Tips in unsolved Alexandria killings lead police to W.Va.

Charles Severance, who is wanted on a weapons charge out of Loudoun County, was arrested in Wheeling, W.Va., Thursday after Alexandria police tipped off Wheeling police that Severance was in a hotel there. (Courtesy WTOV)

Megan Cloherty and Amanda Iacone, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Alexandria police want to talk to a man arrested in West Virginia Thursday as part of their investigation into three high-profile, unsolved homicides.

Charles Severance, once a candidate for Alexandria mayor, was arrested in Wheeling, W.Va., after Alexandria police tipped off investigators that the man wanted on a warrant out of Loudoun County was in a hotel downtown.

Alexandria police received a tip that led them to Severance, 53, as part of the investigation into the killings of three prominent residents during the last decade: Nancy Dunning in 2003; Ron Kirby in 2013; and Ruthanne Lodato in 2014.

While following up on the tips, investigators determined that Severance is a convicted felon who was wanted out of Loudoun County on a warrant for a weapons violation.

Police say that the investigations into the three homicide cases continue and that Severance has not been charged with any crime in Alexandria.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger says Alexandria police wanted his officers to arrest Severance even though the warrant was from a different jurisdiction. Severance was arrested around 2 p.m. at a public library without incident.

Severance ran for mayor of Alexandria in 1996 and in 2000, each time against former Mayor Kerry Donley. Donley says he believes Severance struggled with mental health issues.

“He was sort of an odd fellow. He’d come to these campaign forums and these campaign events totally dressed in black with sun glasses. And when asked a question about something of community interest he would launch on a diatribe about juvenile health issues and the prescription of psychotropic drugs,” Donley says.

Severance registered the website mentaldisorder.com in 1999, according to records on the who.is site.

Written in the third person, the site says Severance has “contempt for american (sic) psychiatry democracy.”

The site also says, “He also adamantly refuses to submit to a complete ‘inexact’ mental health evaluation by secular (demon possessed) human priests, democracy government regulated mad-doctors, agents of psychiatry, and other weak hypocrites.”

Severance is being held in the northern regional jail in Wheeling. He is scheduled for an extradition hearing to Loudoun on Monday.

Beyond a handful of charges out of Maryland over the years, Severance was arrested in 1997 on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a weapon and then he pleaded guilty in 2005 to carrying a concealed weapon, which made him a convicted of a felon in Virginia. Court records show that he was illegally in possession of a firearm on Monday in Loudoun County.

Last week, Alexandria police announced the bullets that killed Lodato in February are similar to bullets that killed Kirby and Dunning. The FBI joined the investigation after Lodato’s death to help comb through hundreds of tips that came in after police released a composite sketch of the man who killed Lodato.

Donley says he sees a resemblance between the sketch and Severance.

“Clearly there’s a tie to Alexandria. And clearly there is at least some semblance of a physical similarity in terms of the description. It’s early in the investigation. We’ll see,” Donley says.

Police are still asking for tips and information related to the three cases. Anyone with information can call the tip line at 703-746-6864 or send an email to crimetips@alexandriava.gov.

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WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on WTOP Facebook page.


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