A woman was shot and killed at St. Louis religious supplies store earlier this week because she refused her attacker’s demands to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” authorities said Wednesday.
The alleged attacker – identified as 53-year-old Thomas Bruce – on Monday forced three women who were in the store into a back room at gunpoint and forced them to strip, detectives said in a probable cause statement. He allegedly forced two of the woman to perform sex acts on him.
Bruce allegedly tried to coerce the third woman, Jamie Schmidt, a 53-year-old married mother of three, but she refused. He then shot her in the head, the probable cause statement said. Schmidt later died at a hospital.
Bruce is charged with 17 counts, including first-degree murder, sodomy and attempted sodomy, kidnapping and other crimes. He is jailed without bond, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney yet.
Authorities allege that Bruce entered the store and said he was shopping, then left briefly before returning with a handgun. He forced the three women into the back room, told them to strip, exposed himself and ordered them to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” detectives wrote in the criminal complaint.
Bruce, who claimed to be a Navy veteran on his LinkedIn page, had no previous criminal record in Missouri beyond a traffic ticket in 2001. McCulloch said his office is checking with other states.
Belmar said tips from the public helped lead to Bruce’s arrest, though he declined to elaborate.
McCulloch said the aggravating circumstances make the crime eligible for the death penalty, but he said that decision will be up to the man who replaces him in January. McCulloch, the county’s prosecutor for nearly three decades, lost to Wesley Bell of Ferguson in the August Democratic primary. Bell ran unopposed in the November general election.
Dan Stutte, president of Catholic Supply store, which operates three stores in the St. Louis area, said the company was “deeply relieved” by the arrest.
Schmidt, of House Springs, was a married mother of three who worked as a secretarial assistant 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.