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Columbia police launching internal investigation after Tom Sponseller death

Tom Sponseller WLTX

(CBS/AP) COLUMBIA, S.C. - Columbia police are launching an internal investigation into why it took officers 10 days to find the body of missing South Carolina lobbyist Tom Sponseller.

Chief Randy Scott says he is probing why his officers failed to find the body of 61-year-old Sponseller in a parking garage underneath his office building during initial searches. Scott says officers finally found the body on Tuesday in a locked room during a fourth search of the garage.

He says officers went to the room after learning of a suicide note found in Sponseller's office that referenced a federal investigation into money missing from the South Carolina Hospitality Association.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said it appears that Sponseller killed himself with a gunshot to his head around the same time he was reported missing Feb. 18.

On Monday, federal officials told The Associated Press they were investigating several hundred thousand dollars missing from the group, which lobbies for South Carolina's $14 billion tourism industry. U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Michael Williams said agents began looking into the group's books several months ago, but that Sponseller had not been investigated specifically.

Instead, Williams said agents were focusing on Rachel Duncan, who has served as an accounting director for the association.

Sponseller, head of the association for more than 20 years, is a well-known fixture at the Statehouse. On Tuesday, House lawmakers held a moment of silence after learning of his death.

Complete coverage of Tom Sponseller case on Crimesider

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