Suspect in Mich. sisters' slayings is found dead

Associated Press
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This undated photo released by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows Thomas J. Fritz, 38, of Sylvania, Ohio, who served a one-year sentence on a 2007 third-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction. Michigan State Police say Fritz is a suspect in the fatal shooting of Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, and Amy Merrill, 34, and the wounding of the women’s mother at Merrill’s home in Blissfield, Mich., on Friday, July 13, 2012. Michigan State Police say Fritz is a fugitive and wanted for questioning in the shootings. They say he’s considered armed and dangerous. (AP Photo/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)

DETROIT (AP) — An Iraq war veteran wanted in the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her pregnant sister in Michigan fatally shot himself in a remote West Virginia cabin after seeing federal marshals closing in on him, authorities said Wednesday.

Deputy marshals saw Thomas Fritz holding what appeared to be a rifle when he ran into the cabin Tuesday night in Sistersville, W.Va., a community on the Ohio border about 80 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement. The deputies heard a gunshot and later found the 38-year-old Fritz dead inside.

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.

Michigan State Police Lt. Sean Furlong told The Associated Press that the marshals went to investigate the cabin because it belongs to an associate of Fritz's.

"He'd been there before," Furlong said. "This place in West Virginia is as remote as they come."

Furlong didn't know when Fritz's autopsy would be performed.

Authorities said Fritz's ex-girlfriend, Amy Merrill, broke up with him about three weeks ago. On the night of the killings, he went to her Blissfield, Mich., home, where he had lived with her since last winter, to speak with her. The two had a child together, who is a toddler, and Merrill's two sons from a former marriage also lived there.

Police say Fritz shot Merrill, 33, her 24-year-old sister, Lisa Gritzmaker, who was eight months' pregnant, and their mother, Robin Lynn McCowan, who were all at the home. The sisters died and McCowan is recovering from surgery at a hospital.

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.

Before moving in with Merrill, Fritz was living in Sylvania, Ohio, a Toledo suburb where he grew up, which is about 12 miles from Blissfield.

Fritz 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.

In 2006, Fritz was convicted of sexual battery, deemed a sex offender and sentenced to a year in prison in Ohio. Paul Dobson, a Wood County, Ohio, prosecutor, said a woman accused Fritz of having sex with her at a party while she was passed out.


Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.


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