Thomas Bruce of Antonia, MO

(KMOX / St. Louis County Police)

Police File Charges for Murder, Sexual Assault at Catholic Supply Store

Police have charged Thomas Bruce, 53, with 17 counts, including first-degree murder, which carries a possible death sentence.

November 21, 2018 - 4:27 pm

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOX/AP) - St. Louis County police have charged Thomas Bruce, 53, of Antonia, Mo., for the murder and assault that occurred Monday at a Catholic Supply store in West St. Louis County.

He has been charged with 17 counts, including first-degree murder, sodomy, kidnapping and armed criminal action.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Bruce has no apparent criminal background.

The prosecutor said he has "no idea" of a motive for the crimes allegedly committed by Bruce.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and McCulloch held a news conference at 4:30 p.m. to update media on Monday's murder and sexual assault at a Ballwin-area Catholic Supply store.

Belmar thanked members of the community for "scores of tips" that were able to help detectives in the case. He told reporters that information about the distinctive clothing the suspect was wearing, coupled with a tip, helped make a break in the case.

The chief admitted he was "a little surprised" there wasn't more surveillance footage in area where the crime occurred.

No bond amount has been set for Bruce. 

According to Bruce's LinkedIn profile, he has worked at American Family Insurance, the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Louis, and was a department manager at a Schnucks store.

Bruce's profile states he is a Navy veteran. In the past, it says he was a volunteer pastor at the Cape County Jail, and also volunteered time at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau for "spiritual growth" for seniors.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Bruce has an Associate's degree in biblical studies.

Police were called to Catholic Supply of St. Louis, Inc, in the 14000 block of Manchester on Monday afternoon. Authorities say a gunman sexually assaulted at least one person inside, and shot a 53-year-old customer, Jamie Schmidt, in the head. She later died at a hospital.

Police don't believe that the gunman knew Schmidt, and have declined to say if more than one person in the store was sexually assaulted.

On Wednesday afternoon, police tweeted information about a "person of interest" in custody for the homicide at Catholic Supply. The person was described only as a 53-year-old male.

There was some confusion earlier in the day when Bruce was taken in for questioning, and some local media outlets reported him as being charged in the case. 

Police were searching for a suspect, asking for the public's help until Wednesday afternoon.

Some nearby schools and churches shut down over the next two days as the attacker remained on the loose. Some businesses in the same strip mall as Catholic Supply also closed.

Police haven't said if they believe the store was targeted because of its religious affiliation. Catholic Supply operates three stores in the St. Louis area.

Schmidt, of House Springs, Missouri, was a married mother of three who worked as an administrator at St. Louis Community College's campus in Wildwood, Missouri. Two of her children are adults and the third is in high school.

Several members of her parish, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in High Ridge, gathered for a memorial service Tuesday to remember Schmidt, who sang in the church choir. A friend told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Schmidt may have been at the store to buy supplies to make rosaries for fellow parishioners.