Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who had recently launched a Republican campaign for governor, fatally shot himself Thursday in what police described as an "apparent suicide" — just minutes after inviting reporters to his suburban St. Louis home for an interview.
Schweich's death stunned many of Missouri's top elected officials, who described him as a "brilliant" and "devoted" public servant with an "unblemished record" in office. Just 13 minutes before police got an emergency call from his home, Schweich had a phone conversation with The Associated Press about his plans to go public that afternoon with allegations that the head of the Missouri Republican Party had made anti-Semitic comments about him.
The state GOP chairman denied doing so in an interview later Thursday. Chairman John Hancock said "it's plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn't have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion."
Schweich, 54, had Jewish ancestry but attended an Episcopal church. Spokesman Spence Jackson said his boss had recently appeared upset about the comments people were supposedly making about his religious faith and about a recent radio ad describing Schweich as "a weak candidate for governor" who "could be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry" and could "be manipulated."
Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said Schweich was pronounced dead at a hospital from a single gunshot after paramedics responded to a 9:48 a.m emergency call, and all the evidence points to suicide. He said an autopsy would be conducted Friday.
Schweich had been in office since January 2011 and had easily won election in November to a second, four-year term. He announced last month that he would seek the Republican nomination for governor. Murphy told NBC station KSDK that he didn't believe Schweich was under any type of investigation.