ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – It’s a face Leila Hodges of St. Louis and her coworkers recognized the instant it hit the news this week.
“There were a couple of waitresses who recognized who he was, even my bartender. It was shocking,” she explained.
Hodges is a server at Hot Shots in the 14000 block of Manchester Road.
The reason that’s significant is because the sports bar is located two businesses down from Catholic Supply, which became the scene of a horrific series of crimes on Monday.
Thomas Bruce, 53, is now facing 17 charges, including first degree murder and sodomy.
St. Louis County prosecutors allege the Navy veteran from Imperial, Mo. forced three women at gunpoint to undress inside a back room of the religious store and demanded they perform sexual acts on him.
According to charging documents, when Jamie Schmidt, 53, refused, Bruce shot and killed her before fleeing the scene.
But Bruce was later apprehended by law enforcement at his home early Wednesday morning. And by the end of that day, his mugshot was everywhere.
“Our reactions were like ‘Oh my god!’ Are you serious?’” Hodges said.
Speaking exclusively to Five on Your Side, the server said the booking photo stuck out because Bruce frequented Hot Shots, but never stood out for any particular reason.
“He was just a normal innocent guy. Our demographics here are older gentlemen, so he blended right in along the crowd,” Hodges said.
She even said Bruce even left a glowing review of Hot Shots on Facebook dating back seven months ago.
“He gave a review about our bar in particular in April, saying there was great customer service and the food was really good,” Hodges said.
But far more chilling than that, Hodges and one other waitress who spoke to Five on Your Side said Bruce was a customer as recently as Monday, a mere hours before the unthinkable happened at Catholic Supply.
Hodges said, “It’s very shocking because we don’t read people’s minds. We don’t know what they’re thinking or going through. There were no red flags.”
Another waitress and multiple law enforcement sources said while at Hot Shots, Bruce left a business card with a bartender, and that may have helped police track him down.
Hodges said the crimes have left employees shaken, but they’re happy he’s now in custody.
“It’s terrible St. Louis is full of so much violence. You just can’t trust anyone,” she said.
Meantime, a memorial for Schmidt continues to grow outside Catholic Supply. On Thursday, the Schulte family gave up part of their Thanksgiving to leave flowers.
“It’s really sad and terrible. It’s not fair that she can’t spend time with her family on Thanksgiving and everyone else can,” they said.
The Catholic Supply remains closed, but two other local locations have since reopened.
Bruce is expected to face a judge on the charges for the first time Monday morning.