EVERETT — A former member of the USA Climbing team has been charged with four counts of child rape.
Alexander Fritz, 28, of Seattle, most recently worked as a coach and route-setter at Vertical World climbing gyms. He is now charged with sexually abusing two girls in Snohomish and King counties from 2016 to 2018. Both girls were 15.
“(Fritz) would create a seemingly professional coach/athlete relationship with young female athletes and simultaneously create a bond with their parents, growing close enough to some to have them describe him as a member of their family,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jarrett Goodkin wrote in an 11-page affidavit. “Underneath the professional coach/athlete relationship were secret private communications, which then became an ‘inappropriate relationship.’”
Earlier this month, an investigator with the U.S. Center for SafeSport contacted Redmond detective Marshall Tolbert about several allegations that Fritz had “relationships” with child athletes.
SafeSport launched an investigation into Fritz in 2019. The case was forwarded to the FBI due to reports the climbing coach had “crossed state lines and international borders for purposes of sex with minors.” The government entities turned the entire case over to the Redmond Police Department to continue the investigation.
Fritz was arrested Feb. 2 and booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of three counts of child rape involving the same girl. A fourth count, involving a second girl, was later added.
The first young woman told detectives she met Fritz in 2015 at a climbing competition in Canada. She was 15 at the time. Fritz was 22.
Fritz talked with the girl on social media and via text message, according to the charges. He visited her in Canada in the months that followed.
The young woman reported Fritz met her parents and told them they were dating and “in love,” and her parents allowed him to move into their home and live in the basement. Fritz and the girl were not allowed to sleep in the same bed, she told detectives. Fritz reportedly told her to sneak to the basement when her parents fell asleep. She told police she was 15 the first time they had sexual contact.
He’s accused of sexually abusing the girl three times in summer 2016, in Bothell, Mukilteo and Redmond.
“According to (the young woman), she was in distress during these sexual acts, but Fritz would manipulate her and encourage her to continue,” the charges say.
Detectives later interviewed the young woman’s mother. She told them she thought the relationship between her daughter and Fritz was a “one-time thing.”
The mother saw a post on social media that Fritz was spending time with another family who had a 15-year-old girl.
“Detective Tolbert also noted a common thread of Fritz having a preference 15-year-old females,” according to the charges.
This week, Detective Tolbert interviewed another young woman who said she was 7 years old when she first met Fritz.
He became her coach and set up one-on-one weekly training with her when she was about 13, the charges say. Fritz went on a family trip with her and began to message the girl when she got her first cell phone.
The young woman reportedly said she was 15 when Fritz first had sexual contact with her. Fritz had given the girl a ride home from a climbing competition and taken her to his apartment in Redmond.
“Fritz told her that she was not allowed to tell anyone about their relationship, and she felt isolated,” the woman reportedly told police.
Fritz was involved with the local and national climbing community for more than 20 years. The defendant was a coach for the U.S. Olympic Climbing Team in 2018 and 2019, and he often hosted “skills clinics” in the United States and Canada, the charges say.
Fritz was described as a “multi-time U.S. National Team (member) for competitive climbing in bouldering, sport, and speed,” in a biography once posted on Vertical World’s website, according to internet archives. He was an “apprentice Coach for U.S. National Team for the World Youth Championships in 2013.”
In a statement posted on the USA Climbing website, the organization said it supported the investigation of Fritz.
“USA Climbing is deeply disturbed by the allegations,” wrote Marc Norman, CEO of USA Climbing. “As an organization that prioritizes the safety and protection of our members, we want to thank the U.S. Center for SafeSport and local authorities for their collaboration in promoting that goal.”
The statement says Fritz was suspended from USA Climbing on Dec. 16, 2020.
His defense attorney, Will Gelvick, did not immediately respond to an email and phone call Friday seeking comment about the case.
Meanwhile, Fritz remained in custody with bail set at $500,000. His arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 23.