Thirty-six days have passed and the findings of any autopsy performed on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich remain a mystery to the general public. On top of that, members of the St. Louis journalism community appear to have little or no interest in obtaining the autopsy findings. Is investigative journalism dead in Missouri?
To date, I’ve found no evidence that any government agency in the state of Missouri — not the Clayton Police Department whose officers responded to Schweich’s Clayton home after receiving a 911 call, not the St. Louis County Medical Examiner and not the Missouri State Highway Patrol — has released any findings from the Scweich autopsy. Likewise, I’ve found no evidence of any St. Louis-area news organizations expressing much interest in such findings.
Am I An Odd Duck? Maybe.
Maybe I’m an odd duck, but it strikes me that there is a compelling public interest in knowing whether or not Schweich, a hard-hitting state auditor who had recently launched his campaign for governor, actually took his own life at 54 or was assisted in that endeavor. And one would think that journalists in the same state as the University of Missouri School of Journalism, one of the nation’s premier training grounds for journalists, would pursue this subject aggressively. But they’re not.
Am I Callous and Inconsiderate?
Some who read this will accuse me of being callous and inconsiderate by trampling in an area where no one should go. I beg to differ.
For weeks after Schweich’s death, I resisted the urge to go there and decided to let the wheels of justice turn. I was certain the autopsy findings would be released. After all, according to a KOMU-TV report on the day of Schweich’s death, Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said autopsy findings would be made available at 7:30 a.m. the next day. Instead, 30 days passed without any findings being made public, and tragedy struck again.
Sometime between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29, according to published reports like this one, Schweich spokesperson Spence Jackson, 44, allegedly used the same method as Schweich — a single gunshot wound to the head — to take his own life. Unlike Schweich, who some claim was distraught over an alleged “whisper campaign” about his faith, Jackson was reportedly distraught over the prospect of being unemployed again. As a man who’s had many different jobs over his lifetime, including managing back-to-back congressional campaigns, I find neither of the alleged reasons behind the alleged suicides plausible.
Let’s Play “What If?”
What if a certain someone(s) feared Schweich’s team of auditors might uncover evidence of serious wrongdoing? According to the Audits in Progress section of the Missouri State Auditor’s website, Schweich’s auditors were conducting audits on dozens of organizations, including the Missouri Governor’s Office, the Missouri State Lottery Commission, the Missouri Department of Revenue and the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Use of State Data.
Today, I decided to start doing the job members of the St. Louis-area news media have thusfar failed to do. As Step One, I sent an email message to Clayton, Mo., Police Chief Kevin Murphy at 9:18 a.m. After identifying myself as an author and freelance investigative reporter, I got straight to the point with the man whose officers are in charge of the Schweich investigation:
According to this article, you were quoted as saying autopsy results on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich would be made available at 7:30 a.m. Friday (Feb. 27, 2015). Were the autopsy results ever released?
If so, I would like to obtain a copy of whatever information your agency released.
If not, why not?
I closed the message by thanking him in advance for his prompt reply. Now, I will give Chief Murphy a few days to get back to me. It is, after all, a holiday weekend.
Be sure to check back often as I will provide updates as they become available.
UPDATE 4/03/2015 at 12:07 p.m. Central: At 11:59 a.m., I received a reply from Chief Murphy at the Clayton Police Department. He wrote:
An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730. I didn’t say the results would be available then. I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report. In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report. We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information.
The autopsy was conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office. They can be contacted, as follows:
St Louis County Medical Examiner
Address: 6059 Helen Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63134
Phone: (314) 615-0800
Kevin R. Murphy
Chief of Police
Now, my next step will be to call the medical examiner’s office. Stay tuned!
UPDATE #2 4/03/2015 at 12:32 p.m. Central: Moments ago, I used the CONTACT US tool to send the following request to the media folks at the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office:
In an email this morning, I asked Chief Kevin R. Murphy of the Clayton, MO., Police Department if he could provide me a copy of the autopsy report containing the findings from the autopsy performed on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich. In reply, he wrote the following:
“An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730. I didn’t say the results would be available then. I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report. In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report. We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information. The autopsy was conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Now, because of the immense public interest in Mr. Schweich’s death, I would like to request a copy of the report or a summary of the findings of that report.
Please advise ASAP as to whether you will be able to provide the information. Thanks!
Now, again, we wait. Stay tuned for the next update.
UPDATE #3 4/06/2015 at 1:35 p.m. Central: Read the latest update in a new piece published moments ago.
UPDATE #4 4/6/2015 at 3:57 p.m. Central: BREAKING NEWS! EXCLUSIVE! Medical Examiner Says Tom Schweich Autopsy ‘Complete’.
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