September 5, 2015

Search resumes for men missing from ’52 Alaska military plane crash, including two from Missouri (PHOTO GALLERY)

The search has resumed for the remains of servicemen killed in a military plane crash in Alaska in 1952. Two of those still missing are from Missouri.

Air Force Airman 3rd Class Wayne Dean Jackson of Downing (left) and Army Technical Sergeant Leonard George Unger of Gerald

Air Force Airman 3rd Class Wayne Dean Jackson of Downing (left) and Army Technical Sergeant Leonard George Unger of Gerald

Last year remains recovered from wreckage embedded in the Colony Glacier were identified as belonging to 17 of the 52 men that died when a C-124 Globemaster cargo plane nicknamed “Old Shaky” crashed into Mount Gannett on November 22, 1952. Those remains were returned to those men’s families.

Two servicemen still unaccounted for are from Missouri; Army Technical Sergeant Leonard George Unger of Gerald, and Air Force Airman 3rd Class Wayne Dean Jackson of Downing, were on that plane. Their families told Missourinet last year they hoped those men’s remains will be found.

The wreckage has been carried by the glacier to a site roughly 15 miles from where the crash occurred. It was spotted in 2012 and each summer since then, a joint military team has gone to the site to recover wreckage and any human remains that can be found. Due to the terrain and weather it is only accessible about two weeks out of the year, and only by helicopter.

Air Force Tech Sergeant John Gordinier was with the team that landed at the site Monday. He says it’s a treacherous site, with crevices in the ice that stretch down “as far as the eye can see,” on a glacier that is always moving, but he says there is good reason that in spite of the danger, teams keep returning.

“We’re always taught from day one, being in boot camp, you never leave a man behind,” Gordinier told Missourinet. “Even though it’s been 60 years, to be able to provide closure to the families, to be able to give them that sense, to give them the ability to bury and do a full honors funeral that they deserve, that’s why we do it.

“[Bringing these servicemen home is] an honor to do,” Gordinier added.

He says time is of the essence, however, as the glacier empties into Lake George. Any remains and wreckage that are not recovered could be lost if they reach the lake.

“It really, ultimately is what the glacier is allowing us to see and allowing us to collect,” said Gordinier. “There’s plenty underneath the ice still, so ultimately it comes down to what we’re able to see, because it’s not like we can go out there and just dig through the ice and look for other remains or debris.”

If the team finds any human remains, the military will begin the process of attempting to identify them.

The recovery mission is a joint effort of the Alaskan Command, Alaska National Guard, active-duty military members and civilians.

Time capsule removed from Missouri State Capitol Cornerstone

A piece of history that was hidden in the Missouri State Capitol Cornerstone in 1915 was revealed Tuesday.

A time capsule from 1915 was extracted from the Missouri State Capitol Cornerstone on June 9th, 2015.

A time capsule from 1915 was extracted from the Missouri State Capitol Cornerstone on June 9th, 2015.

Just inside the Office of Administration within the cornerstone was a time capsule, placed there during the Capitol building’s construction.

Director of Communications Ryan Burns said historical records showed where it was located, but the time capsule was actually seven feet above ground.

“There’s a stone that you can see from the exterior of the building that’s engraved, but we weren’t completely certain once we came to the inside of the building where we would be able to access that stone at,” said Burns.  “We started with an approximate location to chip away at some of the items that were blocking the limestone and the cornerstone, and then we used a concrete imaging device to actually locate where the time capsule was within the cornerstone.”

Burns said it took crews weeks to find it.

“We had contractors coming in and we had to cut through different layers of HVAC, ductwork, there was some clay tile, limestone, until we could finally reach the time capsule and cut a cavity out to remove that time capsule,” said Burns.

Burns said archivists will examine the capsule’s contents and attempt to preserve them for potential display.

“We will be taking it along to the health lab here in Jefferson City to store for safekeeping until we open the capsule,” said Burns.  “It looks to be soldered shut on the outside, so that will become part of our conversation that we have with the archivists in the coming weeks as to the best method of opening a copper box that has been soldered shut and left for a 100 years, so as to not damage or disturb the items inside.”

Burns said historical records show it includes copies of old newspapers from St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City.

“There was a Holy Bible that was inside,” said Burns.  “A copy of the laws that actually created the Capitol Commission and authorized the construction of the Capitol building.”

2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone.  A new capsule will replace it at a celebration July 3.

Governor Jay Nixon is urging Missourians to help pick out what should go into the new time capsule that will remain sealed until 2115.  Ideas can be submitted online at or on Twitter using the hashtag #MOTimeCapsule.

Funeral set for Schweich, interim Missouri auditor appointed

A memorial service for Missouri Auditor and candidate for governor Tom Schweich will be held Tuesday at the church he attended in Clayton. The service will be at 10 a.m. at the Church of St. Michael and St. George.

Tom Schweich

Tom Schweich

Schweich died Thursday morning in what police say was an apparent suicide.

Governor Jay Nixon has appointed his senior advisor and long-time staffer as Missouri State Auditor until he makes a permanent appointment. Nixon says John Watson will fill the role until Nixon designates someone to fill out the rest of Tom Schweich’s four-year term, which began in January.

Nixon says Watson will, “serve as state auditor and carry out the important functions of the office until a permanent appointment is made.”

Watson has worked with Nixon since 1997, when he was chief of staff while Nixon was attorney general. He was Nixon’s chief of staff from January 2009 through December of 2014.

“I have tremendous respect for the State Auditor’s Office, and I will carry out these duties in service to the people of Missouri,” Watson said. “I continue to keep Tom Schweich’s family and friends in my thoughts and prayers, and join them in mourning this loss.”

Reports: Schweich called reporters minutes before apparent suicide

Clayton police are investigating the death of Missouri auditor and candidate for governor Tom Schweich as an apparent suicide. They were called to Schweich’s home shortly before 10 Thursday morning.

The campaign site for Tom Schweich's campaign for governor has been replaced with this photo of his family and the message, "Please join with all Missourians in praying for Tom’s family, including his wife Kathy and children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr."

The website for Tom Schweich’s campaign for governor has been replaced with this photo of his family and the message, “Please join with all Missourians in praying for Tom’s family, including his wife Kathy and children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

An autopsy is scheduled for this morning at 7:30.

“Everything we know at this time is that it is an apparent act at Mr. Schweich’s own hand and family is cooperating with our investigation,” Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said in a press conference Thursday.

One thing Murphy said will be looked into is a possible motive, and what was happening leading up to the incident.

“Family and friends, we are talking to, and I want to make it clear that at this point everyone is cooperating with our investigation,” Murphy told reporters.

Murphy said at least one family member was in Schweich’s Clayton home with him when police were called.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that minutes before the shooting, Schweich had made phone calls to set up an interview to discuss his belief a top Republican party official was spreading false information about his religion.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy addresses the police on the investigation of the apparent suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy addresses the police on the investigation of the apparent suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

“We do a thorough investigation, and that would include all information that we are told that we can develop through the course of our investigation, whatever that might give us,” Murphy said.

The Post-Dispatch reports Schweich believed Republican Party chairman John Hancock, elected last weekend, was saying Schweich is Jewish to hurt him politically in the gubernatorial primary race, as many Republican voters are evangelical Christians. Hancock tells the Dispatch he had once thought Schweich was Jewish but denied saying so in a derogatory manner.

Schweich had reportedly planned to hold a press conference in Jefferson City this week to accuse Hancock of making an anti-Semitic remark and Hancock went to Jefferson City to be at that conference and present his side of the story. That conference never happened.

Schweich, 54, had two children with his wife Kathy.  Governor Jay Nixon (D) will appoint an auditor to fill out Schweich’s 4-year term, which began in January.

Missouri political leaders react to news of Schweich’s death

Missouri auditor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich has died after suffering what sources say has been called a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Clayton. His office confirmed the auditor’s passing in an e-mail.

Tom Schweich

Tom Schweich

Schweich, 54, was sworn in for his second term as state auditor in January and later that month announced his candidacy for governor in the 2016 campaign cycle. He and his wife, Kathy, have two children.

The state House, which had adjourned for the week, re-opened to host a prayer service for Schweich and his family. Legislators from both chambers, other elected officials, staff and members of the media were visibly shaken and saddened during the somber gathering.

Reaction to Schweich’s death began coming in from across the world of Missouri public service. In a statement, Governor Jay Nixon (D) called Schweich, “A brilliant, devoted, and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place.”

Nixon continued, “From his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan to his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri, Tom Schweich’s exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come. The First Lady and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Tom’s wife Kathy and two children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) wrote,”It is with great sadness that I heard today of the tragic passing of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich. Tom had a long and unblemished record as a great public servant. As the state’s auditor for the past four years he has served Missouri taxpayers with quiet competence and unswerving dedication. My thoughts and prayers are with his family in this extremely difficult time.”

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) tweeted, “I am very sad and hurt so much for Tom Schweich’s Family. Good man. Dedicated public servant. Hug those you love.”

Senator Roy Blunt tweeted, “Tom Schweich was very smart, very capable, outstanding at his job, and a good friend.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Kathy, their children, and the rest of Tom’s friends and family as they deal with this tragic loss.”

Attorney General Chris Koster (D) said in a statement, “Tom Schweich was a lifelong public servant for our state and country. I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss, and extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family. I ask all Missourians to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said, “Tom Schweich was a devoted public servant that I feel fortunate to have gotten to know as a friend and colleague over the past few years. Whether he was serving as our State Auditor, the U.S. Coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, or working at the State Department, Tom always fought tirelessly for the people he was serving. Anyone who had a conversation with Tom knew how dedicated he was to his service. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kathy and his children Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel wrote, “”It is with a heavy heart that I send my thoughts and prayers to the Schweich family during this difficult time. Tom served his state and country admirably, and fought strongly for his values. With his passing, Missouri has lost a devoted public servant. He will be missed.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple said, “The death of Auditor Tom Schweich is devastating news for his family and all Missourians,” said Roy Temple, Chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schweich family during this tragic time.”

Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock said he is in, “utter shock,” at the news of Schweich’s passing. “Tom will be remembered as a tenacious, energetic, effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation. I ask all Missourians to join me in praying for Tom’s family,” wrote Hancock.