The story of an American electronics engineer who died under mysterious circumstanes in Singapore nearly six years ago will be aired Sunday evening on the Science Channel show Deadly Intelligence.
Shane Todd, the oldest son of Rick and Mary Todd of Marion, was found dead in his apartment in June 2012.
Government officials in Singapore, a city-state off the coast of Malaysia, ruled Todd’s death a suicide after he was found hanging from a bathroom door.
His parents believed he was murdered because of the work he was doing and evidence found where he lived. They fought for years to have the U.S. government and various media outlets investigate their son’s case.
While they now believe there is little likelihood that Shane’s death will ever be ruled anything other than a suicide, they are pleased that his story will be told again.
“What we most want to see happen is attention brought to the illegal transfer of technology to China through my son’s work,” Mary Todd told the Daily Inter Lake. “We would like to see our elected officials do something and we believe with a new administration, there is that opportunity.”
Mary said they are not seeking exoneration for Shane.
“He’s in Heaven, he’s been exonerated in the eyes of God,” Mary said. “He had quit his job and was preparing to return home because he believed his life was in danger.
“We do remain concerned about other countries, such as China, having technology that comprimises our national security.”
At the time, Shane was working for the Institute for Micro Electronics, a subsidiary of the Singaporean government-run Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
A small hard-drive the Todds found at their son’s apartment — information inadvertently left behind by police who confiscated Shane’s computers, cellphone and diary — detailed plans for a project that involved IME and Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies.
The two companies planned to develop an amplifier device powered by semiconductor material able to withstand heat and power levels way beyond silicon.
Shane was worried for months that the project he was working on was compromising U.S. national security, his parents said. At some point he began fearing for his life.
When Shane was asked to find equipment for the gallium nitride research, he found that Veeco, a publicly traded company in New York, could manufacture what was needed for the project, according to the Financial Times. He left Singapore to get training at the Veeco offices in January 2012.
A proposal drafted by IME that outlines Shane’s directive to train with Veeco engineers also noted that “Veeco has also stated that they will not directly transfer the best-known method recipes to our tool, rather we will copy the recipe firsthand during our visit,” the Financial Times’ article said.
“In a tender for the equipment, also found in Shane’s files, the GaN (gallium nitride) recipe is referenced: ‘Can share during training but not available for technology transfer,’” the article continued, adding another portion of the IME memo that stated “Any potential connection with Huawei would be problematic for Veeco and for IME because Huawei has been deemed a security risk by powerful U.S. lawmakers.”
A U.S. House intelligence committee warned in 2012, after an 11-month probe, that it suspected communications equipment made by Huawei could be used for spying, the Financial Times reported.
Shane became more and more anxious about his role in the project. He confided in his parents, telling them he was really worried. They told him to quit his job andcome back to Montana. But Shane felt he had to honor the terms of his employment.
“You have to understand who Shane was,” his father said. “He was a man of honor.”
Shane had given IME a 60-day notice that he would be leaving, then agreed to work another 30 days to train someone on the equipment with which he had been working.
Later, after having an American pathologist study photos of their son’s body and the autopsy report, a scenario quite different from the one given by Singaporean authorities emerged.
They believe their son was murdered, that he fought off an attacker and died by garroting.
Then and now, the Todd family has had help from U.S. senators Steve Daines, Max Baucus and Jon Tester.
The Todds credited Jennifer Madgic, Tester’s Regional Director, for her compassion in trying to help them.
Tester’s spokesman at the time, Dan Malessa, said the senator’s staff was in touch directly with the State Department, the embassy in Singapore and with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Also, in 2013, Baucus and Tester introduced a measure to block U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to the Institute of Micro Electronics, part of a Singapore state agency where Todd worked, until the U.S. Attorney General certified the FBI has full access to all evidence and records relevant to Todd’s death.
Baucus met with Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam in Baucus’ Washington office. Then, following with his meeting with Baucus, Shanmugam committed publicly to “share all evidence with the FBI” and offered to conduct an audit of IME’s dealings with Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, according to a press release from Baucus’ office.
The Todds said Baucus was helpful to their cause until he became the U.S. Ambassador to China in 2014.
The Todds also credited Sen. Daines for his assistance.
“Senator Daines has been much more aggressive in trying to shed some light on this,” Rick Todd said. “Since he became Senator, Steve has worked to contact the FBI about this, has been in contact with us and much more helpful.”
After Rick got in touch with a friend who knew Raymond Bonner, an award-winning investigative journalist, Financial Times printed a story in February 2013.
Since then, the story was reported on by several major news organizations. The CBS show 48 Hours also reported on it.
Mary Todd and her niece Christina Villegas wrote a book about it, titled “Hard Drive.” It was published in 2015 and a movie deal is also in the works.
According to a news release from discovery.com, the show is one of eight one-hour episodes that take a look at the suspicious deaths of scientific geniuses to determine if their demises were unfortunate coincidences or if these gifted minds were murdered for knowing too much.