Catholic store murder suspect identified in another assault

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CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — The man accused of killing a woman and sexually assaulting two others inside a suburban St. Louis religious supply store is also a suspect in an assault in a rural area, police said.

A 77-year-old woman reported that she was assaulted during a home invasion on Sept. 27, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Capt. Gary Higginbotham told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . Investigators had few clues until the victim saw a photo of Thomas Bruce in the media.

Like the victim, Bruce, 53, lives in rural Jefferson County, south of St. Louis. He was charged was first-degree murder and several other felonies for the Nov. 19 attack at the Catholic Supply store near Ballwin in St. Louis County.

Higginbotham declined to discuss specific details of the Jefferson County break-in and assault. He said investigators are awaiting results from DNA testing and have not yet spoken with Bruce.

Bruce and the victim did not know each other, Higginbotham said.

"We believe at this time it was a crime of opportunity," he said.

Bruce is accused of entering the religious supply store with a gun and forcing three women to a back room, where he ordered them to perform sexual acts on him. Prosecutors said that when store customer Jamie Schmidt, a 53-year-old married mother of three, refused, Bruce shot her in the head before sexually assaulting the other two women.

Bruce was on the run for two days. A discarded business card given to a woman at another business in the strip mall led police to Bruce's mobile home near the town of Imperial, where he was arrested Nov. 21.

He is jailed without bond and faces a preliminary hearing on Jan. 23. A message left Friday with Bruce's attorney was not immediately returned.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

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