A Republican aide shed more light Thursday on the moments leading up to the suicide of a leading candidate for Missouri governor, an event that has torn the state party apart in recent days.
Martha Fitz, a friend of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich’s (R) family, revealed that she was on the phone with Schweich’s wife on the morning of Feb. 26 when the auditor shot himself at their family home.
Fitz, an assistant to former U.S. Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), detailed in a written statement the shocking sequence of events from that morning, which was reported by the Associated Press on Thursday.
The account details just how troubled Schweich was by rumors he believed were being spread about his religion on the day he took his own life. Schweich had been telling people that he believed Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock had been engaging in an anti-Semitic whisper campaign, allegedly telling people Schweich was Jewish to damage his candidacy among Christian voters. In the aftermath of the suicide, Hancock has faced mounting calls for his resignation over the allegations.
According to Fitz’s statement, the events began that morning when the auditor’s chief of staff, Trish Vincent, called to inform her of Schweich’s distraught emotional state.
Fitz soon left a voicemail for Schweich’s wife, Kathy, and received a call back at about 9:40 a.m. She said she spoke briefly with Kathy before the auditor got on the phone.
“He spoke solely about his outrage concerning the rumors that were being spread about his religion and how he should respond to those rumors,” Fitz said, as quoted by the AP. “I told him I thought it was best to let others stand up for him.”
Fitz said Schweich “then threatened to kill himself” and handed the phone back to his wife.
“Seconds later, I heard Kathy say, ‘He shot himself!'” Fitz said.
Fitz said that she’d related her account to Clayton, Mo. police, who are investigating Schweich’s apparent suicide, according to the AP.