Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich said “I just need to be dead” in the moments before his Feb. 26 suicide, authorities revealed Tuesday.
The statement came after Schweich argued with an associate over the phone about an alleged whisper campaign concerning his religion, they said.
The statement and other investigative details were contained in a 40-page report made public Tuesday by the Clayton (Mo.) Police Department. It was given to The Star after an open-records request.
Investigators said gunpowder residue tests and interviews with friends and co-workers confirmed Schweich’s suicide. They declined to offer a specific motive for his decision, but said political pressure and illness may have played roles.
“He was under a great deal of stress at the time of his death,” Clayton police detective Tom Bossch told reporters at a news conference.
The report shows investigators interviewed several Schweich associates in the days after the shooting, including former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth. They also talked with Kathy Schweich, the auditor’s spouse.
“Kathy Schweich informed me that her husband had talked about killing himself before and had done so while handling his firearms, but that she never thought that he would actually act on his statements,” one investigator reported.
At the news conference, Bossch said Schweich had talked “for years” about suicide.
The report says Schweich used a .22-caliber Walther pistol to fire the fatal shot, but that he also owned a .357 Magnum handgun.
Schweich was taking medication at the time of his death. He suffered from Crohn’s disease, an often-debilitating intestinal disorder, and Kathy Schweich told authorities stress from the illness contributed to his decision to take his own life.
She said she knew of only three medications he took regularly: a drug that suppresses the immune system, a steroid and a biologic medicine. Schweich also showed evidence of cannabinoids in his blood, authorities found, but the substance came from a legally prescribed medicine.
The St. Louis County medical examiner determined Schweich was not under the influence of any drugs when he died.
But much of the police investigation centered on Schweich’s anger and frustration at an alleged “whisper campaign” concerning his religion.
The auditor believed Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock had inaccurately told others Schweich was Jewish. Schweich wanted to talk with reporters about his concerns, but friends had counseled against it, the report says.
Hancock has said he does not recall referring to Schweich as Jewish, but may have innocently done so. Schweich was a practicing Episcopalian.
Trish Vincent, Schweich’s chief of staff, told authorities her boss was so concerned about a whisper campaign, and a lack of Republican help, that he told her he had to run for governor “as an independent or he had to kill himself.”
Authorities were also told of a man who knew about the whisper campaign. When interviewed, though, the man told police he didn’t know anything about it.
The only confirmation of the whispers came from a businessman in southwest Missouri, authorities said.
Friends also told police Schweich was upset about a radio ad comparing him to the TV character Barney Fife.
The police report says investigators pursued an allegation — passed along by a reporter pursing the story — that Schweich was being blackmailed over a supposed same-sex relationship. The report provides no evidence of any blackmail or any such relationship.
Authorities searched Schweich’s phones and computers for emails and other evidence. They said they planned to search the auditor’s state-owned computer as well.