Ohio suspect in Michigan slayings was in military

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Associated Press

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 17 at 3:31 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A man being sought nationwide Tuesday in the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her pregnant sister in Michigan is a former military police specialist who served nearly a year in Iraq and later was jailed in Ohio for sexual battery.

Authorities say they believe Thomas Fritz, who has been on the run since the killings Friday night, is armed and dangerous.

"We will use extreme caution when we do find Mr. Fritz," Michigan State Police Lt. Sean Furlong said.

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

Fritz moved in with Amy 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, 24-year-old Lisa Gritzmaker, were extremely close, friends said.

But Fritz was a bit of mystery.

Investigators said he used a different name in Michigan, not an unusual move for sex offenders, Furlong said. He'd been 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.

Fritz showed up at a couple of youth ball games with Merrill but didn't talk much, friends of the victims said.

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.

A woman who answered the phone at a Sylvania listing for Fritz declined to comment.

Police said they believe Fritz is driving a burgundy or maroon 2002 Honda four-door vehicle with Ohio license plates. The U.S. Marshals Service was working with state authorities on the search.

His military background has heightened the unease already felt in Blissfield, a quiet town where violent crimes are rare.

Kevin Holt, of nearby Adrian, said he found himself checking out other vehicles on his way to work Monday.

"We were all talking about what we'd do if we spotted him," he said. "Everybody's looking around right now."

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Associated Press Writer David Runk in Detroit contributed to this report.

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