, it seems unlikely he'd take Bryant St because it looks rather desolate on google. And he'd have to take Bryant if he was heading south on Flagler. There are a number of alleys in this one area, and I find it hard to believe that people normally go through these alleys at night. A reasonable guess - he'd stick to the main residential streets. 

So, again, the hypothetical has the suspects coming out of one of these alleys and returning to one of these alleys. They use the north alley at least once (depending on whether they're heading east or west in the W St video).

There are signs of a struggle. So we could hypothesize two basic scenarios. One is an initial assault without a visible gun; the other, with a gun. So let's run through both.

Without A Gun

Initially, my thought was without a gun (and I'm still fine with this theory) because Seth seems like a generally sensible person and most people will not tangle with a gun during a stick-up; they'll just hand it over. Then the robbers take it and go.

So how do they get into a struggle?

He's jumped, first, instead. These robbers are more interested in violence; the robbery is secondary. If you want to get into psychological jargon, I'd say sociopathy (vs psychopathy, as the PP suggests) because the assault is spontaneous - which is characteristic of sociopathy. They are already there. They haven't seen Seth before, but the two of them have done this before. They have a mugging routine. The routine goes something like, jump the person, beat them up, take their possessions, and possibly, shoot the person too, before running off. They probably have a routine for how they run off - whether they stick together or split up, etc.

So Seth is walking by and, whether or not they were expecting to spot a victim at that hour, they can very quickly "spring into action" with just a mild gesture or two to one another, if they do. 

This happens quite quickly; and because he's jumped or struck and doesn't see a gun, he quite naturally resists or fights back, in this hypothetical.

Without ballistics, a medical examiner's report, or the videos, even, we don't know at what point Seth is shot - or from what distance. It could be anywhere from the initial spot where he's first assaulted to the southeast corner of the intersection where he's seen collapsing. It is possible that he fights them off, and with very serious injuries, including a concussion, he proceeds into the range of the camera focused on the intersection before he's shot. However, he could conceivably also be walking into the intersection already shot, at any number of given points. (Again, as per 7/11/2017 update, Seth Rich collapses in the southwest corner of the intersection, heading towards the southeast corner. All of which only corroborates this part of the route and related analysis.)

The fact that one neighbor heard the shots, proceeded to the window, and saw the police already there - suggests that Seth may have been shot in or closer-to the intersection having already fought off the assailants. But we'd really need more facts.

With A Gun

In lieu of the timeline and the neighbor's account, this seems less likely. I never thought this theory had much weight, also because of the "normality approach" that I'm using in analyzing this information.  I later, however, came across information that Seth had some military training in Israel while he was in high school. Therefore, it is conceivable that he may have tangled with a gun if he had some training. You'd have to speak to people who knew about his training. But this aspect of his education, coupled with his friends' assessment that Seth could sometimes be belligerent and that he would, indeed, resist suggests it's possible.

Hitman Theory

Was it a hitman or two of them? 

It doesn't look like it to me, though I'm certainly no authority on this subject. Basically, the reason being:

(a) They didn't do "a very good job" and -
(b) He didn't have a very predictable schedule for the evening, and from what I'm reading, a hitman would tend to pick one of a person's more constant locations at a constant time, and just go over and rapidly do it. They wouldn't want all these inconveniences - hanging around - following him about all night. Was he going to Wonderland? How long was he going to be on the phone at Howard? What about the risk of being filmed by any number of security cameras on the campus? (If you accept the hypothesized stop-over.) It sounds complex and risky for a hitman. Also, if correct, the second leg of his route home consists of fairly quiet and empty streets. Wouldn't it be obvious to Seth if someone or two people were following him? We know from his conversation with his girlfriend that nothing seemed amiss - except right before they hung up, and in hindsight. I suppose there's some possibility Seth was tailed - but if so, for a short period - somewhere between Howard and the intersection (in this hypothetical) - and any contract killers wouldn't have known that this was "a good time" to go out looking for and following Seth, just finishing his off-schedule phone call with his girlfriend who's similarly off-schedule and out-of-town. Seth's hypothesized phone stop-over is unplanned and spontaneous. He hasn't told anyone else about it, as far as we know. 

I see very little research material on "hitmen." There's a recent British study and another Australian one. The fact that they "didn't do a good job" is not necessarily evidence that it wasn't. According to these studies, like other "jobs," hitmen exist at various levels of "competence." But they're also hard to study since most known examples are people who get caught and do screw up. We don't know much about how the really good ones operate. Do they try to make it look like a bungled burglary? And no one's been caught thus far with respect to Seth's homicide.

The studies do discuss the locations, however. They say "it's not like the movies," the locations are generally rather mundane, and they seem to move in swiftly and leave - knocking on a victim's door, shooting a victim opening his business in the morning, or while sitting in a public plaza having lunch, or as a drive-by shooting. This makes sense, in a certain way, thinking about it from "what might be" the hitman's point of view, to "get the job done." And according to these studies, the hitmen do see it this way: they have a job that they need to get done. They're not going to be hanging around and looping here and there, and in and out of all these alleys, ducking lights, possible security cameras, various windows and potential witnesses (on top of everything else). It raises all kinds of unknown variables, inconveniences and risks for the hitmen. So, they want it to be easy, predictable and direct, and what Seth was doing that night doesn't seem as if this would've made it easy for a hitman - not to mention all the other opportunities - prior to W and Flagler - that these two imagined contract killers don't take advantage of, and much earlier. It just doesn't make sense; and we know they're not waiting around at the intersection for hours (for when Seth decides to finally head back, and stroll by). They could be noticed.

I suppose if it were a drive-by shooting, there'd be a possibility, but I haven't read about any vehicles caught on either video. And we know from the phone call and his injuries, he was initially assaulted by (presumably two) people on foot, not in a car, who seem to suddenly be there in his field of perception (lending weight to the view that they came out of either alley). In this hypothetical, he's physically assaulted on the south side of W St; the shooter pulls the trigger standing on W St, from any number of possible points (without further information), perhaps closer to the intersection, given the suggested time frame, but out of range of the intersection camera.

Update, 7/11/2017: It occurs to me that, if Seth is "meandering" about for 2 hours on the phone, without stopping anywhere to sit down, this only discounts the "Hitmen Theory" moreso. They follow him around, not knowing where he's heading, for the entire time, and, not acting sooner? One way or the other, not an aptly chosen strategy for hired killers, and I'd think, the "meandering" scenario makes it only more peculiar and unlikely.

Bar Psychopath

I'll insert some mention, here, of the possibility that Seth was targeted at Lou's bar by some psychopath with a companion (there are two suspects, is my understanding) there with him, or picked up later.

It would mean that both of these individuals, too, would have to tail Seth quite a bit for a long time, and somehow, the psychopath and partner (who may or may not be a psychopath - but is somehow influenced or controlled by the psychopath) would also eventually have to know how to loop about in these alley ways and ambush Seth and get away. With no real prior planning or sufficient geographic knowledge.

I would say the assailants definitely had their geography down. They knew the terrain.

So I've thought about "Bar Psychopath Theory," but have since discounted this possibility. 

DC Crime Profile

Lastly, take a look at the crime scene in DC neighborhoods.  The crime scene in DC and the area Seth Rich lived in certainly supports a sort of sociopathic, bungled burglary theory.

Here's a photo of the Flagler Market, for example, from an older Yelp review:

As you can see in the top photo with the reviewer's satiric comment, "store still has 1" thick safety glass revolving server port, with voice holes in it (for that true 'hood experience)" [sic] Note "still." The fact is, the store has gun protective shielding for cashiers because there's gun violence and crime in the area. (Incidentally, one poster recently reported that the store is now under new ownership.)

At the time Seth was killed, his neighborhood had 20 burglaries, two in the location where Seth was killed, plus one car jacking there. The police were nearby that night because the community had rallied the police department to bring in more officers due to these stick-ups.

But, what people are also missing in this area are the murders. It's not *just* burglaries. DC had a spike in homicides, a portion of which are found in the northwest and northeast sections with Seth's homicide in and straddling both areas.

Apart from total homicides, below, I've posted some google maps I composed showing the unsolved 2016 D.C. homicides for various areas of the city including Seth Rich - and, as if you were taking a walking tour from one homicide location to the next.

(A note on race, which was brought up by the Profiling Project. The students propose that Seth's homicide was weird in some respect because he's white, and there were only one or two other white unsolved homicides out of about 65 for 2016. Actually, this is not weird. If you look at the D.C. crime stats on unsolved homicides for at least a few years in a row, you will see that each year, while most victims are African American, there are also a few white unsolved homicides. So this is statistically consistent with the white victims invariably killed in the same areas as other victims, as mapped out below.)

North West Section

Seth was murdered in the northwest section. I used Lou's Bar in this map as a reference point - not to suggest that people are being killed left and right around Lou's Bar, but just to provide a more familiar point of reference.

As you can see, south of Lou's Bar, in the northwest section, Seth is not nearly the only unsolved homicide for 2016 alone. 

Here's another couple of 2016 unsolved homicides just a couple of miles north of Lou's:

You can also see, if you accept my hypothesis, Seth was a sensible man who took a relatively safe pedestrian route back home, with a well-chosen stop-over for his lengthy telephone conversation. 

Accepting my hypothesis, you could really say that Seth's homicide was a tragic case of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time for that one block of a ten minute walk to his house, on that 2nd leg of his proposed journey.

It's really sad.

Northeast Section, West of the Anacostia River

Here's a map I made of 2016 unsolved DC homicides for the northeast section in relation to Seth's homicide (as you can see, he's also very close to the northeast section) - south of the Flagler intersection and west of the Anacostia River.

According to assorted news articles I read, DC's also had problems with gang violence in both of these sections, with some residents complaining on the internet that the violence is never really resolved - it just gets pushed to another area, not far away. For example, there were some gangs in an area south of Lou's (they shot and killed area residents)- which I don't think Seth walked through (though he could have) - and, at any rate, these gangs were reportedly pushed out of this area, but only to reemerge, according to one resident poster, in the northeast, not far from Seth. 

Now, I'm not saying any of this is necessarily responsible for Seth Rich. Just that, there's a lot going on here, in terms of guns and violence, and it very well could.

Northeast Section, West of the Anacostia River

Here's a map I made of 2016 unsolved homicides (in relation to the Flagler/W St intersection still in the northeast, but on the east side of the Anacostia River. I would tend to think that, once you cross to the other side of the river, the unsolved homicides there are less likely to be related to unsolved homicides on the west side of the Anacostia in the NW and NE.

Southeast Section, East of the Anacostia and (later) Potomac

Here's the southeast on the east side of the river and north of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Here's the southeast on the east side of the river, south of Pennsylvania Ave and north of Suitland Parkway. I've included the only unsolved 2016 homicide for the southeast section on the west side of the river, which, as you can see, is easily connected via a couple of direct main arteries. A lovely teenage girl horrifically shot and killed while standing outside her apartment building, talking with her friends.

Here's the southeast section on the east side of the Potomac River and south of Suitland Parkway; 2016 unsolved homicides.

And again, you could further hypothesize by looking at the geography of these unsolved murders (doesn't include the total murders), the river and specific roadways play a significant role in the probability of crime being related to one area or another, or not.  

Ergo, seems Seth's homicide might more likely be related to events taking place in the NE and NW on the west side of the Anacostia and south of Lou's Bar. 


Keeping various possibilities in mind, I'd focus first on unsolved homicides 2016 and 2017 in the NW and NE (west of the Anacostia River) that might follow similar patterns as Seth's (and before swinging into other areas of the city - unless, of course, something stands out somewhere else). To do that, however, "sleuths" need to dig for more information about the victims than what's posted at the police website or even in some of the newspaper articles, since these cases aren't famous like Seth's. For example, where the victims were shot, whether they were assaulted in any other way - and similar to Seth - what time of day or night the crimes were committed; if there's any information as to how many assailants were involved; what the victim was doing (e.g. minding their own business walking down the street), so on. If they were assaulted as pedestrians, you might want to see if there are any similar geographic features such as nondescript hang-outs near alleys, or just alleys, permitting rapid flight and/or ambush by foot. Another line of inquiry are robberies that didn't result in homicide, but where two assailants "jump" and beat the victim up first, then take their stuff and run. It does sound, however, as if one of the assailants, at least, may have shot one or more persons before, particularly if he shot Seth from a distance. Police would know about the shooter's hypothetical experience.

Unless the police have other information about how Seth mapped back (e.g. maybe Seth mentioned something to his girlfriend), as to whether or not it correlates to my Howard University hypothesis, I think it'd be worth checking out any security video for the campus to see if Seth was there, and if so, where, and whether anyone else was filmed on the campus around that time that night. It doesn't seem like Seth was followed; but if he were, one might start there, and certainly any such information would shed further light on what may or may not have happened.

Update 7/11/2017

Some more news stories with the anniversary of Seth's death. Looking at a re-run of an older news clip, I see that Seth may have collapsed before crossing completely over to the south east corner of the intersection; meaning that he was found having (hypothetically) just stepped off at the south west corner - rather than having crossed completely to the south east corner and diagonal to Flagler Market.  

Here is the video still:

The give-away are the trees (straight on for the viewer - look closely in the dark) on the block he (would have) just walked down, heading east, as well as the small tree just to the viewer's left. There are no trees face on, quite like this for any of the other corners.

Here's a daytime google maps still:

And, another google maps still with a blue X marking the spot Seth Rich was found as shown in the news video still:

This doesn't change the basic analysis. It even (rather) confirms this part of his proposed route. 

He is (still, and even more certainly) walking east down the south side of W St. He is (still, and even more certainly) initially assaulted outside the range of the intersection camera on that block - and steps into the camera range either already shot - or he is shot at that spot where he falls - with the shooter out of camera range. The only change might be with respect to the distance from which the shooter fires - the options perhaps narrowed, though we still don't know the exact point of the initial assault.

So, again, Seth hasn't crossed yet to the other side of the street. He is found by the south west corner/curb (heading to the south east corner) of the intersection.

Editor's Note. This is number 1 of 4 in a Seth Rich blog series. post 2, "More on Seth Rich" is here; post 3, "Bungled Burglary or Bungled 'Hit'" is here; post 4, "Wonderland," is here. (Really, you have to take the time to read the whole lengthy thing - and in sequence - for any of it to make sense, even if you fancy yourself an expert. You might even want to look at some of the posts a second time, too.)

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