Police and relatives are searching for a Spokane woman they say snatched her two young daughters from a Child Protective Services office during a scheduled visit.
Jennifer Fritz, 32, apparently smuggled her daughters out of a state office building at 1425 N. Washington on Jan. 9.
Officials are worried about the girls’ safety.
Family members said Fritz has threatened to hurt the girls in the past. They also say they warned CPS officials that Fritz might try to take the children.
“I’m sure my daughter isn’t going to hurt them,” said Sharon Fritz, the woman’s mother. “But as time goes by and she gets more stressed out, I’m not sure what she’ll do.”
Police Detective Terry Boardman said Fritz could face felony charges of custodial interference.
“There is great concern about her ability to take care of them,” Boardman said. “In my opinion, those concerns are legitimate. She has a history of irresponsibility.”
Fritz has a history of drug and alcohol problems, according to her sister, Lori Setzer.
“She lives in a very seedy world,” said Setzer, adding that both of the girls’ fathers are wanted for crimes in Texas.
Fritz has been arrested in Spokane for driving under the influence and having an open container of alcohol in a car, according to District Court records.
State officials placed the children - 4-year-old Shara Garnett and 2-year-old Angel Fritz - in foster care in August 1995 at the request of relatives, Sharon Fritz said.
Jennifer Fritz has had regularly scheduled visits with her daughters since then at the CPS office.
CPS supervisor Brian Barbour said a driver would pick the girls up from either their foster home or child care and deliver them to the building, where Fritz would meet with them for two hours.
The visits were unsupervised, although a social worker occasionally would check in on the group, Barbour said. Fritz was not allowed to take the girls out of the building, he added.
During the Jan. 9 visit, Fritz apparently walked out of the building with the girls, authorities said.
Barbour said he discovered they were gone about 10 a.m., nearly 30 minutes after the visit started. He thinks she may have smuggled them out a security door on the first floor.
“That door has an alarm, but it’s turned off during the day,” he said.
CPS workers launched a search for Fritz when she didn’t return with the girls by 11:30 a.m., Barbour said. They made telephone calls to places she might have gone and called friends and relatives looking for her. They hoped she would come back on her own.
Barbour said CPS workers called police about 4:30 p.m.
“They either go - gone - or they start thinking about it and bring the kids back,” he said. “This is not one I would have guessed would have absconded with the kids. I’m shocked.”
Setzer and Sharon Fritz dispute that. Both women said they’ve told CPS workers that Jennifer Fritz was likely to make off with the girls.
“We warned them and warned them and warned them,” Setzer said. “This system has let two little girls down pretty bad.”
Sharon Fritz said she’s frantic.
“I’m just a grandmother who wants her girls back,” said the Valley woman, her voice quavering. “How did CPS let her get away? I just hate the system.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DESCRIPTION Jennifer Fritz is white, about 5 feet 4 inches tall and 110 pounds. She has blonde hair and green eyes. Anyone who has seen her or the girls is asked to call Detective Terry Boardman at 625-4260.