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Murder victim to be memorialized

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Lisa Tupta

Lisa Tupta and Jamie Ritz-Hatalowich considered themselves sisters while growing up. They both attended South Laurel junior high school together, spent late nights talking, attended football games and did almost everything together.

However, in January of this year, Tupta, 49, was stabbed to death in a domestic abuse situation in Uniontown.

After the initial shock of Tupta's death subsided, in February, Ritz-Hatalowich founded the Lisa Tupta Memorial Fund and the Lisa Tupta 5K Run Committee.

“We were like sisters,” Ritz-Hatalowich said. “It was hard for me not to do something in Lisa's memory.”

The committee members, brought together through Tupta's Facebook page, consisted of her five closest friends; Ritz-Hatalowich, Sheila Kelly Perkins, Mary Kelly Swaney and Frank and Mary Bryson.

In early June, Ritz-Hatalowich successfully coordinated a car wash fundraiser at the Uniontown AutoZone. Event volunteers charged $5 per car and $10 per truck. By the end of the event, they had raised almost $600.

“We are trying to do everything we can to raise money for her,” she said.

Recently, Ritz-Hatalowich and members of the Lisa Tupta 5K Run Committee have been planning a memorial walk/run in Tupta's honor.

The event, to be held rain or shine, will take place July 13 at Hutchinson Park in Hopwood at 9 a.m.

Race-day registration is from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. Cost is $25 per person. Pre-race registration, which can be found at fbryson1.wordpress.com, will be $20 per person.

During the event, Fayette County Assistant Attorney Douglas Sepic will speak. The event will also feature music and DJ services provided by Todd Rutter, a.k.a DJ T DAWG.

Rutter, a former friend and classmate of Tupta, will be providing his services free.

Domestic violence authorities also plan to attend the 5K as well as Tupta's mother, Peggy, and her two sisters, Justine and Gina.

All money donations will be split between the memorial fund and Fayette Friends of Animals.

A donation will be made to the Fayette County office of domestic violence.

The local community has had a significant role in the planning of the 5K event.

Local sponsors include Panera Bread, Dr. Gregory S. Hatalowich's podiatry practice, Melonies Restaurant, Highlands Hospital and state Rep. Tim Mahoney, among many others.

Ritz-Hatalowich said a portion of the proceeds will go to Fayette Friends of Animals because “it is what Lisa would have wanted.”

Many of Tupta's friends and family described her as a true animal lover who would pick up stray animals and bring them home. She was the proud owner of five dogs, among many other pets.

“It took a long time to coordinate things with the committee and the local laws, and we also wanted to put a positive light on this because during the trial, tentatively scheduled for August, there will be so much negativity,” Ritz-Hatalowich explained. “The defenders are going to portray Lisa in the worst possible way.”

Ritz-Hatalowich said the 5K event, as well as the other fundraisers, could not have been made possible if it were not for the efforts of her father, Thomas Ritz Sr.

He helped coordinate the event with members of South Union Township. She said that for a time he even helped raise Tupta when she was young.

For more information about Tupta and the 5K registration, visit fbryson1.wordpress.com or call Ritz-Hatalowich directly at 724-437-2209.

Andrew Hesner is a freelance writer.

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