ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – The 53-year-old accused of killing a woman inside a West St. Louis County Catholic Supply store made his first court appearance Monday.
During his first court appearance, Thomas Bruce, who was shackled at his hands and feet, asked for a public defender. He will not be eligible for bond and his next court appearance will be Dec. 5.
Bruce was charged with 17 criminal counts including first-degree murder, three counts of sodomy and three counts of kidnapping. Other charges include first-degree burglary, tampering with evidence and armed criminal action.
According to the police investigation, Bruce pretended to be a customer at the Catholic Supply Store Monday afternoon, exited and then re-entered the store displaying a handgun.
Police say Bruce ordered the three victims to the back of the store where he forced them to disrobe at gunpoint and proceeded to expose himself to the victims. Bruce then demanded the victims to perform a sexual act on him, according to police.
According to the investigation, Jaime Schmidt, 53, of House Springs, refused Bruce's demands and was shot for not complying. Bruce fled the scene shortly after.
The law allows for the death penalty in Bruce's case if the jury finds the murder occurred during the perpetration of other serious crimes. However the decision on whether to introduce the death penalty as a possible punishment will be at the discretion of newly-elected prosecutor Wesley Bell.
Bruce, of Imperial, Mo., was taken into custody by police at his home early Wednesday morning.
News 4 crews saw a heavy police presence at a trailer park on Geranium Drive in Imperial around noon Wednesday. St. Louis County police vehicles were on scene, along with Jefferson County cars. Neighbors tell News 4 as many as one hundred officers arrived at the home around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday.
Bruce's employer told News 4 he has not heard from him in 12 days.
According to a LinkedIn page affiliated with Bruce, he worked at the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Louis and was a department manager at a Schnucks store.
He lists himself as a Navy veteran, serving from 1983-1994. He also claims to have volunteered as a pastor at the Cape County Jail.
According to court documents, Bruce has lived in 27 different residences and has filed for bankruptcy twice.
"She was a great person. Very much kept the family together," Jamie Schmidt's sister-in-law Cathy Soulon said Tuesday. "Just a perfect person. She was a housewife for many, many years. Then she finally started to get a job and get out in the social world and this happens. It’s mind-boggling. It just goes to show how messed up this world really is."
On Monday, Schmidt's family released the following statement:
Jamie Lynn Soulon Schmidt was gifted with many talents. She shared her gifts freely to enhance the lives of others. A talented musician: she was described as having a “voice like an angel”. She performed in church every Sunday and in cathedrals in the US and Europe. Self-taught, her unique artistry brought joy and hope to family, her church, and her many clients. Her talents and caring extended to all whose lives she touched.
On November 19th she was buying art supplies to finish rosaries for members of her church for a spiritual retreat. Her life snuffed out in seconds as she defended to the death her right to personal integrity, Jamie left this world with but one wish: to grow old with her childhood sweetheart and husband, Gregg, watching their equally talented children’s paths unfold.
With her love for family, she gave her time and talents to her children’s school activities and as a Girl Scout Leader. As a member of the DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution, she honored her ancestor who signed the Declaration of Independence. Her belief in her country never wavered.
Growing up, Jamie was the recipient of numerous awards for her talents. Those include, alongside brother Lonnie, winning top honors in a national art exhibition and with her best friend, Cheryl, being the youngest members of the Reading Choral Society performing throughout the East Coast. She graduated from St. Louis Community College at Meramec with her young daughter cheering her on. As a member of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Choir she sang for Pope John Paul II in 1998 in St. Louis and a few years later in Rome.
Strong in the principles of motherhood, she chose to devote her time to an old-fashioned idea: being at home while she and Gregg raised their family. Her children nearing adulthood, she recently returned to the business world. She had just begun a new phase of her life as secretarial assistant at St. Louis Community College.
Jamie lived her faith and stood firm in her convictions even as she faced a gun barrel in the hands of a misguided soul. In the end, her family must each in their own way, seek to forgive, lest our lives and families are consumed in hate, anger and despair. We are deprived of sharing her earthly journey but take comfort in knowing her life holds a higher purpose.