An Everett woman named as a witness in the investigation into the 2001 shooting death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales was ordered released to a halfway house Tuesday over the objections of federal prosecutors and pretrial service officials after admitting to using drugs and being involved in an incident of misdemeanor domestic violence involving her fiancé.
Shawna Reid, 34, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson during a telephonic hearing on whether the court should revoke her bond and detain her pending trial after she purportedly violated the conditions of her release by using drugs, endangering three young children and then assaulting her fiancé at his Lake Stevens home last month.
Prosecutors and officials from the Office of U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services recommended Reid remain in custody, arguing her issues with drug abuse and addiction and the incident involving her fiancé, with whom she had been living with her mother and her three young children, made supervising her impossible. However, Peterson said it was unlikely Reid would be tried in the “near term” and that she was inclined to release her on strict conditions.
Reid’s trial is set to begin June 29, however, all trials in U.S. District Court have been suspended because of the health emergency presented by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Prosecutors say Reid, while under oath, tried to deny statements she purportedly made to the FBI earlier regarding her connection to group of people in Snohomish County, including a man suspected of being paid to kill Wales. Wales, a veteran white-collar prosecutor and anti-handgun advocate who worked out of the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office, was shot several times the night of Oct. 11, 2001, by someone who sneaked into his backyard and fired at him through a basement window as he sat writing emails.
The problem, according to her defense, is there was nowhere for Reid to go if she was released. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Hoff, a trial attorney from the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section in Washington, D.C. assigned to prosecute Reid, opposed her release. He said she had been charged with misdemeanor domestic-violence fourth-degree assault in Lake Stevens and was not allowed back into the home of her fiancé, where she had been living.
Her fiancé, Brandon Zarelli, appeared via telephone and told the judge the incident in which Reid allegedly assaulted him was a misunderstanding on the part of a neighbor, who called police. Peterson said police reports indicate Zarelli was assaulted when he tried to stop Reid from seeking more drugs. Testimony and court documents indicate Reid had been using cocaine and fentanyl, a powerful narcotic painkiller.
“She’s not a violent person,” Zarelli told the court. “She’s a very good mother with some issues.”
According to testimony and a violation report issued by Pretrial Services Officer Lisa Combs, Reid started using drugs two days after undergoing a 30-day inpatient drug treatment regimen at a facility in Spokane. One of her attorneys, Michael Nance, said she was released in early March just as coronavirus closures and orders for social isolation swept across the state. Reid was unable to see her counselor, attend meetings or groups and was left to fend for herself in very stressful circumstances, Nance said.
Peterson imposed a series of new restrictions on Reid and ordered her released to a halfway house. She will appear in court again May 19.
An FBI task force and a special prosecutor have been investigating the shooting and say evidence has led them to focus primarily on an airline pilot whom Wales had unsuccessfully prosecuted in a fraud case. The bureau strongly believes someone was hired to kill Wales and that a small group of individuals know the details. Reid’s arrest is an attempt to leverage what investigators believe is a crack in a nearly 20-year wall of silence.
Wales, if he was killed as a result of his job, would be the first federal prosecutor in U.S. history to die in the line of duty. The Department of Justice has offered a $1.5 million reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Reid is not implicated in the killing itself, but rather is being sought as a witness to statements purportedly made by a former boyfriend, a 38-year-old Camano Island man who has repeatedly been questioned by the FBI about knowledge investigators believe is key to solving the case. The couple, according to relatives, moved in a small circle of friends that included another man, who the group believed was hired to kill Wales.
Reid, however, might not be an ideal witness. According to documents filed by prosecutors to support revoking her bond, she suffers from a string of mental health issues and has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. She has a tragic past and her family has said she is prone to exaggeration.