(KTVI) – A native St. Louisan, visiting New Orleans to scout wedding locations, was shot to death in an apparent robbery. Thomas Rolfes, 25, grew up in the St. Louis area.
Rolfes worked in Greenville, South Carolina as a project engineer for the construction firm Clayco. His father, Ron Rolfes is a vice-president at the Clayco office in St. Louis.
Thomas Rolfes was a 2011 graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, which is also where he met his girlfriend Elizabeth Fried, who is from Rhode Island but has been living in Boston.
When Rolfes’ proposed marriage a month ago, the couple chose to have their wedding in New Orleans and had gone there this past weekend to pick a venue.
According to media reports in New Orleans, Rolfes went out alone Friday night to meet a college friend at a bar called Miss Mae`s in the uptown area of New Orleans.
According to a report from the Fox affiliate in New Orleans, the friend he was with left the bar at one point but returned only to find Rolfes had left the bar on foot.
Investigators say at about 1:30 am Saturday, Rolfes' cell phone battery died.
Rolfes can be seen on security camera video stopping at a gas station at about 3:30 am to buy two bottles of water.
That has police wondering if he was alone.
About an hour later, his body was found about two blocks away from the gas station.
He had been shot in the chest.
'At this time we believe the motive is robbery and at some point the robbery turned deadly,' said New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison.
Rolfes` wallet was missing and by the injuries of his hands it appears there may have been some type of struggle," he said.
Ron Rolfes and his wife, along with Fried and her parents flew to New Orleans to find out what happened. They met with the chief and the mayor on Monday afternoon.
'Still in shock,' Ron Rolfes said. 'Just trying to piece it all together. It is just one of those things you hear about and think it can`t possibly be happening, then it sort of snowballs pretty quickly downhill to where yes it is happening,' he said.
In 2012, Rolfes worked on Mitt Romney`s presidential campaign.
On Monday, Romney posted a Facebook message calling the murder senseless and tragic, and said Rolfes was a highly valued member of the campaign team who had an engaging personality that lifted their spirits.
Bob Clark, Chairman and CEO of Clayco released the following written statement:
'On behalf of the entire Clayco family, which extends to our clients and subcontractors, we offer the Rolfes family our thoughts and prayers. Ron and his family have been a terrific part of the success of our company. We have watched with pride as Tom became a loved and respected force in our organization. Words cannot express our feelings of loss. We ask the community to pray and keep us in your thoughts as we work to comfort each other in this difficult time. '
Rolfes was a 2007 graduate of DeSmet High School. He planned to move back to St. Louis after his wedding, which was scheduled for November 2017.