WINTER HAVEN — For nearly a decade, authorities say, Timothy A. Fritch was on the run, having fled the West Coast after he violated the terms of his parole after being convicted of molesting a minor.
On Tuesday, he no longer had to hide from the law, because the law finally caught up with him, in Winter Haven.
It prompted the sheriff of Polk County to warn fugitives from justice not to expect a safe haven in this area.
“After eight years on the run, this suspect chose Polk County as a wrong place to hide,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “The U.S. Marshals were instrumental in locating the suspect, and we will continue to work together in cases like this.”
Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, working with the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, arrested Fritch late last week after eight years on the run.
A registered sex offender, Fritch was convicted in San Bernardino County, Calif. of molestation of a minor in 1986. He was eventually released from the California prison system on parole, but violated it. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Jan. 28, 2004, but by then Fritch had disappeared.
He was listed as an absconder, and became a fugitive from justice.
For eight years, Fritch remained missing. But his luck ran out in July, when the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force got a lead from members of the U.S. Marshals Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force, indicating that Fritch may be living at 420 Coleman Road in Winter Haven.
The Marshals Office contacted Polk County Sheriff’s Office to investigate, and detectives were able to determine that Fritch had been living in the Winter Haven area for less than a year.
He appears to have stayed one step ahead of the law. Each time his address was uncovered, Fritch would use fake addresses, phone numbers, and identities to avoid detection from law enforcement.
Detectives learned about his Winter Haven address on Friday, Sept. 28, and were waiting at the home when Fitch got there — and was immediately taken into custody.
Detectives said the fugitive refused to speak and “feigned a medical condition,” according to the arrest report.
Fritch was transported to a local hospital for evaluation, then booked into the Hillsborough County Jail after being cleared by medical personnel.
Fritch now faces California violation of parole charges, and additional charges are likely.
“This suspect was granted parole in California without completing his full sentence. This is a problem we don’t see in Florida,” Judd said. “Timothy Fritch, a convicted sexual offender, has been an absonder from the California prison system for the past eight years. We praise the U.S. Marshals who are the best at tracking down criminals across the U.S.”
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