Columbia Police say they have found the body of missing South Carolina Hospitality Association President Tom Sponseller and now believe he committed suicide. Police Chief Randy Scott said a suicide note found in Sponseller’s office Tuesday morning led investigators to check the lower level of the parking garage located at 1122 Lady Street in downtown Columbia.
That garage is underneath the Hospitality Association’s offices and is where police found Sponseller’s car last week parked in his usual spot. Investigators say they found Sponseller in an electical room that had been locked during their previous searches.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said it appeared Sponseller died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. However, an autopsy still has to be performed.
Scott would not say what was in the note, but indicated it does refer to an ongoing federal investigation into the Hospitality Association’s finances. While federal agents have been tight-lipped, The State newspaper reports the missing money could be as much as $900,000.
AUDIO: Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott and Richland County Coroner Gary Watts (23:20)
Scott said maintenance personnel did not have the keys to access the room where Sponseller’s body was found during investigators’ three previous searches. It was not clear how Sponseller himself got into the room. Scott could not say if the lobbyist had a key on his body. A 9-mm gun was found near his body.
Sponseller was reported missing Saturday, February 18 when he did not make it to a family event. Police say a co-worker had seen Sponseller in the office that day.