JEFFERSON CITY • Robert “Spence” Jackson left just 10 words on his living room table as an explanation for the scene someone would find in the bedroom: “I’m so sorry. I just can’t take being unemployed again.”
Police found Jackson, 44, on his bed Sunday, dead of a single gunshot wound to the head. The gun that caused the fatal wound, a .357 Magnum revolver, lay next to him.
Jackson, spokesman for the late Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, dated the note Friday. He left work that day at noon, presumably for lunch, and never returned. He most likely took his life the same day, Jefferson City police say.
Jackson’s death came a month after his boss, Schweich, the Missouri auditor and a Republican candidate for governor, took his own life in the same manner.
At a news conference Tuesday, Jefferson City police Capt. Doug Shoemaker said employees at the auditor’s office told police Jackson wasn’t exhibiting any odd behavior that day. Jackson had taken a day off Thursday.
But it appears Jackson was concerned about what was to come.
Both Schweich and Jackson were Republicans. After Schweich’s death, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, appointed John Watson, his former chief of staff, auditor until a permanent replacement is picked. Scott Holste, Nixon’s spokesman, said the governor hopes to announce his selection for auditor soon.
Nixon likely will pick a Democrat for auditor, meaning Jackson and others in the office could be out of work.
It wouldn’t be the first time Jackson was unemployed. Like many political professionals, Jackson had jumped between various governmental and political jobs. But he experienced a 16-month lapse in work in 2009 and 2010, between jobs at the state Department of Economic Development and the Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield, Mo., according to his LinkedIn account.
David Luther, filling in Tuesday as the auditor’s office spokesman, said Watson told employees after he was appointed that when a permanent replacement is appointed, their jobs were not guaranteed.
“The day after John Watson was named interim auditor, he brought the senior staff together … and the discussion was basically that their jobs were secure as long as (Watson) was the interim,” Luther said. “However, when a permanent interim is named by the governor, there’s always a chance that person may want to bring people with them. That’s the nature of political offices.”
Jackson had been Schweich’s media director for almost four years. In that capacity, Jackson publicly announced Schweich’s death last month, and he was a major player in the weeks of political turmoil that followed.
Jefferson City police are in communication with authorities in Clayton, where Schweich died, but they haven’t released any information about whether there is a link between the two deaths.
On Feb. 26, Schweich, a front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, shot himself in the head after voicing concern about the tactics used against him by fellow Republicans in the GOP primary campaign.
Jackson subsequently called for the resignation of Republican state Chairman John Hancock, because of Schweich’s allegation that Hancock had conducted an anti-Semitic “whispering campaign” against Schweich.
“There’s just no way that you can have this cloud hanging around the chairman of your political party heading into a crucial election year like 2016,” Jackson was quoted as saying at the time.
Hancock has said he may have told others Schweich was Jewish before learning that Schweich, whose father’s family was Jewish, was actually Episcopalian. Hancock remains party chairman.
Shoemaker said Jackson’s family asked police to release the contents of the suicide note because of speculation about the reasons behind his death.
“It was the family’s belief this could help clear things up,” he said.
In a statement provided by longtime friend Jeff Layman, Jackson’s family members said he “was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend to many.”
“He was a kind, caring and loyal person,” the statement said. “Spence was passionate about his career and for the elected officials, candidates and causes he represented.”
Jackson had worked with former Gov. Matt Blunt, former U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, and on the 2008 campaign of gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman.
Jackson’s death still is being investigated, but Shoemaker said there’s nothing to indicate it’s anything other than a suicide. He said the ownership of the gun Jackson used was unclear.
Kevin McDermott of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.