Severance returns to Alexandria

Severance returns to Alexandria

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Officials with the Alexandria’s sheriff’s office took Charles Severance into custody Monday after Loudoun County prosecutors dropped their firearm charge against the former fringe mayoral candidate.

Severance stands accused of committing the murders of Ruthanne Lodato in February, Ronald Kirby in 2013 and Nancy Dunning more than a decade ago.

Severance appeared in court via closed-circuit television for his arraignment Tuesday morning, before a smattering of reporters. He did not talk, instead staring silently into the camera as attorney Joseph King spoke on his behalf.

Severance was still wearing the orange-and-white striped jump suit provided by the Loudoun County jail.

Alexandria General District Court Judge Becky Moore set a preliminary hearing date in the case for September 25 — the day of Severance’s 54th birthday — in circuit court.

All three murders shocked Alexandria: Dunning was well known for improving Del Ray, Kirby was a respected transit planner and Lodato a beloved music teacher. But it was the Kirby and Lodato slayings that briefly left many residents on edge, partially because of the manner of death and the proximity of the crime scenes.

Though fears have abated, longtime resident Boyd Walker, who had met Severance years ago, said residents should remain vigilant, despite the indictment.

“I think whether Severance is the person (responsible) or not, we should keep on guard,” he said. “We live in a very urban area and we can all watch out for our neighbors.

“[There] are a lot of angles and probably a lot of things we won’t know until the trial. There are probably a lot of people who are feeling relief that he’s in custody.”

It is unclear who will preside over Severance’s case, as three city circuit court judges have recused themselves, citing their relationship to Lodato’s brother, retired Alexandria District Court Judge Eugene Giammittorio.

Moore received a waiver from King and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter for her own conflict of interest at the start of Tuesday’s hearing, while Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins put a bond hearing on hold last week until a new judge could be appointed. The Virginia Supreme Court will appoint a judge from outside the city to hear the case going forward.

The prominent defense attorney trio of King, Christopher Leibig and Megan Thomas have been appointed to represent Severance. The firm has taken on other high-profile cases in the city in recent years, including that of Craig Patterson, a former Arlington County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed another man in 2013.

– Katelyn Guderian 
contributed to this report.