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Report: Schweich believed he was target of smears prior to death

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) - Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich died Thursday as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 54.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said officers were called to the auditor's home in the 7100 block of Wydown Boulevard just before 9:50 a.m. for a reported gunshot victim.They found Schweich on the floor of his residence with a single bullet wound. Chief Murphy would not disclose where the gunshot wound occurred.

Schweich was rushed to Barnes Jewish Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

MORE: Missourians express sorrow over Schweich's death on social media

Chief Murphy confirmed a family member was at the house at the time of the shooting.

While the investigation is ongoing and a full autopsy is conducted, the chief said police have little doubt this was a suicide. A handgun was recovered from the home.

Murphy did not know if a note was found in Schweich's home.

According to the Associated Press, Schweich contacted them and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier in the day to invite reporters from both entities to his home. It is unclear exactly what Schweich wanted to discuss with the media. However, the Post-Dispatch reported the interview would delve into Schweich's belief that he was the target of a smear campaign by a top GOP official in the state.

Tony Messenger, editorial page editor for the Post-Dispatch, posted a statement in the story to disclose the content of his conversations with the late auditor. Schweich allegedly told Messenger that John Hancock, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, had spread misinformation by saying Schweich was Jewish.

Kevin McDermott, a political reporter for the Post-Dispatch said Schweich had not only reached out to the newspaper, but had even contacted the Anti-Defamation League, and also called Senator Roy Blunt.

‘‘We don't know if that was a contributing factor to this, but it was something that was very much on his mind today,” McDermott said.

For the record, Schweich was a member of The Church of St. Michael & St. George, an Episcopal congregation in Clayton. For his part, Hancock denies any accusations of anti-Semitism or bigotry.

MORE: Missouri lawmakers hold prayer vigil for Schweich

The sadness felt in Jefferson City extended from the head of state government to the average citizen, with many expressing warm feelings for Tom Schweich’s dedication to the Show Me State, as well as condolences to his family.

Jefferson City resident Alan Mudd met Schweich on a number of occasions. He described the late auditor as a ''very top-notch individual."

''It’s a total shock. Very impressive gentleman, did an outstanding job…this is just out of the blue, a total shock,” he said.

Veteran KMOX radio reporter Phill Brooks has covered state politics for decades.

''When something like this happens it has a pretty profound effect on folks in both parties," he said. ''I have seen an awful lot of sadness statewide, in state elected officials today in this building.”

Brooks knew something might be wrong when Schweich did not show up at his office Thursday morning.

“Tom Schweich was almost a workaholic. He was always here and that he wasn’t here today began to raises some eyebrows. It did for me,” he said.

Schweich’s death marks the second time in history a statewide elected official has taken his own life, Brooks said. The last time it happened was in 1844.

Governor Jay Nixon released a statement, saying in part:

From his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan, to his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri, Tom Schweich’s exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come.

Five years ago, Schweich, a Republican, decided to run for Missouri State Auditor at the urging of Lt. Gov. Peter Kender and political consultant David Barklage.

‘‘Politics is such a tough business and it just is something that weighs down, day in and day out, and I think that I don't know that we will ever know,” Barklage said. ‘‘But I'd rather focus on the fact of what he lived for and what caused him to get up every day to do what he did and to do the right thing and that's really the focus of where we should go going forward."

Schweich was re-elected to a second, four-year term last November. He announced in January that he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016.

Schweich graduated from Clayton High School, Yale University in 1982, and the Harvard University School of Law in 1985. He is survived by his wife and their two children.

Joe Millitzer February 26, 20154:46 pm

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Kevin S. Held February 26, 20154:08 pm

Clayton police chief would only say that the weapon used in Schweich’s death was a handgun.

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Police chief says Schweich suffered a single gunshot wound, but did not elaborate where.

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“There is nothing to suggest it is anything other” than suicide, police chief says.

Kevin S. Held February 26, 20154:04 pm

Clayton police chief giving news conference on Schweich suicide.

Joe Millitzer February 26, 20153:22 pm

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The Governor also has ordered flags at all Missouri state facilities to be immediately lowered to half-staff to honor his passing.

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Tom Schweich recently a target of a “House of Cards” style political attack ad

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There will be a 4pm press conference held by Clayton police about the Auditor Tom Schweich’s death

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U.S. Senator Roy Blunt writes:

“Tom was very smart, very capable, outstanding at his job, and a good friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kathy, their children, and the rest of Tom’s friends and family as they deal with this tragic loss.”

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Attorney General Koster writes:

“Tom Schweich was a lifelong public servant for our state and country. I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss, and extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family. I ask all Missourians to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Joe Millitzer February 26, 20151:58 pm

Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock writes:

“I am in utter shock at the news of Tom Schweich’s tragic passing. Tom will be remembered as a tenacious, energetic, effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation. I ask all Missourians to join me in praying for Tom’s family.”

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Congresswoman Ann Wagner writes: “I am shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about Tom Schweich. Tom was a good man and dedicated public servant. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Schweich family and all those Tom has touched over his decades of service to his state and country. May God bless Tom Schweich and his wife, Kathy, and children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr‎.”

Joe Millitzer February 26, 20151:46 pm

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder  writes, “It is with great sadness that I heard today of the tragic passing of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich. Tom had a long and unblemished record as a great public servant. As the state’s auditor for the past four years he has served Missouri taxpayers with quiet competence and unswerving dedication.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family in this extremely difficult time.”

Joe Millitzer February 26, 20151:35 pm

The Auditor’s office confirms that he has died, “It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich today. Please keep in mind his wife Kathy and two children.”

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