UPDATED: Severance named ‘primary focus’ of investigation into unsolved homicides


By Derrick Perkins and Erich Wagner (File Photo)

Updated at 11:40 a.m. June 19

Former mayoral candidate Charles Severance has become the “primary focus” of Alexandria authorities investigating three high-profile slayings over the past decade, police said Wednesday night.

Severance, being held in Loudoun County on unrelated weapons charges, has been connected to the deaths of Nancy Dunning, Ronald Kirby and Ruthanne Lodato since March. That’s when city police confirmed they were determining whether the three unsolved homicides were linked. Officials named Severance a possible suspect in the Lodato slaying about the same time.

In an interview Thursday, Chief Earl Cook said the department felt compelled to update the community on the investigation, in light of Severance’s continued prominence in the news.

“We typically don’t want peopled singled out until we’ve fully vetted their possible role [in a case],” Cook said. “Had [Severance] not had this profile, we wouldn’t be talking about anyone.”

Cook said the exposure over the case against Severance in Loudoun County led to a spike in questions from residents about the status of the investigation.

“When his name first came up [publicly], we said we were just beginning our investigation, trying to figure out where this was going and how he fits in,” he said. “We are at a point after looking into it where we can start to narrow our focus on him. There are some things unique to him in these cases, but we’re still working on it and have a lot more work to do.”

Cook said he cannot discuss specific case evidence and there is still no timeline for when police might make an arrest in the killings.

“It’s equally important that we have a successful prosecution,” he said. “Even after there’s an arrest, there’s no justice for the family and friends [of the victims] if it doesn’t end with a conviction.”

Dunning, better known as the “Queen of Del Ray,” was found dead in her home more than a decade ago. Kirby, a well respected transit guru, turned up dead in his Rosemont home late last year while Lodato, a beloved music teacher and volunteer, died after an unidentified man opened fire at her on her North Ridge doorstep in February.

In a statement, city police said they received a tip about Severance before authorities in West Virginia arrested him for extradition back to Loudoun County. While he has fallen under the scrutiny of local investigators, no arrests have been made in any of the cases, police said Wednesday.

“This has been a complex and time-consuming endeavor,” department officials said in a statement. “Detectives have conducted an extensive and thorough investigation which is still ongoing. We are actively examining the facts and evidence related to these cases. We appreciate the public’s patience throughout this investigation.”

Anyone with information about the trio of homicides or Severance is asked to call the department’s tip-line at 703-746-6864.