Zina Marie Fritze, who hanged herself with a bed sheet in the Kennebec County jail on Wednesday, was scared and suffering withdrawal from the Suboxone that was helping her deal with her addiction, her older sister believes.
Fritz, 27, was declared dead Wednesday afternoon, just one day after she pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on an indictment charging her with murder, felony murder and robbery in connection with the death of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta.
Marceau’s body was found Nov. 23, 2015, in a Washington Street apartment that had been occupied by Fritze and her partner, Michael Sean McQuade. McQuade, 45, and another man, Damik Davis, 25, of Queens, New York, face the same charges.
Fritze’s older sister, Zoe Fritze-Heath, 33, of Saco, had spoken with her last about a week before the Jan. 22 arrest.
Fritze was picked up on a warrant issued by a judge after the state sought to revoke bail she had been free on since Dec. 21, 2015. The bail motion said she violated conditions by committing new criminal conduct.
Fritze was scheduled to be seen by a judge via video from the jail on Monday, but was told she would have a hearing the next morning.
That was when she was arraigned on the murder charge and ordered held without bail pending further court action.
“I think she knew the gravity of the situation she was in,” Zoe Fritze-Heath said Thursday night. “I think she was aware she might be questioned more thoroughly. I knew she was scared and I also know she was suffering from very extreme overwhelming withdrawal from Suboxone.”
Fritze-Heath said her sister had been on “a pretty heavy dose of Suboxone” for years. Suboxone is used to treat opiate dependence and help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
“My sister went without her normal medication, which would probably make me suicidal also,” Fritze-Heath said.
However, Fritze-Heath was not able to talk to her sister while she was in the jail.
Interim Sheriff Ryan Reardon said Friday he could not provide any medical information about Fritze in particular, but said generally that if inmates come into the jail while prescribed Suboxone from a medical doctor, the facility usually can make arrangements to get their prescriptions to them.
A corrections officer conducting a check found the unresponsive Fritze hanging in her cell around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. The medical staff and corrections officers performed CPR on Fritze, which continued while she was loaded into an Augusta Rescue ambulance to take her to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, Reardon said. Paramedics declared her dead while en route to the hospital.
Reardon said the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police and the Office of Professional Review are investigating Fritze’s death.
Zina Fritz is survived by Fritze-Heath; a brother, Matthew, who lives in Brooklyn, New York; and her son Loki, who will turn 6 next week.
Fritz-Heath said her sister’s lawyer, Darrick Banda, called her on Wednesday to say her sister had died. Fritze-Heath later talked to the director of the jail’s health department and the jail administrator about seven hours after it happened.
“They knew she was suicidal, and they left her in there with a sheet,” Fritze-Heath said. “She had a history of many other mental health problems, including suicidal ideation.” She added, “I didn’t know she was on their casual suicide watch.”
Earlier this week, Reardon said Fritze was not considered to be a significant threat to herself and was on a “lower form of observation based on her interaction and statements to mental health professionals within the facility.” In that instance, protocol calls for jail staff to check on her every 15 minutes. She was alone in her cell.
Fritze-Heath said she had mailed letters to her sister at the jail, but that Fritze apparently had not received them.
Fritz-Heath said the sisters had stayed in contact via Skype and Xbox but hadn’t actually been together for about a year, because neither woman drove.
“My sister loved above anything else her son; that was the most important thing to her,” Fritz-Heath said. She said that while Loki had not been living with his mother, the two had regular visits.
“Her son was autistic, and she was very active in the autistic community, and very good with other young mothers,” Fritz-Heath said, adding that she helped them choose among treatments and other things.
Her sister also loved music and movies and her nephew, Zoe Fritz-Heath’s son.
She said their mother died when Zina Fritz was 11, so the family moved from Richmond to Hallowell. Zina Fritze graduated from Hall-Dale High School.
“We lost our mother, lost our father, lost a brother,” Fritz-Heath said. “Our family has been through hell.”
Their brother Paul A. Fritze was shot and killed by police in September 2011 after a protracted standoff in Farmingdale that was sparked when Paul Fritze held a gun to a neighbor’s head and then tried to shoot his way into a bedroom where a woman had hidden in a closet.
Zina Fritze said shortly after the shooting that her brother was “distraught” and “depressed” but never intended to hurt anyone.
“He was too intelligent,” Fritze said at the time. “It just wore him down. Living day by day wore him down.”
Zina Fritze said her brother was mentally ill and had stopped taking his medication two years earlier.
Zina Fritze’s Facebook page indicates that she, too, struggled with mental illness and substance abuse. A post on her page from June 2014 includes a photo of the certificate she received after completing Crisis and Counseling’s Women’s Intensive Outpatient Program. The course incorporates both mental health and substance abuse counseling.
“I’ve been clean,” Fritze wrote above the post.
When police were seeking to contact Fritze and McQuade, Zoe Fritze-Heath encouraged her sister to turn herself in.
“I didn’t want my sister missing,” she said. Police later interviewed the couple without charges at that point.
But court documents show that things were starting to unravel for Fritze.
She was charged in December with two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of misuse of identification as well as a series of car burglaries.
Betty Adams — 621-5631