The man accused of sexually assaulting a man accused of sexually assaulting another woman and fatally shooting another woman in a Catholic store in the suburbs of St. Louis, the St. Louis prosecutor said, according to reports.
Thomas Bruce, 53, appeared for his first appearance in court with chains on Monday.
Bruce, of rural Jefferson County, faces 17 counts, including first-degree murder and multiple counts of sodomy, armed criminal action, kidnapping, robbery and manipulation.
St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch called the case "heartbreaking" and said the "aggravating circumstances of the crimes" could support a death penalty case, The River Front Times reported.
McCulloch said the decision will be made by his successor, Wesley Bell, who will take office in January, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Bell, having defeated McCulloch in a landslide election, said he opposes the death penalty as part of his campaign, but declined last week to comment on the case, the newspaper reported.
"There is only one prosecutor at a time, and right now that prosecutor is Bob McCulloch," Bell said. "My deepest condolences are with the family and the victims, but it is not appropriate to comment on any decision before I am sworn in, and I want to be aware and respectful of that."
THE 3-YEAR-OLD MOTHER RECEIVED AS "SOMEONE VERY SPECIAL" WHILE THE POLICE SEEKS HER MURDERER
Prosecutors allege that Bruce entered the Catholic Supply store near Ballwin on November 19 and tried to force the three women to perform sexual acts with him.
Investigators said Jamie Schmidt, 53, of House Springs was shot dead when she refused.
Bruce told the judge in court on Monday that he has not spoken to a lawyer and requested a public defender.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.