EVERETT — A former member of the USA Climbing team was booked into the Snohomish County Jail this week for investigation of three counts of third-degree child rape.
Alexander Fritz, 28, of Seattle, has worked as a coach and route-setter at Vertical World climbing gyms. He’s accused of having sexual contact with a girl three times in summer 2016, in Bothell, Mukilteo and Redmond.
On Feb. 2, an investigator with the U.S. Center for SafeSport contacted Redmond police about several allegations that Fritz had “relationships” with child athletes, Redmond detective Marshall Tolbert wrote.
SafeSport is a federal investigative body “dedicated solely to ending sexual, physical, and emotional abuse on behalf of athletes everywhere,” its mission statement reads.
The case was forwarded to the FBI due to allegations that Fritz crossed an international border to have sexual contact with children.
On July 14, 2021, an FBI agent contacted Tolbert, saying the federal agency declined to take the lead on the case. Tolbert combined FBI reports with evidence he gathered through his own investigations.
One young woman told police she met Fritz at a climbing competition in Canada in 2015. She was 15 at the time, and Fritz was 22. The climbing coach began sending her messages via Facebook, Snapchat and text message, she later told police in an interview. Eventually they started visiting each other.
The woman alleged she and Fritz had sexual contact when she was 15. She told police it was not consensual.
“Fritz told her not to tell anyone about anything sexual they did,” the report reads. The victim “said Fritz would tell her their relationship would go public when she graduated high school, or turned 16, or turned 18.”
She said Fritz would sometimes buy her alcohol before the unwanted contact. She felt “vulnerable and intoxicated,” she told police.
Asked about the age of consent, the woman reported Fritz had her read a lot about the law “so she would know how to not incriminate him.”
The woman “said she read so much she felt she had the SafeSport policy memorized,” Tolbert wrote. “… She learned the age of consent in both Washington and Canada was 16 years old.”
Fritz was arrested Wednesday.
Everett District Court Judge Anthony Howard set bail Thursday at $500,000.
“You place yourself in a position of trust and then groom teenage girls to then engage in sexual conduct with you while you’re a much older person,” the judge said, citing the police report.
No other victims were identified in the initial probable cause statement.
Internet archives show Fritz has been a part of the local and national climbing community for much of his life.
“Multi-time U.S. National Team for competitive climbing in bouldering, sport, and speed,” reads a bio shared by Vertical World. “Apprentice Coach for U.S. National Team for the World Youth Championships in 2013.”
“Fritz was suspended by SafeSport from participating in USA Team competitions and SafeSport certified gyms,” Tolbert wrote. “However, if a climbing gym does not participate in USA Team competitions then they are not overseen by SafeSport. There is nothing to prevent Fritz from offering private coaching or getting a job at a non-SafeSport gym and working with more youth athletes.”
Vertical World did not respond to a request for comment Friday from The Daily Herald.
If he posts bond, Fritz cannot have contact with children, the young woman or her family, Howard ordered. He’s also banned from climbing facilities that serve minors, and he must surrender his passport.
The climbing coach remained in jail Friday.
Herald reporter Jake Goldstein-Street contributed to this report.
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen.