The gunfight shooter’s grandfather tells the story of a life spiraling out of control

By | March 27, 2024

Mar. 27—FAIRMONT — Lawrence Michael Jecker has one dream that remains vivid in his memory. His step-grandson, Peyton Fritts, and Fritts’ late father stand on a ledge overlooking a body of water.

“[Fritts’ father] Holding Peyton real tight, Peyton’s face is – like their hearts are together,” Jecker said. “I mean, they’re just – he just closed his eyes and jumped into the water. And then, a little later, downstream, there’s a young boy down there walking along the bank and saying, “Peyton is dead.”

Peyton Fritts is still alive, but the death of his father when Fritts was 14 was the beginning of a series of catastrophes that indirectly set the now 18-year-old on a path of circumstance that culminated in a gunfight on March 12. show Fritts and Hunter Satterfield exchanging gunfire on Billingslea Street. Jacker said the shootout happened around 3 a.m. near Woodlawn Cemetery.

According to court documents, Satterfield is accused of stealing drugs, including methamphetamine, from Fritts about five to six months ago. On March 12, Satterfield told police after his arrest that Fritts followed him in a vehicle as Satterfield walked to his home on Billingslea Street. The two got into a verbal confrontation, which ended with Fritts firing shots at Satterfield. Satterfield took cover in a wooded area and returned fire after removing a firearm from his backpack. Fritts circled the block and shot Satterfield a second time before leaving the area.

After his arrest, Fritts admitted to shooting Satterfield and told police the gun would be in his car, along with a small amount of marijuana and a bulletproof vest. Both interviews were conducted after Fritts and Satterfield were read their Miranda rights. Fritts was arrested after police responded to calls of a gunfight and stopped a blue SUV with its headlights turned off. Officers identified empty holsters, spent shell casings and other firearm accessories in the vehicle.

Police arrested Satterfield at his home, from which he attempted to flee when officers knocked on his door. A search turned up a firearm in Satterfield’s belongings. Both Satterfield and Fritts are classified as habitual meth users and therefore are not allowed to own or carry a firearm. Both have also been charged with attempted first-degree murder, wanton endangerment and prohibited persons in possession of firearms. Both are being held at the North Central Regional Jail. Fritts’ bond is $750,000, while Satterfield’s is $1 million.

Fritts was a different person before his father died.

A lefty, he was a pitcher on his baseball team when he was 14, and there was a state tournament in Martinsburg in which he was scheduled to participate. But a day before the tournament, his father died of a massive heart attack. His death had a devastating impact on Fritts, an impact he never fully let go of. Fritts chose to play ball to honor his father. For a moment it looks like Fritts could win the game for his team, but with the final toss before the strikeout, the opponent hits the ball out of the park. Fritts blamed himself.

As Fritts deals with the loss of his father and what he believes is his role in losing a big game, he arrives to an empty house. His grandmother, with whom he lived, had left for Virginia, and to make matters worse, everything in the household was stolen.

“I mean his best friends, people he knew and was friends with, who took everything,” Jecker said. “Left him nothing.”

Fritts moved in with Jecker, his step-grandfather. He soon turned to drugs to cope, and found himself in a rough crowd. Poor grades and problems in school led him to enroll in the Mountaineer Challenge Academy. It was a difficult six-month stay, but at first it seemed like it made a difference in Fritts’ life. It gave him some form of structure and for the first time it looked like Fritts was on the mend.

However, it was not to be.

His first serious girlfriend broke up with him before he returned from the Academy and he later shot himself in the leg while messing around with a gun, which required major surgery to repair. Jecker provided Fritts with a car and before he knew it, Fritts was running with the same crowd again, doing everyone a favor. Despite his intention to quit, he fell back into old patterns.

The night Fritts and Satterfield were involved in a gunfight, Jecker said Fritts went to his girlfriend’s house with a birthday cake he had baked for her. It was his first time, Jecker said he got it right on the first try. After leaving her house, Fritts told his step-grandfather he would stop by before he went home, but instead Fritts kept going into the night.

“He was just driving by and driving back and he ran into this guy, I don’t know,” Jecker said. “They had an argument.”

Jecker said Satterfield stole about $2,000 from Fritts by breaking into Fritts’ home while Fritts was on vacation and stealing his money, supplies and a broken AK-47. Jecker believes smallness is something Fritts couldn’t let go of.

Jecker doesn’t give up on his grandson. Between the moments of hardship and bad choices, Jecker saw real talent in Fritts. His grandson is good at drawing and building, and once even wanted to enroll at Fairmont State University. Jecker believes Fritts could have a future as an architect. But first he must go through the legal process and be held accountable for his actions on March 12. Fritts’ first few nights in jail were rough.

“He is very remorseful,” Jecker said. “The thing he said to me is, ‘This stuff has really ruined my life, I’ve lost a lot of friends.’”

Jecker said his grandson now sees that his anger stems from the trauma in his life and is exacerbated by hard drugs like meth. Jecker hopes that Fritts will now be given the space to address the problems that brought him into this situation. He still wants to see his grandson walk across the graduation stage one day.

“I think he can get out of there, I really do,” Jecker said. “Go back and go to college. He has a place to live. He continues, in my dreams. To grow up. That’s what it is.’

Reach Esteban on

efernandez@timeswv.com

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