SEATTLE, Nov. 14 — A failed polygraph test by a gun collector. Handwriting samples from a chief suspect. A daughter’s plea for the public’s help. These three strands have breathed new life into the stalled five-year investigation of a federal prosecutor’s killing here.

The prosecutor, Thomas C. Wales, 49, an assistant United States attorney, was shot to death on Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat typing at his computer in his basement. Someone standing in Mr. Wales’s secluded backyard fired through a window, hitting him in the neck and torso, investigators have said. A neighbor told reporters at the time that she had seen a man stride from the scene, climb into his car and speed away.

No one has been charged with the crime, which the authorities say appears to have been premeditated because of its precision and the paltry evidence left behind. If Mr. Wales was murdered in retaliation for his work, he would be the first federal prosecutor killed in the line of duty.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation which has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction, says it has interviewed about 4,000 people and followed 10,000 leads in 50 states and several Eastern European countries.

But there was a strong sense in Seattle that the case was stuck. The authorities used the fifth anniversary of the shooting to raise the profile of the investigation and even urged Mr. Wales’s son and daughter to ask the public for help in solving the crime.

“I wholly encourage anyone who has information to come forward, to be brave, and to provide a measure of justice to the system,” his daughter, Amy Wales, said in a recent interview in a coffee shop near her father’s house. At 27, she looks prematurely worn by what she calls his “shattering” death.

Robert Geeslin, the F.B.I. agent who is supervising the investigation, said, “This is not a cold case.”

Forensic tests conducted soon after the killing identified the weapon as an inexpensive semiautomatic Makarov handgun, one of millions produced in Soviet-bloc countries and China, Agent Geeslin said. The gun had been refitted with an American-made stainless-steel replacement barrel, one of 3,600 sold in the United States.

Since then, the F.B.I. has focused on its “Makarov project,” a search for these silver-colored barrels. The bureau has located about 1,800 of them, Agent Geeslin said.

One person on the Makarov list is a gun collector, Albert Kwan, who lives in a Seattle suburb, Bellevue. Mr. Kwan’s lawyer, Joseph Conte of Washington, D.C., said that the F.B.I. apparently thought Mr. Kwan bought two gun barrels a decade ago, but that Mr. Kwan remembered buying only one. Mr. Kwan’s collection of several hundred weapons includes eight Makarov pistols, Mr. Conte said.

In September, the United States Attorney’s office here indicted Mr. Kwan on one count of illegal possession of a machine gun. Mr. Conte said the agency told him that it would consider dropping the charge if Mr. Kwan testified before a grand jury investigating Mr. Wales’s killing and passed a polygraph test.

Mr. Kwan took the polygraph last week, his lawyer said, adding that the government told him his client had failed two questions, whether he bought two gun barrels and where the second one is.

“My interpretation is that he didn’t give the government the answers they wanted,” Mr. Conte said.

Before the polygraph, F.B.I. officials did not characterize Mr. Kwan as someone who was likely to provide a major break in the case. This week, the F.B.I. would not comment about Mr. Kwan or the polygraph results. Bill Redkey, an assistant United States attorney here, said Mr. Kwan was likely to go to trial on the machine-gun charge in March.

Mr. Conte said the F.B.I. erroneously thought Mr. Kwan might have provided a gun barrel to a chief suspect, a commercial airline pilot. Mr. Wales indicted the pilot and three business partners on conspiracy and fraud charges in 2000.

In 2001, the government dismissed the charges against the pilot and his partners after their company pleaded guilty to federal criminal violations related to the sale of a military helicopter and paid a fine.

Soon after, the pilot sued the government to recoup his legal fees, saying he was the victim of a “bad faith” prosecution. Four months later, Mr. Wales was killed. The pilot’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.

The F.B.I. will not discuss the pilot. His lawyer, Larry Setchell, however, has said the F.B.I. had searched his client’s homes and vehicles and confiscated clothing and shoes.

Mr. Setchell confirmed a report that first appeared in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, that the pilot had agreed to provide handwriting samples to prove he was not the author of a mysterious letter related to the killing. In the letter, sent last January from Las Vegas to the F.B.I.’s downtown Seattle office, someone using the name “Gidget” claimed to have been hired by a “nice talking lady” to kill Mr. Wales.

Mr. Setchell has compared the pilot to Richard Jewell, the security guard whom the F.B.I. erroneously accused of setting off a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Source: NY Times

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