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January 06. 2014 9:36PM

Troubled Navy veteran's suicide ends drama in Littleton


Firefighters respond to a blaze at the North Monroe home of Thomas Sitsch last February. Sitsch died Monday after shooting himself in the chest outside Littleton Hospital's emergency room. (UNION LEADER FILE)

A retired Navy captain with expertise in explosives killed himself outside Littleton's hospital Monday morning, ending more than a year of run-ins with the law that coincided with the breakup of his marriage, police said.

Monre resident Thomas Sitsch, 55, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, Littleton police said. He shot himself just outside an ambulance bay at the emergency department at Littleton Regional Healthcare, police said.

Federal prosecutors said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sitsch was a former commander of an explosives ordnance disposal group in the Navy. He sat on Combined Joint Task Force Troy, which was established to counter the threats of improvised explosive devices in Iraq, according to reports in The Caledonian Record.

The daily newspaper in St. Johnsbury, Vt., covered his arrest on a federal charge of interstate violation of a protective order, as well as an FBI search of his home, and his arrest by Littleton police on a charge he violated a protective order. In Vermont, a judge barred him from entering the state, where his wife lives, without a good reason.

Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith said Sitsch had been a challenge.

"It's sad that anybody feels they need to take their life to solve their problems, but we're certainly thankful he didn't hurt anyone in the taking of his own life," Smith said.

Once police realized Monday that Sitsch was the suicide victim, they cordoned off the hospital lot where his car was parked. Members of the New Hampshire State Police Explosive Disposal Unit then checked his car and his home on Sunset Drive in Monroe for any explosives, Smith said.

No devices were found in his home or car.

Smith said Sitsch left a note that included dying declarations such as what he wanted done with his organs. He said police will conduct a 24-hour background check to see what Sitsch did leading up to his death. No autopsy has been ordered, he said.

The Caledonian Record reported that Sitsch was the commander of the Explosives Ordnance Disposal Group 2, which was based at the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia. The report makes no mention of overseas service.

In 2009, he was relieved of his command for stealing a pair of shoes from a Navy commissary, and he had been diagnosed with PTSD, according to a footnote in his federal case record, which is available online.

Paul said Sitsch faced a charge in Littleton for violation of protective orders. And according to a Caledonian Record article, a Vermont judge prohibited him from entering the state except for a court appointment or doctor appointment.

Judge Robert Bent did so after Sitsch's estranged wife, who lives in Vermont, said Sitsch's clandestine and covert military skills far surpassed that of local police. The paper also reported that the FBI discovered blasting caps, booby traps, time fuses, rifles and handguns when they searched his home last April.

The ordnance was illegal to possess, and a protective order prohibited Sitsch from possessing the firearms. Federal prosecutors in Vermont asked that he be jailed, the newspaper reported, but a federal magistrate released Sitsch on his own recognizance and placed restrictions on him, including a prohibition from entering Vermont.

Last February, a fire at the Sitsch family's Monroe home destroyed the garage, several vehicles and a room above the garage the Sitsches had used to home-school children.

Four weeks ago, Sitsch was arrested Dec. 12 for shoplifting at a Walmart in Fredericksburg, Va., according to his federal court record. He told Fredericksburg police he was a kleptomaniac.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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