CLAYTON, Mo. – Thomas Bruce will spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty Friday to his sexual assaults and murder in 2018. He committed the crimes just before Thanksgiving at a Catholic Supply Store.
It was a powerful hearing in which five people spoke courageously, sometimes through tears, about how Bruce changed their lives that November night.
One of Bruce’s sex assault survivors, who was 20 years old at the time of the attack, looked right at Bruce and said, “You will never have the freedom and control you thought you had that day.”
The defendant only looked down.
Thomas Bruce’s name has been branded into many people’s minds since November 2018. Bruce, now 56, was arrested after a two-day manhunt – following sex attacks and a murder at a West St. Louis County strip mall Nov. 19th, three years ago.
He reportedly attacked women inside the former Catholic Supply Store and shot one of the customers, who refused his sexual advance. That was Jamie Schmidt. She died.
A crucial tip came from a waitress at a next-door bar, who said Bruce left her his business card just before the murder. That led St. Louis County Police to Bruce Nov. 21 at a mobile home park in Imperial.
Bruce’s court case has dragged on for nearly three years, with the defendant’s recent attempts just this month to get evidence thrown out. Those attempts failed and the trial was set for Nov. 1st – until today’s plea.
“I don’t even want to begin to speculate into the mind of someone who would commit these types of acts,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said.
Bell couldn’t explain the defendant’s decision to plead guilty.
He said this about the victims who spoke out in court.
“These are my heroes. The courage that they showed, the strength, I just don’t know how I could’ve, I don’t know if I would have been able to do under those set of circumstances,” Bell said.
Two sex assault survivors and three family members of Jamie Schmidt spoke out.
“The fact they were here, and they were able to look at him and let them know their truth, let them know how they felt, what they did to them. It was a tremendous act of courage,” Bell said.
The murder victim’s transgender son looked right at Bruce saying how fearless and loving Schmidt was while standing by them six years ago when they transitioned from Schmidt’s daughter to Schmidt’s son. They looked right at Bruce and said “my fearlessness comes from her.“
Bruce then sobbed in front of the judge before being told he will serve multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.