Welcome to LoudounTimes.com
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Prosecutors: Severance killed 3 to get revenge on Alexandria’s elite

Charles Severance
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) -- An Ashburn man accused of killing three Alexandria residents over the span of a decade wanted revenge against what he perceived as the city's elite after losing a child custody case, prosecutors said Thursday.

Opening statements began in the trial of Charles Severance, 55.

He is accused of shooting three prominent Alexandria residents in their homes: Nancy Dunning, wife of then-Sheriff James Dunning, in 2003; transportation planner Ron Kirby in 2013; and music teacher Ruthanne Lodato last year.

Severance, a former Alexandria resident with a history of erratic behavior, has pleaded not guilty. The defense says the government case lacks direct evidence and that Severance merely looks suspicious because he is mentally ill.

"The Commonwealth has jumped to conclusions," defense attorney Joseph King told the jury. "The evidence is there's a dearth of evidence. No DNA evidence. No fingerprint evidence."

Prosecutor David Lord laid out a case with striking circumstantial evidence. He noted that all three victims lived within a mile of each other in the same neighborhood, not far from where Severance himself used to live.

Lord said all three victims were felled with a unique type of ammunition: .22-caliber, long rifle, plain lead, Remington brand ammunition. Severance's writings glorify this ammunition, and he convinced a one-time girlfriend to buy boxes of it. He had also convinced that girlfriend to buy two .22-caliber mini-revolvers that later went missing, along with the ammunition. Severance himself could not buy guns because of a previous felony conviction.

Severance's own writings provide some of the strongest evidence, Lord said. He wrote a poem he called "Parable of the Knocker" that Lord called a description of Severance's mode of operation: "Knock and the door will open. Knock. Talk. Enter. Kill. Exit. Murder. Wisdom."

In another passage, he wrote "Received no satisfaction after revenge killing."

The writings, Lord said, show that Severance harbored "a hatred against those he considered to be the elite of Alexandria."

Witnesses saw Severance in Lodato's neighborhood days before the killing and on the morning of the killing, even though Severance had no reason to be there, Lord said. And jurors will hear testimony from Dorcas Franco, a health care worker in the Lodato home who was shot that day but survived. She gave police a description that generally matched Severance and helped develop a sketch bearing a resemblance to him. When she was given a photo lineup, she rejected five of the six photos. She could not definitively decide on the sixth photo, which showed Severance, but said it looked similar.

The trial is expected to last six weeks. It was moved from Alexandria to Fairfax because of pretrial publicity and because of widespread fear the killings generated in that community.

More News

Leesburg WEATHER
Today Tomorrow

Partly Cloudy

Hi 80° Hi 67°
Lo 55° Lo 44°
More Weather
The Loudoun Times-Mirror

is an interactive, digital replica
of the printed newspaper.
Open the e-edition now.