Suspect in Mich. sisters' slayings is found dead

July 18, 2012 5:52:42 AM PDT
A convicted sex offender and Iraq war veteran wanted in the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her pregnant sister in Michigan has been found dead in West Virginia, police said Wednesday.

The U.S. Marshals Service, following up on a lead, discovered the body of Thomas Fritz in a remote cabin in Tyler County, W.Va., on Tuesday night, Michigan State Police Lt. Sean Furlong told The Associated Press. Furlong said he did not have any details on how Fritz died.

Authorities, who had been trying to track down Fritz since Friday's shootings, had urged caution, saying the former military police specialist was armed and dangerous.

Fritz, 38, was charged with killing his 33-year-old ex-girlfriend, Amy Merrill, in a house they shared in Blissfield, a village on the edge of southern Michigan's scenic Irish Hills region. He also is accused of killing the woman's younger sister, 24-year-old Lisa Gritzmaker, who was eight months' pregnant, and shooting and wounding their 52-year-old mother, Robin Lynn McCowan.

All were shot in Blissfield, about 20 miles northwest of Toledo, Ohio. Police found the women at a home after responding to a 911 call from one of the victims.

McCowan is hospitalized, and police say she is recovering from surgery.

Fritz moved in with Merrill last winter along with her two sons from another relationship and a toddler they had together. She broke up with him about three weeks ago, investigators said.

Before that, he lived in Sylvania, Ohio, a Toledo suburb where he grew up.

The two sisters grew up in the area around Blissfield and were well known. Merrill took her two oldest boys to youth baseball games and Boy Scouts meetings. She and her sister were extremely close, friends said.

Fritz was sentenced to a year in an Ohio prison after being convicted of sexual battery in 2006. He also was deemed to be a sexually oriented offender.

He served in the Ohio National Guard beginning in 1997 and later the Army Reserve. He then spent nearly a year in Iraq with the guard's military police unit from the spring of 2003 through early 2004.

That same year he received an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice from Owens Community College in suburban Toledo.


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