Joplin Couple on the Run After Kidnapping Two in Alabama
It all started early Sunday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when a hotel clerk was robbed and then kidnapped by the Joplin couple, Brittany Harper and Blake Fitzgerald, both 30 from Joplin.
Later that morning in Hoover, the pair attempted to carjack a manager at McDonald’s.
“He got out and he said ma’am, I’m fixin’ to rob you. He opened up his jacket. It was sitting right here. His gun was sitting right here,” says manager Zora Harris.
But with help from her co-workers she got away. The couple then headed to Vestavia where police say they dropped the Tuscaloosa victim off before kidnapping another woman. Fitzgerald entered through her open garage saying he had car trouble, and took off with her and the family’s SUV. She was later dropped off at Grandview Hospital.
Local law enforcement also know suspect Blake Fitzgerald well. He’s racked up a long rap sheet here in southwest Missouri.
Captain Bob Higginbotham with the Joplin Police Department says “We had a few encounters with Mr. Fitzgerald wherein he was arrested for miscellaneous crimes like possession of marijuana, or disturbing the peace or sexual misconduct.”
But in 2013 police ran into Fitzgerald again robbing a 63-year-old woman on the 2700 block of Beale Avenue.
Captain Higginbotham says “We encountered him conducting a first degree burglary, wherein he entered a house of an elderly female and held her at knife point and robbed her of medications and some various items.”
He was sentenced to seven years in prison for that crime to run along with a sentence for a DWI. but Fitzgerald only served a 120 days in prison and was let out on supervised probation for five years. It is not yet clear if he violated the terms of his probation since those records are sealed. But in order to travel out of state from Missouri to places like Alabama a probation officer must issue a travel permit in advance.
“Well where he ended up is not necessarily a surprise, nor however is his behavior. This is what we would call an “M.O.”, or a method of operation or modus operandi, and this is the behavior he has exhibited in the past and will continue until we put a stop to it.”
Authorities say Fitzgerald and Harper were last seen near the Georgia state line. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest or conviction.