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Lawyers seek to bar evidence from Catholic Supply store shooting trial

Lawyers seek to bar evidence from Catholic Supply store shooting trial

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CLAYTON — Lawyers for Thomas Bruce on Monday sought to bar evidence from his trial next month on charges of sexually assaulting two women and murdering a third in 2018 at a Catholic Supply store in west St. Louis County.

During an all-day hearing, prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned several police officers who investigated the Nov. 19, 2018, attacks at the store at 14069 Manchester Road.

On Monday, Missouri’s chief public defender, Mary Fox, sought to exclude Bruce’s statements to police and the lineups in which two women identified Bruce as their attacker. Fox questioned investigators about the police photo and physical lineups that led to Bruce’s arrest in an attempt to support Bruce’s claim that they were tainted and overly suggestive.

Fox also sought to suppress Bruce’s statements to police, saying police interrogated him after he requested a lawyer. Fox asked detectives whether they had established probable cause before arresting Bruce and sought to exclude items seized from Bruce’s home and cars pursuant to a search warrant. In court documents, Fox alleged that police assaulted Bruce in a patrol car.

Assistant Prosecutors Teresa Bomkamp and Robert Steele drew testimony from several officers who said their fast-developing investigation relied on more than 200 tips. Investigators said Bruce’s arrest and search of his property were legal and followed department policies.

Detectives testified that police began watching Bruce’s homes in Imperial and Overland after identifying him as a lead suspect based in part on a tip. A bartender from a Hotshots sports bar near the Catholic Supply store told detectives Bruce had left his business card there on the day of the shooting.

Bruce was arrested at his Imperial home Nov. 21, 2018, after police had surrounded and watched his home for nearly 11 hours. Several police cars swarmed the home when a woman walked out of the front door about 5:45 a.m. It turned out to be Bruce’s wife, who began screaming when officers closed in. Police then forced their way in, found Bruce inside and arrested him.

A police lieutenant said Bruce’s wife consented in writing to the search of their home before police had a search warrant signed by a judge.

Circuit Judge Joseph Dueker did not rule on the defense motions Monday. Jury selection for Bruce’s trial is set for Oct. 27. Bruce, 55, is charged with first-degree murder and multiple counts of sodomy, armed criminal action, kidnapping, burglary and tampering with evidence. Police say he sexually assaulted the women and murdered Jamie Schmidt, 53, a customer at the store.

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