S.C. lobbyist likely committed suicide, coroner says

Story highlights

  • A 9mm handgun was found near Tom Sponseller's body
  • Sponseller, 61, was head of the South Carolina Hospitality Association
  • He was found in a garage near his office Tuesday morning
  • Sponseller had been missing for 10 days
Early evidence suggests that South Carolina lobbyist Tom Sponseller died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts told reporters Tuesday.
Sponseller's body was found earlier in the day in a parking garage just a block from the state capitol in Columbia.
He had been missing for more than a week.
"Although he's been found and everything indicates it was self inflicted, the police department and our office is going to continue to investigate this until we can come up with obviously as many answers as we can," said Watts.
Sponseller, 61, was head of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, which is headquartered in the building where his body was discovered. He was last reported seen in his office around noon on February 18, a Saturday.
Columbia police detectives were "following up on the investigation and found Mr. Sponseller in a double enclosed room at the lower level parking garage," police said in a statement.
Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott told reporters investigators found a 9mm handgun near Sponseller's body. They also found a note in his office, which "is what brought us back to the location," he said. The chief declined to provide details on the note.
"My heart goes out to his family. This is very sad," said Scott.
Sponseller graduated from The Citadel and was a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, according to a Facebook page set up by his family after his disappearance. He and his wife had three children.
"Tom was supposed to meet us to see my son's Pinewood Derby for Scouts that afternoon at 2 and he did not show up to the event," daughter-in-law Lauren Sponseller said last week. "It started to really concern us at that point because it's out of his character to not show up to an event and to not let us know."