Charles Severance on trial


Charles Severance on trial

Read WTOP's coverage of Charles Severance's trial for the slayings of prominent Alexandria residents Nancy Dunning, Ron Kirby and Ruthanne Lodato.

Charles Severance appears at his trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court on Monday November 02, 2015. Severance was found guilty of three murders in Alexandria. (Pool Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post) 

    The jury is back in the courtroom here at Fairfax County Courthouse in Severance trial #wtop w- sentence
    Jury recommends 3 life prison terms without parole plus 300k dollars in fines for Chas severance sentencing set for Jan 22nd
    #BREAKING #Sentence Count 1: GUILTY Capital Murder of Ruthanne Lodato - Life in Prison, $100K fine @nbcwashington
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 2: GUILTY Using a Firearm in the Murder of Ruthanne Lodato - 3 years in prison #Severance
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 3: GUILTY Malicious Wounding of Janet Franko (caretaker)- 20 years; and fine up to $100K
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 4: GUILTY Use of a Firearm in the Malicious Wounding of Janet Franko - 5 years in prison
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 5: GUILTY Capital Murder of Ronald Kirby #Severance #verdict - life in prison, $100K fine
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 6: GUILTY Use of a Firearm in the Commission of the Murder of Ron Kirby - 5 years
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 7: GUILTY First Degree Murder of Nancy Dunning - life in prison, $100K fine
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 8: GUILTY Use of a Firearm in the Commission of the murder of Nancy Dunning #Severance - 5 years in prison
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 9: GUILTY Possession of a Firearm by a felon on Nov 11 2013 #Severance - 5 years in prison
    #BREAKING #sentence Count 10: GUILTY Possession of a Firearm by a felon on Feb 6 2014 #Severance - 5 years in prison

    Bryan Porter, Commonwealths Atty for Alexandria: "the reign of the Alexandria assassin is over." #wtop

    Elizabeth Dunning, Norm Lodato, Marilyn Kirby family members of murder victims #Wtop

    Watch coverage of Severance trial

    WTOPWASHINGTON — Watch NBC Washington’s coverage of the Charles Severance and comments from the victims' families outside the Fairfax County Courthouse. 
    #Alexandria prosecutor Porter says he considered seeking the death penalty, with Severance's mental health would be hard to get a conviction

    Victims' families relieved

    Outside the Fairfax County Courthouse the Dunning, Lodato and Kirby families spoke briefly Monday afternoon.

    Norm Lodato thanked the hospital staff who tried to save his wife, the police who investigated her case, the team of prosecutors and the jury.

    He thanked jurors for their "time, attention and service that befitted the three beautiful souls who were taken from our families."

    "While Ruthanne's absence in our lives is an unfillable void, this verdict provides more strength to our family to continue our lives in a manner that would make her proud," he said.

    Marilyn Kirby said that now the families can start to mourn.

     Elizabeth Dunning, Nancy Dunning's daughter, voice cracked as she took to the microphone, noting 11 years, 10 months and 28 days have passed since "our mom was brutally murdered by Charles Severance. We had long ago lost hope that justice would ever come."

    She said she and her brother would mourn the loss of their amazing, funny mom daily. They found "tremendous" relief with the jury's verdict but wished their father, the former city Sheriff Jim Dunning, could have lived to see his wife's killer convicted.

     "Our next steps are just to live in the world with the knowledge that justice has been done," Elizabeth Dunning said. 

    A decision not to seek the death penalty

    Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter said Monday that he considered seeking the death penalty for now-convicted killer Charles Severance.

    Instead he sought a life sentence, saying he didn't think he could obtain a conviction if the death penalty was on the table due to Severance's mental health struggles.

    Severance had been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was largely left untreated, and he would not let a doctor examine him as part of his legal defense. He did not use insanity as a defense however his attorneys tried to convince jurors that his bizarre and rambling writings portray on a man struggling with mental illness, not the confessions of a killer.

    Porter called Severance's personal writings a manifesto of hate that spelled out his motive, his weapons and bullet of choice and the methods used in the three slayings.

    Porter said the writings were too much for the defense to simply "explain away."

    "At no point in this case did I ever think that Charles Severance was legally incompetent to stand trial or legally insane at the time of the offense," Porter said.

    He said spending the rest of his life in prison will be difficult for Severance. 

    Jury: 3 life sentences 

    A Fairfax County jury has recommended three life sentences plus another 48 years and $400,000 in fines for convicted killer Charles Severance. 

    Virginia does not offer parole for convicted felons. 

    Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case. 

    Judge Randy Bellows will decide the final sentencing at a hearing in January. 

    No mercy for a 'monster'

    Prosecutors asked jurors to offer no mercy to Severance as they contemplate his prison sentence. 

    "He showed no mercy. There's no remorse," said attorney James Entas of Severance, who delivered "chaos and terror to the city of Alexandria."

    He told jurors that it was fitting they deliberated over Halloween weekend. "You have delivered justice to a monster."

    Severance's defense team offered no witnesses to counter the tearful statements of the three victims' families. 

    Defense attorney Chris Leibig acknowledge that grief in his statements. But he blamed t he murders on Severance's documented but largely untreated schizophrenia

    After his illness was initially diagnosed, his family tried to get him the mental health care he needed. 

    "They did what they could. it just didn't work," Leibig said. 

    Dunning was a 'rock'

    Nancy Dunning's family, minus her husband who died in 2013, told the jury that more than a decade later, there is no way to quantify the loss and grief. . 

    "We miss her more than I could say," her daughter Elizabeth Dunning said.  

    She asked the jury to imagine her telling her young children about how their grandmother died. When that day comes, she wants to know that the man responsible will be behind bars, where he can no longer hurt anyone. 

    Dunning was a realtor and her husband Jim Dunning was the city's sheriff at the time she was killed. her husband and son found her after she was late meeting them for lunch.

    "She was my rock," her sister Patty Moran said. "I am mad and sad."

    Thank you

    Ron Kirby's former wife of 23 years Molly Kirby thanked the jury for their guilty verdict. 

    Together the couple adopted and raised two children and remained close after divorcing. 

    Kirby's wife Anne Haynes called him the love of her life and wanted jurors to see a photo of the pair together just after Kirby gave Haynes a bouquet of flowers. The color image was circulated among the jurors. 

    "He was part of who I was and I will never be the same. I am truly lost without him," she said. 

    His daughter Marilyn Kirby cried as she told the jury of the hole in her heart and spirit.

    Victim's family speaks: We are far from all right

    During the sentencing phase of the trial member of the Lodato family testified about the music teacher and lifelong Alexandria resident. 

    Her husband Norm spoke about the loss of his wife of 36 years. They met in elementary school. 

    "My wife's work was music and joy, not this horror," Norm Lodato said. "Ruthanne was a force that can never be replaced or forgotten."

    But they won't get to grow old together, daughter Lucia Lodato said. The 32-year-old also spoke about being pregnant with what would have been Lodato's first grandchild.  

    "She was far from finished being my mom," she said. "She was my sounding board, my role model."

    Lodato's younger brother Greg Giammittorio told jurors that "We are far from all right." 

    WTOP's Dick Uliano contributed to this report from Fairfax, Virginia, and Amanda Iacone reported from Washington. 

    Charges, verdict and recommended sentence by count

    Count 1: Capital murder of Ruthanne Lodato - Guilty - life sentence and $100,000 fine

    Count 2: Use of a firearm in the commission of the murder of Ruthanne Lodato - Guilty - 3 years

    Count 3: Malicious wound of Dorcas Franko - Guilty - 20 years and $100,000 fine

    Count 4: Use of a firearm in the malicious wounding of Dorcas Franko - Guilty - 5 years

    Count 5: Capital murder of Ronald Kirby - Guilty - life sentence and $100,000 fine

    Count 6: Use of a firearm in the commission of the murder of Ronald Kirby - Guilty - 5 years

    Count 7: First degree murder of Nancy Dunning - Guilty - life in prison and $100,000 fine

    Count 8: Use of firearm in commission of murder of Nancy Dunning - Guilty - 5 years

    Count 9: Possession of a firearm by a felon on Nov. 11, 2013 - Guilty - 5 years

    Count 10: Possession of a firearm by a felon on Feb. 6, 2014 - Guilty - 5 years

    Nancy Dunning, 56, was found dead in her Alexandria home on Dec. 5, 2013. (Alexandria Police Dept.)

    A photo from Ron Kirby and Anne Gray Haynes' wedding album. He was shot and killed at the front door of his home on Nov. 11, 203. He was 69. (WTOP File Photo/Megan Cloherty)

    Ruthanne Lodato, 59, was shot at her front door on Feb. 6, 2014. She died later that day. (Courtesy Lodato family)

    Jury finds accused killer guilty of all counts 

    WASHINGTON  A former candidate for Alexandria mayor, who was known for his erratic behavior, has been found guilty of murder in the killings of three city residents in the span of 11 years and will face at least one life sentence in prison for the crimes, which terrified the community. 
    A Fairfax County jury found Charles Severance, 55 of Ashburn, guilty of all 10 counts including two capital murder charges for the shootings of Ron Kirby and Ruthanne Lodato and one first-degree murder charge for the shooting of Nancy Dunning.  

    The jury recommended that he serve three life sentences for the murder charge plus another 48 years for the gun and malicious wound charges plus that he pay $400,000 in fines. Virginia does not grant the possibility for parole and prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, believing Severance's mental health would make a conviction unlikely.  

    While making their final pitch to jurors before they considered their recommended sentence, prosecutors called Severance a "monster" who delivered the chaos and terror upon the city. Defense attorneys blamed the killings on Severances mental health, pointing to a prior schizophrenia diagnosis. 

    Judge Randy Bellows is set to decide Severance's sentence in January. 

    The 12-person jury deliberated for more than two days to reach its verdict, which followed several weeks of testimony and evidence presentations. The verdict was read in court late Monday morning as Severance looked straight ahead, showing no emotion. His parents, Stan and Virginia Severance, similarly sat stoically behind their son as they listened to the jury's decision. 

    Read the full story here
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