Medical examiner: Dunning was shot at close range

FAIRFAX, Va. – Jurors Friday witnessed part of Nancy Dunning’s final hours as she ran errands in an Alexandria Target before returning to her Mt. Ida Avenue home, where she was shot in the back of her head at close range.

Prosecutors played for jurors surveillance footage from the Potomac Yards Target that shows Dunning pushing a cart of merchandise through the store as a man wearing jeans and a dark jacket appears to follow her around the store and out the doors into the parking lot.

Police believe the man in the video is Charles Severance. Once a long-shot candidate for Alexandria mayor, he is now charged with killing Dunning in 2003, Ron Kirby in 2013 and Ruthanne Lodato in 2014. His defense teams argues there is nothing that proves that it was Severance in that Target, no forensic evidence tying him to any of the crime scenes and that any number of widely available guns could have been used in the fatal shootings.

There is also no footage of Dunning, or the man in the dark jacket, leaving the shopping center.

But later that morning, Dunning would be found dead of multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the base of her skull, just behind her ear. The bullet traveled through her brain and became lodged there, a medical examiner testified.

Dunning was also shot near her collarbone, the bullet hitting her lung, windpipe and a major artery, causing internal bleeding. Another bullet went through her arm and struck her in the chest, leaving an abrasion behind, said Dr. Carolyn Revercomb.

Soot marks left on Dunning’s clothes and skin indicate that the barrel of the gun was, at most, 2 inches away from Dunning each time the gun was fired, Revercomb testified.

Police say the same specific type of small caliber, low velocity bullets and the same brand of mini revolver were used to kill all three victims.

The guns used have not been found.

However Friday, prosecutors offered an explanation why the gun used to kill Dunning will never be found, suggesting that the mini revolver was destroyed by the state of Virginia under court order in 2006.

The state destroyed a .22 long rifle mini revolver, made by North American Arms and owned by Severance, after he was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit in Rockingham County.

The charged stemmed from a traffic stop near Harrisonburg in February 2004 – less than three months after Dunning’s death.

Severance was found with three guns in his red Ford Escort wagon. One gun he hid under a hat on his lap during the stop, the .22 long rifle mini revolver was stashed between the car seats and a third handgun was on the backseat.

The mini revolver, confiscated by police, was never tested to determine if it had been used in any previous crimes, said Virginia State Police Sgt. John Murphy, who found the guns and arrested Severance 11 years ago.

Years later, Severance would convince his girlfriend Linda Robra to buy two of the same mini revolvers. Robra discovered the guns were missing after she kicked Severance out of her house in the weeks after Lodato’s murder.

Additional testimony about the guns and the Target surveillance video are expected when the trial resumes Monday. Severance’s defense team is expected to have its chance to convince the Fairfax County jury that Severance was not responsible for the three murders beginning sometime next week.

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