Law enforcement officers have linked Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper to a spree of abductions and robberies in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. A timeline of the crimes, from interviews with law enforcement by The Associated Press and its member news organizations and statements by local police and the U.S. Marshals Service.
The couple is suspected of stealing guns from a house in their hometown, the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. Joplin police Cpl. Chuck Niess says police had hoped to speak with them about the robbery, but “they obviously left the area.”
Early Sunday morning, the pair enters the Microtel Inn and Suites in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, saying they’d run out of gas and were trying to get to Panama City, Florida, night clerk Kyle Dease tells Al.com. Moments later, the man pulls a semiautomatic pistol and forces Dease into a car and the three head toward the Birmingham, Alabama, area, he recounts later. Fitzgerald and Harper are charged with kidnapping, theft and robbery in that incident, Tuscaloosa police Lt. Kip Hart tells the AP.
Later Sunday, the couple tries to rob a McDonald’s manager outside her restaurant in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, demanding money and her car keys, Hoover police say. The manager screams and the couple flees, Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector says. Rector said the hotel clerk was still being held in the backseat during that robbery attempt, but was later released unharmed.
About 15 minutes later, a family in nearby Vestavia Hills is eating breakfast when a man enters the home through an open garage door, saying he’s having car trouble, police said. He pulls a gun, demands the family’s SUV an forces the woman to get inside, Vestavia Hills police Lt. Kevin York said. The woman is later released unharmed about 10 miles away.
On Monday night, a gunman holds up a young clerk at a Murphy Express station along Interstate 75 in south Georgia, taking money from the safe and cigarettes before forcing the clerk into an SUV, where his female accomplice is waiting, authorities say. The couple drives about 15 miles before releasing the clerk unharmed, Perry police Lt. Ken Ezell said.
On Wednesday, the couple is suspected in two additional robberies in the Florida panhandle _ in Walnut Hill, Florida; and in Destin, Florida, U.S. Marshal Martin Keely says in a statement. In one of those robberies, a man and woman matching the description of Fitzgerald and Harper rob a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office says.
The U.S. Marshals announce they are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Fitzgerald and Harper’s arrest.
Authorities catch up with the couple in the Florida Panhandle and a shootout ensues. Fitzgerald is killed and Harper is wounded and taken into custody.
Related story: Search for Missouri couple ended in shootout