Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ex-St. Louis Co Police Chief to Wesley Bell: Give Catholic Supply Shooter to Feds

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 12:55 PM

click to enlarge Thomas Bruce is facing murder, kidnapping and sodomy charges in the Catholic Supply shooting. - ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE/DOYLE MURPHY
  • Thomas Bruce is facing murder, kidnapping and sodomy charges in the Catholic Supply shooting.

Hand over prosecution of the Catholic Supply shooter case to the feds so they can pursue the death penalty.

That's ex-St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch's message to incoming county Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell.

Fitch, who will take office as a county councilman next year, says a "convincing message" needs to be sent after a gunman sexually assaulted two workers and killed 53-year-old customer Jamie Schmidt on November 19 at the west county store.

Thomas Bruce, 53, of Antonia has been charged with seventeen felonies, including murder, sodomy and kidnapping in the case.

"This horrific sexual assault and murder begs for the ultimate penalty upon conviction," Fitch said in a prepared statement.

click to enlarge Ex-St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says the case 'begs' for the death penalty. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Ex-St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says the case 'begs' for the death penalty.

Bell promised during his campaign that he would never seek the death penalty, describing it as "expensive, ineffective at deterrence" and "racially biased." He declined to weigh in on any decisions on the case because he is not yet in office.

"There is only one prosecutor at a time, thus it would be inappropriate for Mr. Bell to comment on any pending cases prior to taking office," Bell spokeswoman Josi Nielsen told the RFT.

Police say Bruce originally posed as a customer at Catholic Supply, returning moments later with a gun. He then forced Schmidt and the other two women into a back room where he began sexually assaulting them, authorities say. He allegedly shot Schmidt, a mother of three, when she refused his demands.

Outgoing county prosecutor Robert McCulloch said at a news conference after Bruce's arrest there were enough aggravating circumstances in the attack to support a death penalty case, but he said that decision would be up to Bell.

Even if Bell was inclined to hand it off, there is nothing saying the feds would have to take the case. In his statement, Fitch says he "respectfully requests U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of Missouri review the facts and circumstances of this brutal crime and assume responsibility for the prosecution of the suspect."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

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