“He had an extremely nasty, vile look about him,” said one source of the victim. “He was obviously out for blood.”
As they prepared to launch their investigation into the murder the FBI interviewed many of the witness in the case. Many were upset, and one witness who was in an FBI agent’s office said that they wanted her arrested.
At the close of the interview, she said, “If you want to prosecute me, they ought to put me in that goddamn jailhouse,” and said that she had been promised a $50,000 reward if she ever showed up at a news conference with the FBI.
It might seem at first blush that the FBI might have bungled the investigation. But the answer is no. The Bureau did not have enough evidence to charge the witness (because his identity was never made known). And the witness’ death came at a very high tide, with a national and international media frenzy following the murder. As the story spread around America, investigators had to change their strategy.
Instead of pursuing the witnesses’ leads as aggressively as they had in the earlier case, the FBI had a change of strategy. The case was no longer an FBI case. It now was the Department of Justice’s lead case. To move it forward, the FBI changed its legal strategy and filed a legal motion in federal court that the prosecutor was required by law to release some of the names of witnesses.
The judge in the case then found that the defendants did not violate the terms of the witness’ release. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said, “It was a legitimate question … the judge was clear it was necessary for certain things, specifically identifying the individuals involved and certain documents.”
As the court case proceeded and the number of witnesses dropped to a few, the prosecution focused instead on other witnesses. They were not considered suspects, and the prosecution dropped all the charges against them for lack of evidence. The FBI’s strategy changed from using their sources to build a case against the witnesses to a strategy used in the case of the killer.
At a briefing at the end of 2004, FBI special agent in charge Jim Wilkerson described how that happened. Wilkerson described the FBI’s policy as follows:
“If we were to run a criminal investigation into the facts that we were seeking to get to and were going to put witnesses in jeopardy, we would want to do it the way they would want you to,” said Wilkerson.
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