Grand jury indicts man in religious supply store attack

1 week 4 days 18 hours ago Monday, February 11 2019 Feb 11, 2019 Monday, February 11, 2019 3:36:08 PM CST February 11, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis County grand jury has returned a 17-count indictment against a man suspected of killing a woman and sexually assaulting two others inside a suburban St. Louis religious supply store.

The indictment filed Wednesday mirrors charges prosecutors filed in November against Thomas Bruce of Imperial, Missouri. They include one count of first-degree murder, three counts of sodomy or attempted sodomy, three counts of kidnapping, eight counts of armed criminal action and one count each of burglary and tampering with evidence.

Bruce, 53, is jailed without bond.

The attack occurred Nov. 19 at the Catholic Supply store near Ballwin. Prosecutors said Bruce, a onetime minister armed with a gun, forced the three women who were in the store into a back room, where he demanded they perform sexual acts on him.

When Jamie Schmidt, a 53-year-old customer, refused, authorities said she was shot in the head. The indictment said Bruce sexually assaulted the other two women before fleeing. He was arrested two days later.

A phone message left Monday with Bruce's attorney, public defender Brice Donnelly, was not immediately returned.

A spokeswoman for prosecutor Wesley Bell said Monday that the indictment eliminates the need to prove the worthiness of the case at a preliminary hearing. Bruce has an arraignment scheduled for Feb. 20.

Bell, a death penalty opponent who took office in January, has said he will seek life in prison without parole if Bruce is convicted. A spokesman for Schmidt's family said the family agrees with the decision.

Bruce, who claimed to be a Navy veteran on his LinkedIn page, operated a nonprofit church in southeast Missouri from 2003 to 2007. He had no criminal record at the time of his arrest, but the arrest led to charges in another assault .

A 77-year-old woman was attacked in September at her home near Hillsboro, about 40 miles south of St. Louis. Police interviewed neighbors but had no strong leads until the woman saw Bruce's photo on television after his arrest in the religious store assault. Investigators said she "instantly" recognized him as her attacker.

Jefferson County prosecuting attorney Trisha Stefanski alleges Bruce forced his way into the woman's home, grabbed her in a sexual manner and demanded that she perform a sexual act. The suspect fled after the woman's phone rang and she said her husband was on his way home.

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