Oct. 21, 2015
The family of Charles Severance testified Wednesday about the man they call Charlie. They shared personal anecdotes about how they coped with his sometimes disruptive behavior and offered details about the life a man who so far has been portrayed only by the script of prosecutors and police.
Severance's father was in the Navy and the family moved frequently. A young Severance, studying math and physics, didn't tell his parents when he decided to drop out of college and invested his tuition money.
They described his struggles with mental illness and his sporadic work history.
Here is a recap of Wednesday's testimony as Severance's trial continues.
New details emerge as Severance's family takes stand
The family of Charles Severance revealed new personal details about the man charged with killing three Alexandria residents during the span of more than 10 years.
To date, most of what has become publicly known about Severance has come through the lens of prosecutors and police, portraying Severance as an angry man who glorified violence and sought revenge for losing custody of his son in 2001.
Prosecutors hammered home their theory that revenge and anger motivated Severance to kill Nancy Dunning, Ron Kirby and Ruthanne Lodato, by having an Alexandria detective read from page after page of Severance's writings during their final full day of testimony Tuesday.
But Wednesday, members of Severance's immediate family took the stand.
His sister Sophie Grasmeder told the jury that her brother was outspoken and that he was barred from some family gatherings because he could be disruptive.
He didn't use a cellphone and was living "off the grid" at the time of Dunning's 2003 murder, Grasmeder said.
Severance is also an "avid" fan of the reality TV show "Survivor," his father Stan Severance told the court. The two would watch the weekly episodes together.
And his mother Virginia Severance told the jury that her son would send "hundreds of postcards" to his family when he was traveling.
Severance's defense attorneys have said previously that Severance enjoyed traveling to historical sites especially those related to the early American frontier in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. He was fascinated by history, they've said.
His family also described Severance's spotty work history and how he has struggled with mental illness.
Severance has not allowed a psychologist to speak to him and he is not using insanity as a defense in his trial.
Sister of charged Alexandria killer: 'Charlie' lived off the grid, didn't own cellphone
Members of Charles Severance's family told a Fairfax County jury Wednesday that the man seen in surveillance video while Nancy Dunning shopped shortly before her 2003 death was not Severance.
His mother, father and sister each testified that the man wearing jeans and a dark jacket talking on a cellphone in the Target video could not have been the man they call "Charlie."
His mother, Virginia Severance, told the jury that the man in the video had different body language and didn't have her son's smile.
Sophie Grasmeder, Severance's sister, testified that her brother didn't have a cellphone when the video was taken in December 2003.
"Charlie kind of lived off the grid," Grasmeder said.
When shown still photos from the surveillance footage, Stan Severance said repeatedly that none were of his son.
Last week, prosecutors presented side-by-side comparisons of older photos of Severance and the stills from the surveillance video. Investigators believe the man was Severance. Nancy Dunning was found dead inside her Alexandria home not long after she left the Target.
Severance is charged with Dunning's murder and with killing Ron Kirby in 2013 and Ruthanne Lodato in 2014.