An Augusta murder suspect who died Wednesday after hanging herself inside her jail cell was not believed to be a significant threat to herself.

Kennebec County Interim Sheriff Ryan Reardon said 27-year-old Zina Fritze was placed on “special management,” which means she was checked every 15 minutes. Fritze was alone in her cell, Reardon said.

“There are different levels of observation,” Reardon said. “She was on a lower form of observation based on her interaction and statements to mental health professionals within the facility.”

Fritze was one of three people charged in the Nov. 23 murder of Augusta’s Joseph Marceau, 31, inside the Washington Street apartment Fritze shared with her partner, 45-year-old Michael Sean McQuade. Fritze, like McQuade and 25-year-old Damik Davis of Queens, New York, was indicted last week on charges of murder, felony murder and robbery in connection with Marceau’s death.

Fritze and McQuade were arraigned Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center. Fritze was found hanging by a bed sheet in her cell about 24 hours later.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was expected to do an autopsy Thursday to confirm the cause and manner of death. A spokesman for the office said later Thursday he could not release any information on the case at that point.

Fritze’s attorney, Darrick Banda, said his interaction with Fritze was brief, but nothing in those exchanges indicated she was a danger to herself.

“Not from my discussion with her, no,” Banda said. “I hadn’t even had the chance to do a basic intake with her or a basic history or anything.”

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. The state Department of Corrections and the Office of the Maine Attorney General have been notified. All of the measures are standard procedure.

A conviction for murder carries a minimum penalty of 25 years in prison without the possibility of release or parole. The felony murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years, stems from the belief that the murder was committed during the act of a robbery.

Fritze and McQuade were arrested Friday on alleged probation violations. Each was told of the indictments Monday, just before making initial appearances via video on the probation violation charges.

Fritze and McQuade each pleaded not guilty to the murder and robbery charges during Tuesday’s arraignment.

Documents in the case against Davis were sealed by a judge at the state’s request, so there is no explanation yet from authorities of how Marceau was killed.

Marceau lived in an apartment on Winthrop Street about a mile from where his body was discovered. Neighbors in the Washington Street apartment building said they heard a series of thuds from the apartment occupied by McQuade and Fritze, and records indicate the two were being evicted from their apartment.

Fritze, like McQuade and Davis, was being held without bail.

Fritze is the second person in as many months to attempt suicide at the jail. A male inmate whose name Reardon said he was unable to release because of privacy laws was taken to the hospital in December after trying to hang himself. The man has since made a complete recovery.

The jail has done prisoner intake processing 13,493 times since 2011, according to jail officials. In that time, 16 suicide attempts have occurred, and Fritze’s was the only successful one, they said.

Reardon said Fritze was allowed to have a bed sheet in her room because of the watch level on which she was placed.

“Items that inmates are allowed to have are based on the level of observation at the time,” he said. “In this case, (Fritze) was allowed to have normal facility bedding.”

Attempts to reach Fritze’s family were unsuccessful.

Published reports indicate Fritze and McQuade had a son together in February 2010. It is unclear whether the child was living with them before their arrest.

Fritze’s 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 hid 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. She said she was unsure whether Paul Fritze intended for police to kill him. Fritze said her brother never mentioned suicide, but that it did run in her family. Fritze’s uncle, who shared a home with Paul Fritze, intentionally overdosed on medication for the third and final time in 2004, Zina Fritze said at the time.

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.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]ntralmaine.com

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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