Police: Missouri auditor had talked of suicide, left no note

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2015 8:09 PM

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Former Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich had talked for years of taking his life — and had become increasingly agitated over politics — but left no suicide note when he fatally shot himself, investigators said Tuesday.

Police in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton said they have found nothing to suggest the death of Schweich, who was running as a Republican candidate for governor in 2016, was anything other than a suicide. Newly released police reports show Schweich felt so abandoned by GOP supporters that he told an aide on Feb. 26, the day of his death, that he would have to either "run as an independent or he needed to kill himself."

Schweich's death and the apparent suicide a month later of his spokesman Spence Jackson have sent shockwaves through Missouri politics. The latest police information came as Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday announced plans to appoint fellow Democrat and county treasurer Nicole Galloway as Schweich's replacement.

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

Police investigative reports released Tuesday to The Associated Press in response to an open-records request show that friends and political advisers had discouraged Schweich from publicizing his concerns. Some of them told investigators that Schweich appeared to feel betrayed and alone because they didn't agree with him.

Clayton Police Detective Lt. Don Bass said while that was "part of the puzzle," Schweich's motive to kill himself still is unclear to investigators.

Police found no evidence that Schweich was involved in a scandal or extramarital affairs. And while Schweich had been prescribed two-dozen different drugs for such things as pain relief and Crohn's disease, which causes bowel inflammation, toxicology tests found no illegal drugs in his system. His wife, Kathleen, told investigators that Schweich had never been seen by a psychiatrist.

Kathleen Schweich told investigators that her husband had talked about killing himself previously while holding guns, but she didn't think he would actually do so. She told police she thought he acted spontaneously.

"It is her belief that the stress of the disease along with the stress of the campaign caused him to take his life," Clayton Police Detective Tom Bossch wrote in an investigative report.

On the morning of his death, Schweich had talked by phone with his chief of staff, Trish Vincent, and "was extremely upset over what he considered a lack of support from anyone" about his plans to publicize allegations about the GOP chairman, the report said. Schweich told Vincent he would have to "run as an independent or he needed to kill himself," the report said.

Vincent got in touch with a family friend, who later was on the phone with Schweich when he made another statement about killing himself, threw down the phone and then shot himself, according to the police reports.

State law requires the governor to find a replacement immediately when vacancies occur in the auditor's office. Nixon originally named his longtime aide, John Watson, to serve as auditor while he searched for a permanent replacement. For Galloway, now the Boone County treasurer, to take over, Watson will have to resign. Nixon said Galloway's swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for the week of April 27.

Galloway, 32, made her political debut in 2011, when Nixon appointed her to serve as Boone County treasurer following the death of Treasurer Jan Fugit. Galloway was elected to a four-year term the following year.

Galloway will serve the remainder of Schweich's term, which runs until January 2019. She said Tuesday that she plans to run for re-election at that time.

Schweich had been sworn in for a second, four-year term in January after facing no Democratic opposition in the November election.

Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Jonathan Prouty sent out a scathing statement while Nixon still was touting Galloway's appointment to reporters, saying the pick goes against the will of voters and that she will be "entirely beholden" to the governor. Galloway denied that.

Galloway's appointment will mean Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder will be the only Republican of six statewide elected officials. The Democratic-led executive branch contrasts with an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature.

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Ballentine reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report from Jefferson City, Missouri.

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine