The man suspected of sexually assaulting two women and killing another in a Catholic supply store in Missouri was identified Thursday as the perpetrator of a previous attack.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Capt. Gary Higginbotham said Thursday that a 77-year-old woman who reported being assaulted on Sept. 27 identified her attacker as Thomas Bruce after seeing his picture in the news, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The media circulated pictures of Bruce after he was identified as the suspect in the Nov. 19 sexual assaults and murder at the Catholic Supply of St. Louis. (RELATED: Gunman Fatally Shoots Woman In Catholic Supply Store)
Here are photos taken during a court hearing today for accused #CatholicSupply store killer Thomas Bruce. Coincidentally the store in Manchester reopened today. (photos courtesy of Robert Cohen) @KMOV pic.twitter.com/lq121vRsTS
— Russell Kinsaul (@russellkinsaul) December 5, 2018
Higginbotham clarified that police are waiting on further evidence, such as the results of DNA testing and search warrants, to corroborate the woman’s claims, but said that her identification of Bruce helped their investigation immensely.
“Originally our case was pretty thin,” Higginbotham told the Post-Dispatch.
“I want to make sure we got the right guy,” he added.
A neighbor of the 77-year-old woman told Fox 2 he remembered the incident and officers’ subsequent search for a suspect in his 50s.
“A man had came and attacked this elderly woman and he knocked on the door and she just cracked it open and he pushed the door open. Apparently, he said he was there for something so she brought the door open more to here and he pushed the door open and attacked her,” the neighbor said.
“He had her on the ground apparently and she must’ve beat him off with a cane. She’s one tough elderly woman,” he added.
Another witness also identified Bruce’s car, a plum color 2017 Kia with a “Navy veteran” bumper sticker, as the same car involved in an October 2017 road rage crash. A Jefferson County man told KPLR 11 that Bruce pulled out in front of him on the highway, slammed on his brakes and caused their two cars to crash, then got out of his car and accosted both him and the responding police officer.
Authorities believe Bruce may have used the same car in the September assault, but not in the October assaults and shooting as he took the car to a body shop after the crash, where it remained at the time of the Catholic Supply store attack. The witness involved in the crash provided a detail about the incident, however, that may prove to be relevant to the Catholic Supply attack.
“He’s like whatever you Notre Dame (bleep) (bleeper). I’m like, okay. It was a jersey. I just got done doing a bike ride. I’m thinking maybe this guy doesn’t like Catholics, I don’t know,” the witness said.
Bruce faces the charge of first degree murder for the shooting and death of Jamie Schmidt, multiple charges of sodomy and the charges of kidnapping, the use of a weapon in criminal activity, burglary and evidence tampering.
Prosecutors alleged that Bruce tried to force three women in the Catholic Supply store to perform sexual acts on him and that he shot and killed Schmidt when she refused. Bruce is currently held in custody without bail.
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