By Paul Gable
FITS News today reported it is uncovering facts that make the finding of “apparent suicide” in the death of South Carolina Hospitality Association CEO Tom Sponseller questionable.
The story says the gunshot wound that killed Sponseller was “painstakingly made to appear self-inflicted.” It goes on to say that sources close to the Sponseller family vigorously dispute that Sponseller suffered from a “major gambling habit” and that there was a prior suicide attempt with a single car accident in 2011.
Sponseller was well known to many business owners in Horry County through hospitality association ties. One business owner has told Grand Strand Daily that attempting to call Sponseller’s car accident a suicide attempt was “ridiculous.”
Sponseller was returning home from an event the business owner had put on when the accident occurred and had acted completely normal throughout the day before departing.
Several other alleged “facts” in the case also make the finding of suicide very questionable.
Several business owners in Horry County offered to put up a reward for information leading to Sponseller immediately after hearing he had gone missing. They claim the hospitality association told them to wait. Why?
We have also been hearing of gambling connections, but not of a habit by Sponseller. What we have heard is interests associated with the desire to establish casinos in South Carolina have been seeking support in their efforts from hospitality association members.
It is interesting that Columbia communications consultant Bob McAlister was hired by the SCHA as a crisis consultant immediately after the Sponseller disappearance. McAlister has been working with the Keetowa Indian tribe that is seeking to build a gambling casino complex in Hardeeville.
And what of the fact that it took 10 days to discover Sponseller’s body in the “double locked” room?
According to reports, Columbia police searched the building housing the hospitality association offices and its associated garage three times before a final fourth search discovered Sponseller’s body in locked room. The third attempt included cadaver dogs, according to reports.
What kind of cadaver dog could not hit on a week old body in a confined area no matter how many doors it was locked behind?
A three page letter, allegedly written by Sponseller on the day of his suicide, was found in a locked drawer in his desk at the association offices. It took 10 days before association employees reportedly opened the locked drawer, found the letter and reported it to police.
The same day they received the letter, Columbia police found Sponseller’s body on their fourth search.
Reportedly, the letter referred to Sponseller’s embarrassment over a missing $500,000 in an apparent embezzlement scheme by an association employee.
Federal authorities were investigating this alleged embezzlement for at least several weeks before Sponseller went missing and are still investigating nearly a month after Sponseller’s body was found.
It took 10 days to find Sponseller’s body after he went missing. Federal authorities have been investigating the missing money for several months. But, it only took a couple of days for the Richland County Coroner to come to a finding of suicide in Sponseller’s death.
There are still too many questions and not enough answers in the Sponseller case.