Jefferson City: A Republican candidate for governor fatally shot himself in what police described as an "apparent suicide", minutes after inviting reporters to his suburban St Louis home for an interview.
Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich's death yesterday 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 a news agency 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 Republican Party chairman denied doing so in an interview later yesterday.
Schweich 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 manipulated."
"The campaign had been difficult, as all campaigns are," Jackson said. "There were a lot of things that were on his mind."
But Jackson said Schweich had been diligently going about his work, with another audit scheduled to be released next week.
Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said Schweich was pronounced dead at a hospital from a single gunshot after paramedics responded to the emergency call.
"Everything at this point does suggest that it is an apparent suicide," Murphy said, adding that an autopsy would be conducted today.
Schweich was 54. He had been in office since January 2011 and had easily won election in November to a second, four-year term. He announced a month ago that he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016, and was gearing up for an expected primary fight against Catherine Hanaway, a former US attorney and Missouri House speaker.