Severance indicted for killing three Alexandria residents

WASHINGTON – A grand jury has indicted a once-mayoral candidate with murdering three prominent Alexandria residents, including a case that had gone unsolved for more than a decade.

Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said the grand jury returned the indictment Monday, formally charging Charles Severance with murdering Ruthanne Lodato, Ron Kirby and Nancy Dunning.

Severance became the main focus of a police investigation after the death of Lodato in February. Investigators developed a sketch based on the bearded man who knocked on Lodato’s door, spurring a manhunt in Alexandria. Tips led investigators to Severance, whose grizzled beard and hair appeared strikingly similar to the sketch.

And in March, officials announced that the bullets that killed Lodato were also similar to the bullets that killed Kirby and Dunning. Since then, investigators have uncovered evidence tying Severance to the crimes but no weapon has been recovered, Cook said.

He declined to elaborate on what other evidence would be presented in court.

“I am confident that the suspect Charles Severance is the suspect that we’ve been looking for,” Cook said during a news conference.

Cook said he didn’t know whether Severance targeted his three victims or chose them randomly. He declined to say whether Severance knew his victims, adding “we’re a pretty tight knit community. People who live here for any length of time, tend to know each other.”

But that same small-town feel also made the investigations all the more personal and news of the indictment all the more emotional, Cook said. The indictment represents 11 years of work by the small department’s detectives.

“The Nancy Dunning investigation has never been a cold case,” he said.

Cook met with family members of the victims earlier in the day to share the news of the indictment, he said.


(WTOP/Dave Dildine)

Nancy Dunning was the wife of then-Alexandria Sheriff James Dunning and was killed inside her home in 2003.

Ron Kirby, who was a transportation planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, was shot as his door in November 2013.

Lodato was a longtime resident of Alexandria and was a music teacher.

Severance was extradited from West Virginia to Loudoun County where he was indicted on a weapons charge earlier this year. He remains in the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center.

Once a resident of Alexandria, Severance twice was a fringe candidate for mayor.

Police say Severance faces charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in connection with Dunning’s death.

He is charged with capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with Kirby’s death.

And he is charged with capital murder, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a felon and malicious wounding for killing Lodato and for shooting and injuring another woman who was in the home at the time.

Capital murder charges can qualify for the death penalty. But prosecutors said Monday they will not seek the death penalty in the killings, according to the Associated Press.

In Virginia, to be eligible for capital murder, a killing must meet at least one condition set out in state code, including that the defendant murdered more than one person in a three-year period.

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