The tragedy in the office of late Missouri state auditor Tom Schweich has deepened.
A month after Schweich died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound amid an alleged political smear campaign focused on his faith, a top aide appears to have committed suicide by the same means, police said.
Robert “Spence” Jackson, who served as Schweich’s media director, was found dead in his bedroom Sunday, Jefferson City police said in a statement. Police have not released any details about the timing of Jackson’s death, but they did say that there were no signs of a struggle or forced entry into the home.
Police said on Monday that they recovered a revolver and a note at the scene.
“We’ve taken a number of items of evidentiary value from his home,” said Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker in a press conference.
Jackson became the Republican auditor’s spokesman in 2011, and before that was a spokesman for then-Gov. Matt Blunt (R).
Jackson, 44, officially announced Schweich’s death in an e-mail to reporters last month, writing: “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.”
In the wake of that suicide, Jackson was outspoken about his boss’s critics — specifically Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock, who was accused of engaging in a whisper campaign to tell donors that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich was Episcopalian.
Schweich announced his candidacy for the Missouri governorship in January and believed that the campaign to paint him as Jewish was designed to hurt him in a Republican primary where voters are largely evangelical Christians.
Hancock acknowledged that he might have described Schweich as being Jewish, but denied that it was intended to be “derogatory.”
One donor, however, wrote in an affidavit that he interpreted Hancock’s words to be derogatory.
“The meaning I took from Mr. Hancock’s statement and tone of his comments was clear: He (Tom Schweich) is Jewish — in case you didn’t know — and that being Jewish is a negative attribute for Tom Schweich’s gubernatorial race,” Republican donor David Humphreys wrote, according to the Associated Press.
Jackson became one of the first to publicly call for Hancock’s resignation after Schweich’s funeral this month.
“It is unconscionable to think that the Missouri GOP can be successful in 2016 with John Hancock as the chairman,” Jackson told the blog PoliticMo.
In the days before his February suicide, the rumors were so troubling to Schweich that he seemed fixated on them, and had invited reporters to a news conference about Hancock’s comments, according to the Kansas City Star.
“He spoke solely about his outrage concerning the rumors that were being spread about his religion, and how he could respond to those rumors,” said Martha Fitz, an aide to former U.S. senator Jack Danforth. Fitz, who spoke to Schweich in the hours before his death, said: “I told him I thought it best to let others stand up for him.”
But it was too late. Moments later, according to Fitz, Schweich shot himself with his wife nearby.
At Schweich’s funeral, Danforth slammed the toxic whispers of “anti-Semitism” that he said led to Schweich’s death.
“The death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become,” Danforth said in the eulogy. “I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state.”