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A Driving force

Homicide detective Bill Ritz is the tireless organizer behind an annual golf tournament that is a big fundraiser for a child abuse center in Baltimore

May 15, 2007|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,sun reporter

"He solicits all the golfers single-handedly and all the donations single-handedly," said Ritz's son, William. "He talks about it all year long, and then he stresses about it the last couple of months leading up to it."

Sometimes, like in police work, his diligence comes at the expense of his health.

Last year, while canvassing Inner Harbor businesses for tournament sponsors and after working nearly 36 hours straight on cases, Ritz, physically spent, passed out on the street outside Power Plant Live. He regained consciousness as a few pedestrians helped him to his feet. But rather than seek immediate medical attention, he brushed himself off and headed home, only to continue fundraising later. (He subsequently sought medical attention.)

"I don't know if that's dedication," he said, "or just being stubborn and hardheaded."

This year, he again canvassed area businesses for sponsors and came away with 60 items for the silent auction. He put $10,000 on his personal credit card to cover course expenses for those who couldn't pay upfront.

`He never quits'

Like other Baltimore homicide detectives, Ritz gets an average of eight murder cases a year -- nearly triple the national average for homicide detectives. Even more impressive, he solves about 85 percent, Baltimore police Lt. Terry McLarney said, compared with an average rate of about 53 percent for detectives in a city of Baltimore's size.

"He's detail-oriented, methodical, and he never quits on any cases," McLarney said. "He's really scholarly about the investigations, sort of the guy you'd expect to see with the weird pipe, the Sherlock Holmes pipe."

Said Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Holback: "I've seen him with witnesses, and whether he knows them well or barely knows them, he has a way of being empathetic, and they just trust [him] and are comfortable with telling him private details about their lives that you wouldn't think they'd be willing to tell."

Ritz would like to say a single defining moment prompted his drive toward helping sexually abused children, but it involved several moments over time.

There were his recollections of conversations with a relative of his in her 80s who was sexually abused by a family member years ago but can still describe the moment in detail -- even down to what she was wearing -- as if it were yesterday.

There were the homicide cases that involved interviews with teenagers who had been sexually abused. There were times when he was left disgusted after watching the Dateline NBC show that features undercover sting operations that catch sexual predators in the act.

And then there were the times when he visited the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and saw an innocent child in a waiting room, moments before he was to be interviewed by a psychologist.

"You feel a little bit of anger and rage that a person would prey on someone that innocent," Ritz said. "And unless the child feels comfortable to talk about it -- and you hear all these cases of people going public with what happened 20 or 30 years later -- they really can't move on with their lives.

"They say it's a cycle with abuse. If you were abused as a child, then more than likely you will be an abuser when you're older," he said. "I get some satisfaction out of knowing that the money raised for the center can provide counseling for these kids, and also that there is a chance to break that cycle."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Bill Ritz

Age:

54

Hometown:

Grew up in Middle River

Education:

Graduated from Overlea High School

Career:

Has worked for the Baltimore Police Department for 30 years, the last 16 as a homicide detective.

Charity work:

Founded the Law & Order Golf Tournament five years ago to support the Baltimore Child Abuse Center's work with sexually abused children. Also, performed missionary work in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1995 as part of a Methodist church delegation.

Family:

His daughter Jennifer was named Miss Maryland Teen USA in 1995.

Police on TV:

He's a fan of the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues.

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