A well-known South Carolina lobbyist whose body was found inside a parking garage Tuesday mostly likely killed himself with a gunshot to his head, said authorities.
Tom Sponseller, 61, a tourism and hospitality industry insider and lobbyist, disappeared without a trace more than a week ago. Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said his body was discovered around 10:45 a.m. inside a room in the lower level of a parking garage near his office in Columbia, reported the Associated Press. Investigators had searched the garage three times in the past 10 days since he was reported missing. Police found a gun with the body.
Scott said a note was found in Sponseller's office. The contents referred to a federal investigation into the South Carolina's Hospitality Association finances. Sponseller was the president of the association.
Scott said Sponseller was found behind two locked doors in room where people often smoked during their breaks, reported the AP. Officers had not had the keys to the locked room until Tuesday morning.
Sponseller disappeared Feb. 18 from his office. He was reported missing by his wife that night after friends and family were unable to reach him. His Mercedes was found parked in the garage with no evident signs of a struggle. His cellphone and wallet were missing, reported Fox News.
Authorities searching for Sponseller were also investigating $900,000 that may be missing from his association, as alluded to in his note. His accounting director, Rachel Duncan, is listed as a person of interest in the investigation, which allegedly involves gambling.
Ms. Duncan has been interviewed, and she is a target of our financial crime investigation, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Michael Williams said, according to Fox News.
Sponseller was a graduate of the Citadel military college in Charleston and a former Air Force officer. He has been lobbying for the hospitality and tourism industry for over 20 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.