Severance to undergo competency evaluation

Severance to undergo competency evaluation

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Former fringe mayoral candidate Charles Severance made his first public statements since investigators connected him with the slayings of three Alexandrians earlier this year at a preliminary hearing in court last week.

Attorneys had prepared to argue a number of motions filed by Severance’s defense team related to the original arrest warrant on a gun charge in March before specially appointed Circuit Court Judge Jane Roush.

But discussion of those issues was postponed after Severance’s attorneys requested the 54-year-old be evaluated by mental health professionals for his ability to aid in his own defense.

As attorneys argued for the evaluation, Severance stood and interrupted the proceedings.

“He no longer represents me,” he told Roush.

Roush told the defendant that, as court-appointed counsel, the trio of Joe King, Christopher Leibig and Megan Thomas will serve as his defense attorneys “until I say otherwise.” Roush approved the mental health evaluation and scheduled a hearing to examine the results for January 22.

Severance also made an obscene gesture toward a Washington Post pool photographer who was covering the hearing.

The former mayoral candidate stands accused of killing music teacher Ruthanne Lodato earlier this year, transit policy guru Ron Kirby in 2013 and “Queen of Del Ray” Nancy Dunning in 2003.

His defense attorneys had argued in court filings that the Dunning case should be severed from the other two murder charges, and that the case dismissed because they said the Loudoun County detective who filed the original gun charge against Severance misrepresented statements by his girlfriend.

But in documents filed earlier this month, Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter provided an early glimpse at what evidence law enforcement officials have against Severance, as well as a theory as to his motive.

Porter cited a bitter custody battle between Severance and his ex-wife over their child in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the spark for his alleged violent tendencies, and, according to recent writings, Severance remains angry over the case to this day.

In those writings, Severance railed against the Alexandria court system, which he refers to as the “status quo utopian elites” and “the enforcement class.” And he incorporates references to philosophers like Rousseau and Hobbes to support a “political manifesto” of “violence, murder and assassination,” Porter wrote.

Dunning was the wife of then-Sheriff Jim Dunning, while Lodato was the sister of retired district court judge Robert Giammittorio.

Porter wrote that photos of Severance from the early 2000s look “strikingly similar” to images of a suspect seen in surveillance video stalking Dunning at the Potomac Yard Target shortly before her death.

Countering the defense’s argument that the only thing tying all three slayings together was the commonly used .22 caliber firearm, Porter argued that while each shooting was committed with a different gun, forensics reveals that bullets from each crime scene came from one model of revolvers.

The prosecution’s two forensic experts, who reportedly have 60 years worth of experience between them, will testify that the only crimes they have seen featuring this make and model of gun and this caliber of ammunition are the Dunning, Kirby and Lodato cases, Porter wrote.

Prosecutors also pushed back against the claim that a Loudoun County detective misrepresented the statements made by Severance’s girlfriend, Laura Robra, in interviews with investigators. Although Robra did deny buying the guns for Severance at first, they argued that the arrest warrant filing reflected her eventual conclusions.

“While Ms. Robra may not have intended to buy the firearms for the defendant, that is exactly what she realized she had done when looking at the transcript [of her interview] in hindsight,” they wrote.

Severance is due back in court January 22 for the results of his mental competency exam, and arguments on the defense team’s motions are tentatively scheduled for February 19.