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Published: Monday, 7/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Search goes on for suspect in Blissfield killings

Officials say double homicide has shaken residents

BY SOPHIE BROACH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Shortly before midnight Friday, Amy Merrill, 34, and Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, were killed at Ms. Merrill's home at 304 N. Lane St., and their mother, Robin McCowan, was wounded. Neighbors and friends identified the victims. Shortly before midnight Friday, Amy Merrill, 34, and Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, were killed at Ms. Merrill's home at 304 N. Lane St., and their mother, Robin McCowan, was wounded. Neighbors and friends identified the victims.
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BLISSFIELD, Mich. -- Police continued Sunday to search for the suspect in the fatal shootings of two sisters in Blissfield.

Shortly before midnight Friday, Amy Merrill, 33, and Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, were killed at Ms. Merrill's home at 304 N. Lane St., and their mother, Robin McCowan, was wounded. Neighbors and friends identified the victims.

Ms. McCowan is believed to have called 911 from the crime scene, and an air ambulance transported her to a hospital. She is expected to survive. Toledo hospitals contacted Sunday said they had no information on a patient by that name.

As of Sunday evening, the Blissfield Police Department, the Michigan State Police's Monroe post, and the Lenawee County Sheriff's Office were looking for the suspect, Thomas Jack Fritz of Sylvania, for questioning in the double homicide.

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"We have not yet found him," Blissfield police Chief Jane Kelley said.

Neighbors said Fritz was Ms. Merrill's former boyfriend and that she had lived in the North Lane home with him and her three children for several months. Ms. Merrill had kicked the suspect out of their home about two weeks ago, according to a friend of the sisters.

Chief Kelley said that as far as she knew, no other crime-related incidents occurred at the address before Friday's shootings.

Ms. Merrill had two sons from a previous marriage. Her youngest son was with Fritz. Ms. Gritzmaker, who was seven months pregnant when she was killed, had two daughters with her husband, Jacob.

None of the children was at the Lane Street home when the shots were fired, police said.

Authorities declined to provide information about the status of Ms. Gritzmaker's fetus.

Police named Fritz as a person of interest soon after the shootings, describing him as a 38-year-old white man with brown hair and blue eyes who stands at about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 186 pounds. He was reported to be driving a burgundy or maroon 2002 four-door Honda with Ohio registration. Police think he may have headed to Ohio after the shootings.

Authorities believe Fritz is armed and dangerous. Anyone who sees him should contact police immediately and not approach him. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Michigan State Police at 517-241-8000.

Fritz served in prison from May, 2007, to April, 2008, for a felony charge of sexual battery, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Web site.

"To have this guy still on the loose, that worries me," said Mike Gunter, Blissfield Village Council president. "When you think of Blissfield, you think of speed traps and minor incidents. You never think of anything like this."

In the Lenawee County town of 3,340, Mr. Gunter said, everyone knows each other somewhat.

"Obviously it's going to affect us all. Everyone's shaken." Mr. Gunter attended high school with Ms. Merrill.

"Blissfield's just as safe as it was three days ago, and I think people understand that this was a tragic circumstance. This thing could have happened anywhere," he said.

As of Sunday evening, police had not released details about the deaths nor officially confirmed the victims' identities.

When asked about the delay, Detective Sgt. Marc Moore with the Monroe post replied, "I know they've been working hard trying to find the suspect, and that's where they've been focusing all their attention."

Chief Kelley said autopsies are to be performed today in Adrian.

The women's deaths bring the total number of homicides in the metro Toledo area to 26 for the year.

Blissfield is about 25 miles northwest of Toledo.

Contact Sophie Broach at: sbroach@theblade.com or 419-724-6210.



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