SISTERSVILLE - An official with the U.S. Marshal Service said it comes as no surprise a Michigan man, wanted for a double homicide, was found in rural West Virginia.
Alex Neville, supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal, was not surprised to learn of Thomas Fritz's whereabouts in the area.
"Being in the fugitive business, we find people in all four corners of the United States who have associates, family, people they have done time with in prison," he said.
The 38-year-old Fritz was believed to have killed his 33-year-old ex-girlfriend, Amy Merrill, as well as the woman's younger sister, 24-year-old Lisa Gritzmaker, who was eight-months pregnant, last week in Blissfield, Mich. The sisters' 52-year-old mother, Robin McCowan, was also wounded.
Law enforcement launched a manhunt for Fritz, an Iraqi war veteran and convicted sex offender, that culminated early Wednesday morning in Tyler County. Fritz, a former military police specialist, was considered armed and dangerous. He was tracked to outside Sistersville Tuesday.
Neville said law enforcement officials in Ohio uncovered information that pointed to Sistersville.
"It was learned Fritz had an associate he worked for at one time that owned the cabin."
Neville said the cabin was located off Cowlick Road, a couple miles off W.Va 2, near Sistersville. Neville said the cabin was owned by a person who had previously employed Fritz. And Fritz had been to the cabin before.
Neville said the cabin was an ideal location for Fritz to hide out.
"He was probably unaware the U.S. Marshal Service had adopted the case," Neville said. "He probably felt safe in Tyler County in this remote location."
Tuesday evening Neville said an arrest squad of six marshals and members of the Tyler County's Sheriff's Department approached the residence.
As law enforcement was establishing positions around the cabin, they spotted a man matching Fritz's description on the back porch. Fritz, who was carrying a rifle, fled into the dwelling and a gunshot was heard seconds later, around 6:30 p.m.
Neville said law enforcement took cover, established a perimeter around the cabin and summoned two S.W.A.T. teams, one from the Wetzel County's Sheriff's Department and another from the West Virginia State Police.
Neville said the S.W.A.T. teams were called due to the circumstances, the remote location of the cabin, the charges against Fritz and the fact the cabin was surrounded by a few hundred yards of open field and contained an armed suspect.
The S.W.A.T. units didn't arrive until close to midnight. They fired tear gas into the cabin. Neville said when the S.W.A.T. units entered the dwelling they found Fritz in a rear bedroom, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A search of the residence uncovered two assault-style rifles, a shotgun and gas mask.
A release from the marshal's service stated Fritz's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for autopsy and positive identification.