Police: Spokesman wrote 'can't take being unemployed again'

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2015 6:39 PM
Police: Spokesman wrote 'can't take being unemployed again'

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri auditor's spokesman Spence Jackson stayed on the job following his boss' suicide, but a note found at his apartment shows he apparently was concerned about the potential of getting laid off when he decided to also kill himself.

Police investigating Jackson's apparent suicide released, at his family's request, the contents of a brief hand-written note that authorities said Tuesday was on the living-room table in Jackson's apartment. His body was discovered Sunday in the bedroom.

The letter, dated Friday, said: "I'm so sorry. I just can't take being unemployed again."

Preliminary findings from the medical examiner's office indicate Jackson died Friday afternoon or evening from a single gunshot wound to the head, Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker said. He said the case is being investigated as a suicide.

Jackson's death came a month after state Auditor Tom Schweich, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, fatally shot himself Feb. 26 at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton. Their deaths have shaken Missouri politics — particularly the Republican Party — heading into an important 2016 election featuring races for most of Missouri's top offices.

Schweich had told an Associated Press reporter just minutes before his death that he was ready to go public with allegations that the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party had told donors that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich, who was Christian but had Jewish ancestry, said he perceived the remarks as anti-Semitism.

After Schweich's death, Jackson was outspoken about negative politics and called for GOP Chairman John Hancock to resign. Hancock has not done so, and he has said any comments he might have made would have occurred before Schweich set him straight about his religion.

Shoemaker said Jackson's family asked that the note's contents be released to eliminate speculation and "help potentially clear some things up."

Jackson's friend Jeff Layman also released a written statement Tuesday on behalf of the family, who thanked people for their prayers and described Jackson as "a kind, caring and loyal person" who "was passionate about his career and for the elected officials, candidates and causes he represented."

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon appointed longtime aide John Watson to temporarily oversee the auditor's office after Schweich's death.

Watson met with about a dozen senior staff members, including Jackson, to inform them they would keep their jobs under his watch. But Watson told them that when a permanent replacement is appointed, "I can't assure you that everyone's position will be maintained," according to David Luther, who was filling in Tuesday as the auditor's office spokesman.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said Tuesday that the governor hopes to announce a permanent selection for auditor "very soon."

It's common for governors to appoint people of their own party to fulfill vacancies. Those appointees often bring in their own top staff.

Republican consultant James Harris said he had spoken with Jackson about a week ago and offered to help him try to find a new job.

"When a new auditor comes in, there's a high probability that there would be staff changes," Harris said Tuesday. "I mentioned, 'Hey, can you get a resume to me?' ... and I'll start looking around."

Harris and Jackson had worked together in Republican Gov. Matt Blunt's administration. After Blunt chose not to seek re-election in 2008, Jackson was without a job for a while, but eventually worked as communications director for Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield from April 2010 to April 2011.

He left because "he enjoyed the political realm and was hoping to rejoin that," Jordan Valley CEO Brooks Miller said.

Jackson was announced as Schweich's media director in October 2011.

Jackson had taken off work Thursday — the one-month anniversary of Schweich's death — and had worked until about noon Friday and never returned, Shoemaker said.

"We've spoken to those who were there and talked with him, and they reported no behavior out of the ordinary," Shoemaker said.

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