Thomas Bruce, Catholic supply store killer, pleads guilty to murder

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  • ST. LOUIS / DOYLE MURPHY COUNTY POLICE
  • Thomas Bruce’s brutal crimes at Catholic Supply led police to a previous attack in Jefferson County.

Almost three years after Thomas Bruce attacked three women at a Catholic Supply store in Ballwin – fatally killing one who refused her sexual assault – the 56-year-old Jefferson County man was sentenced to life in prison.

Bruce pleaded guilty Thursday in St. Louis County to a single count of first degree murder. As part of the plea, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office is dismissing an ongoing case involving a separate but equally brutal sexual assault and assault on a woman in her home near Hillsboro.

In the Jefferson County incident of September 27, 2018, Bruce was charged with attacking a 77-year-old woman with whom he had no previous connection, initially leaving investigators with little lead to follow.

Then on November 19, less than two months after the attack in Jefferson County, Bruce walked into the Catholic Supply store in Ballwin, where he forced three women into a back room, ordered them to performing sexual acts and then shot Jamie Schmidt, who police say refused.

After Bruce was arrested in the Catholic Supply attack, police said the previous victim in Jefferson County recognized him from his photo ID and contacted authorities. In January 2019, prosecutors filed new charges against Bruce for burglary, kidnapping, assault, sexual abuse and harassment.

In a statement released Thursday, Jefferson County prosecution attorney Trisha Stefanki said she and her staff consulted with the victim prior to Bruce’s guilty plea.

“The victim, as well as our office, agree that having a guaranteed life sentence without the possibility of parole is a satisfactory solution,” said Stephanski. “The victim is ready to move on and stop discussing the incident.”

Before making the plea deal, Bruce was due to stand trial next week. He is not eligible for parole.

In a press release from the St. Louis County District Attorney’s Office, Bruce was described as preparing “a handwritten statement” for Friday’s sentencing hearing, but then decided not to read it.

“These victims and their loving families are my heroes,” St. Louis County District Attorney Wesley Bell said in a statement. “Although they were well prepared to tell their stories in open court, we are relieved that this guilty plea is giving them some closure now – and knowing that this predator will spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility. parole. I thank them, the detectives and our trial team for their hard work in bringing justice. ”

This story has been updated after publication to include comments and details from the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at
@D_Towski. Email the author at [email protected]

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