No new bond in murder solicitation case

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
Renee Johnson-Fritz

A woman charged in Leavenworth County with solicitation of capital murder will have to remain in jail without bond until her trial.

Bond for Renee Johnson-Fritz has been revoked, and a judge said Friday he does not intend to set a new bond.

Johnson-Fritz, 44, is charged with solicitation of capital murder in connection to an April 9, 2019, attack on an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility.

Prosecutors allege the attack was ordered by Johnson-Fritz’s husband, Frederick Fritz, who is an inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Johnson-Fritz is accused of forwarding a portion of a letter she received from her husband to an inmate at LCF who then allegedly carried out the attack on the victim. The victim survived the attack.

Johnson-Fritz, who initially was arrested in January, was released on a $100,000 bond March 26.

Prosecutors later sought to revoke the bond because the defendant wrote a letter to an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Johnson-Fritz was ordered at the conclusion of a March 8 preliminary hearing to have no contact with Kansas Department of Corrections inmates.

District Judge Gerald Kuckelman issued a bench warrant for Johnson-Fritz’s arrest after she failed to appear for an April 5 hearing.

Kuckelman revoked Johnson-Fritz’s bond at that time.

Johnson-Fritz arrived at the Justice Center, which houses Kuckelman’s courtroom, later that day, and she was taken into custody.

Her attorney, Joel Rook, asked that her bond be reinstated.

During a hearing Friday, Assistant County Attorney Megan Williams called KDOC Special Agent Devin Carpenter to testify about a letter Johnson-Fritz mailed to an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. The letter was dated March 26.

“She’s in clear violation of her bond,” Williams argued.

The prosecutor asked Kuckelman to reaffirm his revocation of the defendant’s bond.

Rook said he did not believe his client intended to violate the conditions of her bond by sending the letter.

“I don’t think she understood she was violating the order,” Rook said.

He described the letter sent to the inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility as a social letter that discusses the posture of Johnson-Fritz’s case.

Johnson-Fritz apologized to the judge during Friday’s hearing.

Johnson-Fritz said she was under the impression the order applied only to inmates at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, which is where her husband is housed.

“I sincerely did not think I was violating it,” she said.

Kuckelman said the solicitation of capital murder allegation against Johnson-Fritz is quite serious. He noted that she is accused of sending a message in code that allegedly resulted in someone being stabbed.

The judge suggested the letter sent by the defendant after being released on bond could have been more than a social letter.

“Maybe it is another solicitation of murder,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Kuckelman said he had ordered the defendant to have no contact with inmates or employees of the Kansas Department of Corrections.

“You were present in the courtroom when I made that order,” he said.

The judge said he believes the defendant willingly violated the order.

Johnson-Fritz cried after the judge announced he would not set a new bond.

She appeared for Friday’s hearing from the Leavenworth County Jail through the Zoom online videoconferencing service.

Zoom is being used for many proceedings in Leavenworth County District Court because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A trial for Johnson-Fritz is scheduled to begin Oct. 25.

Her husband also is charged with solicitation of capital murder.

Frederick Fritz is next scheduled to appear in court May 28 for a pretrial conference.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR