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Two arrested in Central Kitsap murder

Michael Derr, suspect in the murder of a local man is led from jail to his arraignment at the county Courthouse, Thursday. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Michael Derr, suspect in the murder of a local man is led from jail to his arraignment at the county Courthouse, Thursday.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office investigators, working around the clock, made two arrests in less than four days in the murder of 20-year-old Zachary “Zack” J. Fitz, whose body was discovered Saturday afternoon on a Central Valley trail by people on horseback.

Fitz, who family members said had been “couch surfing,” had reportedly last been staying in the Poulsbo area. He was last seen Saturday afternoon in the company of another man authorities now believe to be the alleged murderer.

The victim, a Bremerton resident, was an acquaintance of the suspect arrested Tuesday night and charged with first-degree murder in the case, Michael Lloyd Derr, 27, of Bremerton.

Another man was in jail Thursday morning, arrested by detectives for conspiracy to commit murder. But the 45-year-old man was released.

Derr was arrested Tuesday at about 11 p.m. at his West Bremerton residence, approximately 80 hours after Fitz’s body was discovered.

“Our detectives have been working steadily since this past weekend developing leads, interviewing people and obtaining evidence,” said Detective Lt. Earl Smith.

Derr was arrested while officers were conducting a search at his residence.

“The totality of all the work by detectives led us to develop enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant for Mr. Derr’s residence,” Smith said. “During the execution of the search, additional evidence was obtained and Mr. Derr was arrested.”

Detectives acknowledged that Derr and Fitz knew each other but said a motive had not been determined.

Derr did not resist arrest.

Fitz, known on the street as “Little Fitz,” was listed by detectives as a “transient” and friends and family members confirmed he had not had a fixed residence in the recent past.

“Autopsy findings released by the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office earlier in the week showed that the victim died of a loss of blood, sometime within 24 hours of the discovery of his body,” Smith said. “He had wounds typically sustained by a sharp instrument.”

Rumors about the murder weapon have swirled around the case since the body was discovered. Knives, scissors and a straight razor have been mentioned by authorities, but Smith and Wilson will only say that the victim was stabbed with a sharp instrument, and the cause of his death was massive blood loss.

Smith also defused rumors that Fitz’s body had been dumped on the Central Valley trail where it was discovered.

“We believe the crime was committed where he was found,” Smith stated.

Less than 90 minutes after the grisly discovery of the corpse, Fitz’s car, a 1989 Ford Bronco, was discovered engulfed in flames near Wildcat Lake.

According to Kitsap County Deputy Scott Wilson, the Bronco has been impounded and is being examined for any possible evidence that might be connected to the homicide.

The goateed Derr was displayed Wednesday afternoon at the courthouse at a probable cause hearing.

Derr, 27, has an extensive record of misdemeanor offenses and one felony arrest: in March of this year he was charged with attempting to elude after fleeing police officers trying to stop him.

His misdemeanor offenses, according to Wilson, included assault in the fourth degree, driving while under the influence of intoxicants, driving while license suspended, and third degree theft.

The charges stem from 1996 to Wednesday’s arrest.

Derr remains in the Kitsap County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

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