BREAKING: Charles Severance charged in Dunning, Kirby, Lodato murders


By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Alexandria police announced Monday that they have secured murder indictments against former fringe mayoral candidate Charles Severance in connection with three high-profile homicides over the last decade.

A grand jury charged Severance, currently in custody in Loudoun County on an unrelated weapons charge, with two counts of capital murder and one count of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Nancy Dunning in 2003, Ronald Kirby in 2013 and Ruthanne Lodato in February.

Police Chief Earl Cook called the indictments “extraordinary” at a press conference Monday, noting that investigators never gave up on the decade-old Dunning investigation.

“It took constant hard work and dedication for us to stand here before you today,” Cook said. “These are very emotional crimes, very personal crimes. Alexandria, while it is not the smallest city, its community acts like a small town, and our detectives get very personally involved in these cases.”

Cook said he couldn’t personally speak to how Severance chose his alleged victims.

“I don’t know if they were targeted or not, because I can’t personally get into the methodology of Mr. Severance,” Cook said. “Most people who live in this community for any length of time tend to know each other in some fashion. I’ll answer it that way.”

Liz Dunning, Nancy Dunning’s daughter, read a statement to reporters following the press conference. She thanked detectives for their work and asked for people to give her family privacy.

“While nothing can bring her back, we’re hopeful that these indictments are the beginning of a process that will offer my family and the families of the other victims a small degree of closure.”

Although Severance is charged with multiple capital crimes, Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said in a statement he would not seek the death penalty in this case, instead asking for a life sentence. Porter refused to discuss any details regarding the evidence in the case, citing the potential impact it could have on the trial.

Cook declined to release details he considered to be of an “evidentiary nature,” but said investigators had been gathering evidence since ballistic reports linked the three shootings in March, with an eye for the September grand jury. He said detectives were never able to recover any guns that could be tied to the killings.

In the Dunning case, Severance is charged with first-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. In the Kirby death, he is charged with capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Police have charged Severance with capital murder, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, as well as malicious wounding in connection with Lodato’s death.

Nosal said Severance was only charged with first-degree murder in the Dunning slaying because homicides must occur within three years of each other to qualify for capital charges.