Amy Wales was just 22 years old when her father, U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales, was shot through a window of his Queen Anne home. Since then, she’s stood for him in countless ways.
She is, more than anything, her father’s daughter.
Even though U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales has been gone for 16 years — nearly half her life — Amy Wales keeps him alive not just in her mind, but in her carriage, and her words.
You could see it in the way she stood there the other day as Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reiterated his department’s commitment to a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Wales’ killer; and as former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay spoke of adding an additional $525,000 in reward money from the National Association of U.S. Attorneys.
They suspect Wales was killed in the line of duty. The FBI has found evidence strongly suggesting that Wales’ murder was part of a conspiracy, and committed by a hired gunman. For a long time, a former Bellevue-area airline pilot whom Wales had prosecuted in a bitter fraud case was a leading suspect. He has maintained his innocence.
The unsolved slaying of Thomas WalesHe was a father, a federal prosecutor and a vocal gun-control activist. On an October evening 15 years ago, when Wales was alone in his Queen Anne home, a gunman took his life. See a timeline of the case since the 2001 slaying.
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In the time since her father’s murder — she was 22 years old at the time — Amy Wales has stood for him in countless ways. A YouTube video urging people to call the FBI if they know anything about who shot him through the window of his Queen Anne home. A news conference marking the 10th anniversary of his death. The opening of a park bearing his name.
But on this day, when justice officials vowed to see that “no stone was left unturned,” Amy Wales showed to be the true, tender heart at the center of it all.
When it was her turn to speak, she started by thanking everyone: The Department of Justice, the FBI and the Seattle police officials who were there the night of Wales’ murder, and have become invested in the justice that seems just out of reach.
She reminded people that her father was killed one month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, when government officials were overwhelmed and scrambling — and still made his case a priority.
And she honored those who have stayed with it: “ … some members of the team have devoted what is, in effect, the balance of their careers to this case. We would like to thank you — to thank all of you — for your hard work,” she said, speaking for herself, her brother, Thomas, and their family.
There was no anger, no questioning why there hadn’t been an arrest in 16 years — long enough for Amy Wales to finish school, begin a career in communications, marry and have two children of her own. A boy and a girl. Twins.
Wales knows, though, the painstaking nature of investigations. The requirements of the law. Her father had faith in the system, believed in the mission of the Justice Department and the FBI — so much so that he left a big salary at a New York law firm for it.
“I am sure many in this room assign similar value to serving the United States,” Amy Wales said.
And then, with Rosenstein — the No. 2 man in the U.S. Justice Department, appointed last year by President Donald Trump — standing just feet away, Wales gracefully pointed out the elephant in the room.
“Your service is all the more important at a time when the Justice Department and the FBI are constantly maligned for partisan or self-interested reasons,” she said. “Truth is the first casualty, of course, in such theatrics of lies — which are repulsive and worrisome.”
She once again acknowledged the work being done by investigators, and then hinted at the work being done in her own home, with her own children, who were born into loss, and are now, too, awaiting justice for the grandfather they only know through their mother.
Amy Wales stands in for him there, too.
“ ‘Bright heart, brave heart,’ I tell my children,” she said. “Lean into courage, and courage of heart you will be.”
When it came to describing her loss, she chose — as her scholarly father might have — the Greek tragedian Aeschylus.
“‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair, against our will,
through the grace of God.”
Wales didn’t have to read the quote. She is living it.