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Published: Tuesday, 7/17/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Murder suspect dies in West Virginia

Man sought in Blissfield sisters' deaths has history of false names

BLADE STAFF
Thomas Jack Fritz, the suspect in the killings of two Blissfield women, may be headed to Cleveland, authorities say. Thomas Jack Fritz, the suspect in the killings of two Blissfield women, may be headed to Cleveland, authorities say.
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BLISSFIELD, Mich. — Thomas Jack Fritz, who is accused of killing two women in Blissfield, died overnight in West Virginia's Tyler County, according to a sheriff's dispatcher there. Tyler County is about 50 miles south of Wheeling, W. Va., and about 50 miles east of Marietta, Ohio.

He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in a standoff with authorities, officials said.

Fritz, 38, is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Amy Merrill, 33, and her sister, Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, in Ms. Merrill's Blissfield home Friday night. Fritz is also accused of shooting and injuring Robin Lynn McCowan, 52, the deceased women's mother.

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Mrs. Gritzmaker was seven months pregnant when she was killed. Family named the unborn baby Abbigail Michelle Gritzmaker.

Autopsies were done on the two women's bodies Monday, but reports had yet to be released late Tuesday.

Earlier, Michigan State Police Lt. Sean Furlong said Fritz has a history of using aliases.

Shelby Piotter-Anderson, a Blissfield resident and friend of both victims, said Fritz used an alias during his relationship with Ms. Merrill; she believed his name was Thomas Koenig.

"He was living with her under an assumed name," Ms. Piotter-Anderson said Saturday. "I didn't know his real name until I heard about [the shootings]."

In an interview Monday, Lieutenant Furlong said it was possible the suspect had been lying to Ms. Merrill because of his criminal record.

Fritz was on parole after serving a year in prison for a sexual battery conviction in Wood County. As a condition of his parole, he was not supposed to leave Ohio without permission.

At some point in Fritz's relationship with Ms. Merrill, he was living with her in Blissfield Township.

Lieutenant Furlong said it's also likely the suspect was lying to his parole officer about where he was living.

Early Tuesday, officials reached out to Cleveland law enforcement, asking them to be on the lookout for Fritz, who might headed their way.

Lieutenant Furlong said Tuesday officials "have no idea where [Fritz] went," and that travel toward Cleveland is "speculation."

"We've speculated Cleveland because Ohio is home for him, and we got some tip that he might know some people in Cleveland, but we haven't been able to confirm a lot of that," Lieutenant Furlong said.

Before a regional manhunt for Fritz began, the former military policeman was working for someone based out of Cleveland, Lieutenant Furlong said.

The lieutenant said the relationship between Fritz and his employer does not appear personal, and it's unclear if Fritz was traveling to Cleveland for work.

Staff writer Mel Flanagan contributed to this report.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.




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