March 30, 2015

AMBER ALERT issued for missing 13-year-old from Montrose, Missouri

An Amber Alert has been issued for a 13-year-old girl missing from Montrose in west-central Missouri’s Henry County. Authorities say she disappeared from her home some time Sunday morning.

Image from KY3 in Springfield.

Hannah Sue Kennish – Image from KY3 in Springfield.

Hanna Sue Kennish is described as white, five feet, two inches tall weighing 130 pounds, last seen wearing a pink short-sleeved shirt and pink Capri pants.

She reportedly did not take a cell phone with her. Police say the back door of the home was open when she disappeared.

Authorities are looking for a 2013 Black Ford F-150 Truck with Texas license plate C-G-L-8981, and 55-year-old Raymond Vallia, described as a white male, five feet, nine inches tall, weighing between 230 and 250 pounds with grayish-brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the Henry County Sheriff’s Department at (660) 525-1544.

 

Despite controversy, Tom Schweich spokesman’s death to be investigated like any other

Jefferson City Police say they are aware of the suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich just over a month before the suicide of his communications director, Spence Jackson, but say they will investigate Jackson’s death as they would any other.

Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker

Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker

“It doesn’t mean we do anything more or less on this investigation in terms of initially, than we would anyone else,” Police Captain Doug Shoemaker said in a media conference Monday morning. “We try and look into the investigation the same. If there are more complexities that come about as a part of this investigation due to the very nature of it, then we’ll certainly investigate those as well and that’s our intent.”

Shoemaker acknowledged that there are possible complexities, in that Schweich’s death February 26 has been the subject of controversy in the past month and Jackson was one of those who had spoken to the media about who he thought was to blame.

“We’re very aware of the political issues surrounding Mr. Schweich’s death, and then within a month we have the death of his spokesperson, so we’re clearly of the understanding of what’s taking place,” said Shoemaker. “We are doing everything possible to try and make sure that we do this investigation the best way we can, and if that involves other things that we normally would not look into simply because of his profession, then we’ll do that, but we’re not quite as of yet.”

Friends and colleagues, including Jackson, say Schweich believed he was the target of a whispering campaign by Missouri Republican John Hancock and say that contributed to his decision to take his own life.  Jackson was one of the first to publicly call for Hancock to resign because he, too, believed Hancock had been telling potential donors Schweich was Jewish.  Schweich believed that was intended to hurt him among Evangelical Christians.  Schweich was actually Episcopalian.

“Our agency won’t comment or really entertain questions that might link Mr. Jackson to any type of political issue whether it’s perceived or real,” said Shoemaker.

Shoemaker said investigators are reaching out to the state auditor’s office and Clayton police, but would not speak about what those contacts would be about.

Police say they were called Sunday evening by Jackson’s mother, who had been unable to reach him. She was with officers when they went to his apartment to check on his well-being, but Shoemaker said she did not go inside with them when they found his body.

Spence Jackson is the communications director for the State Auditor's Office, where he worked with Auditor Tom Schweich.

Spence Jackson

“Initial assessment of the scene indicated that Jackson died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Police said in a statement released Monday morning. Shoemaker said a .357 Magnum revolver was found “in the vicinity” of his body with one round having been fired.

One reporter said he had been told Jackson did not own a gun, and Shoemaker told him police have not established who owned the one that was found.

A note was found with Jackson, but Shoemaker would not discuss what it said. He could not confirm whether its contents would be released.

“We’ll see how the investigation goes, but again we try and focus these investigations out of courtesy to the family,” said Shoemaker. “We’ll obviously comply with any laws with regard to the release of that information at a later time, but since this is an open investigation we won’t comment as to what’s contained.”

Shoemaker said investigators are still trying to determine who was the last person to have contact with Jackson. He said authorities will be closer to identifying a time of death when the autopsy is complete, but said, “We believe most likely [his death] occurred early in the weekend, most likely Friday possibly into Saturday.”

He could not confirm when the results of the autopsy might be released. Toxicology tests can take weeks to be completed.

Earlier stories:

UPDATE:  Police investigating death of Schweich spokesman as a suicide

Tom Schweich spokesman Spence Jackson found dead

Missouri GOP Chairman says ‘whispering campaign’ disproven, ‘tired of talking about’ controversy after Schweich death

UPDATE: Police investigating death of former Schweich spokesman as a suicide

Jefferson City Police confirm they are investigating the apparent suicide of Spence Jackson, the spokesman for the late state auditor Tom Schweich, who committed suicide February 26.

Spence Jackson is the communications director for the State Auditor's Office, where he worked with Auditor Tom Schweich.

Spence Jackson

Police say a member of Jackson’s family asked them to check on his well-being after they were unable to reach him. They went to his Jefferson City apartment shortly after 7 p.m. and found Jackson in his bedroom dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Police say there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. Detectives are investigating the death as a suicide and an autopsy will be conducted today. The police department will hold a media conference at 11:30 this morning.

See the statement from the Jefferson City police

Jackson had worked for nearly the last four years as Schweich’s communications director. After Schweich’s suicide in February, Jackson was among those who said Schweich was angry at the time of his death about a whispering campaign he believed had been going on in a segment of the state Republican party.

Schweich, a Republican, believed John Hancock, who was elected party chairman in February, had been telling potential fundraisers that Schweich was Jewish, which Schweich’s friends said he believed was an attempt to hurt him among evangelical Christian voters in his bid for the party’s nomination for governor in 2016. Schweich was Episcopalian.

Related stories:

Schweich staffer:  Missouri GOP chair should resign for ‘whispering campaign’

Missouri GOP chairman says ‘whispering campaign’ disproven, ‘tired of talking about’ controversy after Schweich death

Spence Jackson, who was close to Schweich in addition to working for him, posted this photo on his Facebook page two days after Schweich's death.  Jackson accused GOP Chairman John Hancock of being behind an alleged "whispering campaign" that Jackson and others believed contributed to Schweich's decision to take his own life, February 26.

Spence Jackson, who was close to Tom Schweich in addition to working for him, posted this photo of Schweich being sworn-in to a second term as Auditor, on his Facebook page two days after Schweich’s death. Jackson accused GOP Chairman John Hancock of being behind an alleged “whispering campaign” that Jackson and others believed contributed to Schweich’s decision to take his own life, February 26.

Jackson was one of those who publicly called for Hancock’s resignation. Hancock has denied that such a campaign existed. He says he once mistakenly believed Schweich was Jewish and might have said so on occasion, but denies it would have been in an attempt to hurt Schweich.

Prior to working for Schweich, Jackson had worked as the communications director for the Missouri Department of Economic Development under then-governor Matt Blunt as well as the communications director for Blunt’s office in 2005 and much of 2006, and for Blunt’s campaign in 2004.

Former governor Blunt released a statement this morning in response to the news of Jackson’s death:

“Melanie and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Spence Jackson who was a good friend for many years. Spence was a gifted communicator who dedicated his talents in public affairs to public service. Over his career he served as chief spokesman for three of Missouri’s statewide offices including that of the governor when I held that post. Spence was hard-working, well-liked and quick-witted. He will truly be missed. We mourn his passing and offer our prayers to his family and friends.”

 

Tom Schweich spokesman Spence Jackson found dead

UPDATES:

Police investigating death of former Schweich spokesman as a suicide

Despite controversy, Tom Schweich spokesman’s death to be investigated like any other

Original story:

Multiple sources are saying that Spence Jackson, the media relations director for the late state auditor Tom Schweich, was found dead in his apartment in Jefferson City on Sunday.

Spence Jackson is the communications director for the State Auditor's Office, where he worked with Auditor Tom Schweich.

Spence Jackson

Jackson’s death is reportedly being investigated as a suicide.

Schweich committed suicide February 26 at his home in Clayton. Friends and colleagues, including Jackson, said Schweich was angry about an alleged “whispering campaign” among other Republicans saying Schweich was Jewish, that Schweich believed was an effort to hurt him in the race for the Republican nomination for governor. Jackson was one of those in the Republican party who accused Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock of being behind that effort, and called for his resignation.

In addition to being on Schweich’s staff for nearly four years, Jackson was close to Schweich.

More information about Jackson’s apparent death is anticipated later this morning.

Before taking the job working for Schweich in the auditor’s office in May, 2011, Jackson had worked as the communications director for the Missouri Department of Economic Development under then-governor Matt Blunt as well as the communications director for Blunt’s office in 2005 and much of 2006, and for Blunt’s campaign in 2004.

 

Missouri GOP Chairman says ‘whispering campaign’ disproven, ‘tired of talking about’ controversy after Schweich death

The Chairman of Missouri’s Republican Party has said he’s not stepping down, and that he is ready to move on from the controversy that has surrounded him since the death of Auditor Tom Schweich.

Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock spoke with Missourinet and affiliate KWIX at KWIX's studios in Moberly.

Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock spoke with Missourinet and affiliate KWIX at KWIX’s studios in Moberly, where he was visiting with party officials from several counties.

John Hancock has been accused of having been part of a whispering campaign saying Schweich was Jewish, that Schweich believed was intended to hurt his race for governor and that allegedly contributed Schweich taking his own life.

Hancock says that has been disproven.

“We now have a police report that says there was no whisper campaign,” Hancock told Missourinet. “Nobody has come forward … if there’s a whisper campaign, you’re going to have dozens of people out there that were whispered to. By definition, that’s a whisper campaign. There clearly was no whisper campaign.”

Hancock says he’s tired of talking about the controversy.

“I’m ready to move on and move beyond it and get to work,” Hancock said.

Not preparing to step down

Hancock made statements last week during an interview on KMOX radio in St. Louis that some believed hinted he was leaning towards stepping down, as some have called for him to do. He told Missourinet the “soul searching” he said he had to do was to consider whether he could be an effective leader for the party.

“I have taken into account all that has happened and all that lies in front of us, and as long as I can do this job and do it well, and lead this party well, I intend to keep doing it,” said Hancock. “The only thing at this point that would cause me to step down is if I came to the conclusion that the Republican party in Missouri would be better off without me, and I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

He also said his reputation has been damaged in the past month, and he had to consider that.

“I’ve got to be in a position to where I can still support my family, and that was a principal concern. I’m feeling better about that possibility now, and I’m feeling better about the party moving forward and I think most people are ready to put this sad chapter behind us,” said Hancock.

Hancock said fundraising for the party has been strong, and he sees that as a sign that he has support from Republicans and the controversy is subsiding.

See Hancock’s statements regarding fundraising:

“We have raised enough in commitments already to eradicate the debt that had been in place and then add some more money in. We’re waiting on the checks to roll in now,” said Hancock. “We have raised north of $100,000 in the last four weeks, and really, there was a couple of those weeks where we really weren’t able to do much, so I’m very gratified with the response of our donors.”

“I always believed that once the truth came out, and I believed the truth would come out … that we would be fine to move forward. Well, the truth is starting to come out,” said Hancock. “The police department has said what they have said, the facts that have been presented don’t support a whisper campaign.”

What can be learned from past month about religion, ethnicity in Missouri politics?

Hancock has said that he might have mistakenly said Schweich was Jewish because he thought that was true, though he denies ever saying it to hurt Schweich politically or with a bigoted connotation. He said his belief that Schweich was Jewish was an assumption on his part, and one he calls, “stupid.”

“I need to be a lot more careful about making assumptions about people. I can assure you I have learned that less through this process,” said Hancock when asked what can be learned from the past month about the role of religion or ethnicity in politics. “Number two, I think we need to get to know our candidates and need to get to know them well. We need to know what their core convictions are, where those come from, how they’re able to articulate those.”

“Out of this tragedy, if it results in us maybe being a little bit more careful and a little bit more thoughtful in the way that we do politics, then that will be a small blessing to come out of this horrible event,” said Hancock.

What to do about attack ads in campaigns?

Asked whether he has changed his focus in campaigning, in light of criticism directed at an ad not connected to Hancock that compared Schweich’s appearance to the television character Barney Fife and said he was easily manipulated and could be squashed like a bug, Hancock says he hasn’t because he already doesn’t condone such tactics.

“I never supported these personally destructive kinds of campaigns. I don’t think there is any place for them,” said Hancock. “I don’t think they work. I don’t think the voters buy them. I think the voters are disgusted by them … I’ve never been supportive of that. I’m supportive of contrast, pointing out differences between two competing visions. That’s an essential and vital part of public discourse in this country.”

Related stories:

Parson not surprised by Schweich death investigation findings, still no decision on run for governor

Missouri GOP vice-chair says support for John Hancock is strong

Missouri GOP chairman not stepping down, denies whispering campaign against Schweich

Schweich staffer: Missouri GOP chair should resign for whispering campaign

Reports:  Schweich called reporters minutes before apparent suicide