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As Catholic Supply murder suspect appears in court, West County store reopens

Joel Currier and Kim Bell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in News & Features

ST. LOUIS -- As an accused murderer made a brief court appearance Wednesday in Clayton, Mo., a Catholic Supply store that was the scene of the brutal attack 16 days ago reopened for business.

The doors to the store, in a strip mall on Manchester Road, were opened at 9 a.m. Wednesday, as a bevy of TV reporters looked on. Four or five customers came in the first 10 minutes to show their support. Store officials asked the media to stay outside.

On a sidewalk just outside the store sat a makeshift memorial of roses, some days old and wilting, and a figurine of a snowman playing the piano. One woman paused for a moment near the flowers and made the sign of the cross.

The reopening came one day after Archbishop Robert Carlson blessed the store and prayed with police and relatives of victims.

A police chaplain who attended Tuesday's blessing of the store, Byron Watson, said the private gathering had a common theme: "Evil will not win."

Thomas Bruce, 53, of rural Jefferson County, has been charged with first-degree murder and multiple counts of sodomy, armed criminal action, kidnapping, burglary and tampering with evidence in the crime at the Catholic Supply store. He is being held without bail.

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Bruce entered the store pretending to be a customer on Nov. 19, officials say. He left, then re-entered with a gun, prosecutors say. He ordered the three women in the store to the back of the store and made them take their clothes off at gunpoint. He forced two victims to perform sex acts at gunpoint, and tried to do the same with Jamie Schmidt, a customer from House Springs, killing her when she refused, authorities say.

Schmidt, 53, may have been there to buy supplies for a project to crochet rosaries for fellow parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in High Ridge, where she was in the choir, a friend said.

A business card Bruce left with a woman at another business in the strip mall led investigators to him. The woman at the business recognized the description put out of the attacker, but had thrown out the business card. It was dug out of the trash and led to Bruce's arrest two days after the attack.

On Wednesday, Bruce appeared in court for a routine hearing. He was led into the courtroom of Associate Circuit Judge Robert Heggie at about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

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