Shooting at Catholic Supply
Police have identified and charged an Imperial, Missouri, man in the sexual assault and shooting at a Catholic Supply store in St. Louis County.
Thomas Bruce, 53, has been charged with fourteen counts in connection with the shooting, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said in a press conference Wednesday night.
Bruce is accused of sexually assaulting three women and shooting one at the Catholic Supply on Manchester Road in Ballwin, Missouri, on Monday.
Jamie Schmidt, 53, of House Springs, Missouri, died from her gunshot wounds later Monday night.
Bruce faces one count of first-degree murder, three counts of sodomy or attempted sodomy and three counts of kidnapping among two burglarly charges and eight counts of armed criminal action, McCulloch said. One of the burglary counts stems from when Bruce allegedly tried to dispose of clothes connected to the incident.
According to a news release from St. Louis County Police, Bruce entered the store Monday night pretending to be a customer. He left after a while and re-entered, displaying a handgun. He herded the three women inside the store into a back room. There, Bruce is accused of forcing them to disrobe at gunpoint and exposing himself with the intent to sexually assault them.
When Jamie Schmidt refused to comply with Bruce’s orders, he shot her in the head, the news release said. He is accused of forcing the other two women to continue performing sexual acts on him before fleeing.
McCulloch said Bruce has no known criminal history and that police had not yet established a motive. McCulloch does not believe Bruce knew any of the women.
“I think a guy like that just saw an opportunity of three women in a store alone,” McCulloch said at the press conference.
A first-degree murder charge carries a possible death penalty sentence. McCulloch said that though “aggravating circumstances are certainly there” to seek the death penalty, the decision has not been made yet and will be left up to Wesley Bell, McCulloch’s successor, at the beginning of 2019.
According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, police received hundreds of tips during the extensive search for a suspect in the shooting. Police were lead to Bruce by doing a recanvass of the area and talking to people who were in the vicinity at the time of the crime again, Belmar said.
Bruce was being held without bail.
The Catholic Supply stores throughout St. Louis reopened on Wednesday.
Schmidt was married and had two adult children and one child in high school, the Post-Dispatch reported.
“Our family is just devastated,” said her brother-in-law Tim Schmidt. “She was just a kind person. Never did anything to anyone. It’s a random tragedy. ... It’s a reality no one wants to deal with.”
Dan Stutte, the president of Catholic Supply, issued a statement about the shooting Monday night.
“We are shocked and saddened by the events that occurred at our West County location Monday afternoon,” Stutte said in the statement. “This was a senseless tragedy. Please join us as we pray for the victims and their families.”