A well-respected pathologist has agreed with the Richland County coroner’s ruling that Tom Sponseller, the former chief executive officer of the S.C. Hospitality Association, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Dr. Janice “Pat” Edwards Ross, a forensic pathologist and owner, president and chief executive officer of Newberry Pathologist Associates, said she reviewed the investigation on behalf of the Sponseller family. She went over the autopsy, photographs, DNA analysis and nearly a dozen other tests performed as part of Coroner Gary Watts’s investigation. Ross, who called Watts’ examination “thorough,” said she did not discover anything that was inconsistent with suicide.
Sponseller died Feb. 18 but his body was not discovered by the Columbia Police Department until Feb. 28. The body was found in a locked storage room off an underground parking garage of the 1122 Lady St. office building where he worked. Police already had searched the building three times but had missed the body. They also failed to open Sponseller’s locked desk drawer, where Hospitality Association employees found a three-page letter and an empty box for a handgun. The discovery of the letter prompted police to search the building a fourth time.