Coroner officially rules Sponseller death a suicide

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts has officially ruled Tom Sponseller's death a suicide

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- After an autopsy and several additional tests, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts has officially ruled Tom Sponseller's death a suicide.

The former Hospitality Association executive was found dead last month in a room behind two locked doors in the parking garage under the South Carolina Hospitality Association chief's downtown Columbia office building. Sponseller's suicide note mentioned his disappointment at hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from the organization he built over decades.

In a release Watts said that toxicology results show no signs of drugs or alcohol in Sponseller's system at the time of death. The coroner said additional tests of gunshot residue, firearm and ballistic testing of the gun and bullet, DNA, and hand writing tests all indicated suicide.

Related Stories

Tom Sponseller found dead

Police: Two high-ranking officers off force after Sponseller probe

Friends of Tom Sponseller gather in downtown Columbia for a memorial service

SC Hospitality Assoc says roughly $480K missing

Investigators searched Sponseller's Lady Street office building and parking garage three times since his

February 18 disappearance

, on one occasion using cadaver dogs, but were not able to find Sponseller's body. Police Chief Randy Scott says authorities previously did not have access to the room where Sponseller was found because there was not a key available.

Scott expressed frustration that his officers were not able to find Sponseller sooner when he was so close and vowed the department would "do better" in the future.

Thursday South Carolina Hospitality Association officials said about $480,000 is missing from its account, but an audit found no evidence linking Sponseller to the lost funds.

Erwin said Thursday that only Sponseller and the agency's former accounting director Rachel Duncan were in charge of handling the group's finances and that Sponseller "absolutely" had to know the money was missing.

Duncan was fired by the association last week and is a person of interest in the federal investigation.