Alabama authorities on Monday were hunting for a Missouri couple that is suspected of a statewide crime spree, including robbing and abducting a hotel clerk, attempting to rob a McDonald’s manager and briefly kidnapping a woman outside Birmingham before stealing her SUV.
The crimes Sunday happened back-to-back with in a two-hour span and across a 60-mile distance, according to authorities. No one was injured.
Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Harper were identified as suspects. Fitzgerald and Harper are both from Joplin, Mo. and are described as in their 30s. The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Task Force was asked to assist into the manhunt and a $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to their arrest and conviction, according to Tuscaloosa police Lt. Kip Hart.
“They’re considered armed and dangerous,” Hart said. “We have no idea why they’re running or where they’re running from or running to.”
A Tuscaloosa hotel clerk alerted authorities early Sunday after arriving to work to find the overnight clerk gone, the safe open and money missing. Security footage at the Microtel Inn showed the clerk being robbed about 6 a.m., Hart said. The couple forced him to leave with them.
Fitzgerald and Harper were charged with kidnapping , theft and robbery in connection to the Tuscalos case, Hart said. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued arrest warrants for the couple on charges of kidnapping and theft in the connection to the woman’s abduction in the town of Vestavia Hills.
In Hoover, about 55 miles northeast of Tuscaloosa, the Missouri couple tried to rob a McDonald’s manager, said Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector. A gunman approached the manager and demanded money and her car keys, Rector said. The manager began screaming, threw her keys on the ground and ran into the store as the couple fled, he said. Rector said interviews with the manager and other witnesses led police to believe the same Missouri couple was responsible. They have not been charged yet in that case, however.
Zora Harris, the restaurant manager, told AL.com the suspect opened his jacket and said, “I’m fixing to rob you.”
“He said, ‘Give me the (expletive) car’ and that’s when he pulled the gun and said ‘I’m not ‘(expletive) playing with you,’” Harris told the paper.
About 15 minutes after the McDonald’s robbery attempt, the woman in Vestavia Hills found a man entering her home through an open garage, saying he was having car trouble.
Vestavia Hills police Lt. Kevin York said the man pulled a gun, demanded her SUV and forced her to get inside. The woman was later released unharmed about 10 miles down the road and waved down a passerby to get help, York said. Police are searching for the stolen SUV described as a 2010 silver Ford Edge.
“We want to know what the motivation is,” York said. “I mean, what’s the whole point in all of this?”
The suspects were last seen in Alabama heading east on U.S. 280 toward the Georgia line, but York said “they could be headed anywhere.”
Missouri records show Fitzgerald is no stranger to legal troubles. In 2013, he and an accomplice were charged with burglarizing a Joplin woman at knifepoint in her home and making off with her purse, jewelry, electronics and a car.
Fitzgerald entered an Alford plea — not admitting guilt but acknowledging the prosecutors had sufficient evidence for a conviction — and was sentenced in 2014 to a suspended seven-year prison term.
Fitzgerald also was sentenced in southwestern Missouri’s Jasper County to a simultaneous 120-day term in a drunken-driving case. Last July, Fitzgerald pleaded guilty in a Missouri assault case and was sentenced to a suspended five-year prison term.
According to AL.com, Vestavia Hills police said the Ford Edge has an Alabama license plate its number is 2720AG7. York urges anyone who sees the vehicle to call the authorities in Vestavia Hills at 205-978-0140.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.