ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Accused Catholic Supply killer Thomas Bruce is now being mentioned as a possible suspect in a 1985 Tennessee murder. But there’s a twist: a convict was already executed for that crime.
However, that’s not precluding Bruce’s name from drawing suspicion.
Bruce’s connection came out in a Memphis courtroom Friday when Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project said he received a letter from police here in the St. Louis area.
“They had been looking through Thomas Bruce’s history and discovered he had gone to the same avionics training school where Suzanne Collins, the 19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal in this case, was attending classes,” Scheck said.
Collins was murdered in 1985. A man named Sedley Alley confessed but later recanted, saying he was coerced. Alley was executed in 2006.
Scheck said he’s found there’s still untested DNA from Collins’ clothing. In court, he contended it could have even been tested before Alley’s execution.
“It is clear that if we don’t get a DNA test in this case, it is wrong,” Scheck said. “It is fundamentally unfair. He was entitled to that test.”
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office opposes the DNA test, saying Sedley is dead and litigation should not be endless.
Scheck said it’s also about getting answers for people in St. Louis.
Suspect Thomas Bruce had no known criminal record before November 2018.
It was the day before Thanksgiving when St. Louis County police say Bruce kidnapped three women inside a Catholic supply store, sexually assaulted them, and then shot and killed Jamie Schmidt.
Fox 2 later found two previous incidents involving Bruce in which he’d escaped scrutiny until the Catholic Supply Store killing.
A 77-year-old Jefferson County woman recognized his mug shot on TV. She reported Bruce sexually attacked her at random in September 2018. Bruce was charged with kidnapping, sex abuse, and assault in that case.
Last October, a man reported Bruce for road rage, saying he deliberately caused a crash on US 61. Fox 2 pulled a dashcam video showing how Bruce treated the responding Missouri state trooper. Bruce shouted at him, “You work for me! I pay your taxes, mother****er!”
Bruce won’t face trial until next October but St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar made it clear last year that they are looking to see what other crimes Bruce may have been involved in.
A judge will make a decision about whether to allow a DNA test connected to Tennessee’s 1985 murder on November 18, the day before the one-year anniversary of the Catholic Supply Store shooting.