- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2014

Alexandria police announced Monday, following months of investigation, that they have charged Charles Severance with murder in three homicides including the 2003 cold case killing of Nancy Dunning.

Mr. Severance, 53, has been in custody since he was arrested in March in West Virginia on an open warrant for a weapons charge. At that point, Alexandria police officials first expressed interest in talking with Mr. Severance about three unsolved homicides. The slayings included the deaths of Dunning, wife of then-sheriff James Dunning; the November 2013 killing of transportation planner Ronald Kirby; and the Feb. 6 killing of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato.

At a press conference Monday, Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook was short on details as to how the case has progressed in the six months since Mr. Severance was identified as a potential person of interest but assured the public that detectives had their man.

“I am confident that the suspect, Charles Severance, is the suspect that we have been looking for,” Chief Cook said at a Monday press conference. “Throughout these 11 years, the Alexandria Police Department never lost focus on these cases. As we have stated for years, the Nancy Dunning investigation has never been a cold case.”

Police said previously that they saw similarities in the homicides — all of the victims were shot in their own homes, located within miles of each other.

Ballistics evidence indicated similarities in the weapon used in each of the killings, but Chief Cook said Monday that police have not located the murder weapon.

“We do not have any weapon in the cases at this time,” he said.

Mr. Severance previously lived in Alexandria, running fringe campaigns for mayor in 1996 and in 2000. His odd behavior at campaign forums and other events caused several public officials to take notice, but it was not until Alexandria police said they conducted a routine analysis of crime tips from the most recent homicides that they began investigating him as a suspect in the cases. Court records show that Mr. Severance lost custody of his then-infant son in 2000 in part because of a refusal to undergo a mental health examination.

Mr. Severance, who most recently lived in Ashburn, has remained in jail since his arrest on an open warrant in March. He was charged in Loudoun County with illegal possession of firearms as a felon.

Defense attorney Edward Ungvarsky, who represented Mr. Severance in the weapons case, previously said the charges were weak and based on circumstantial evidence. He said the two handguns in question were owned by Mr. Severance’s girlfriend, with whom he lived.

It was unclear whether Mr. Ungvarsky, a public defender who usually handles death penalty cases, is representing Mr. Severance in the murder case. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office announced that it will not pursue the death penalty in the murder cases, though officials declined to comment further.

Mr. Severance was indicted on 10 charges, including first-degree murder in the slaying of Dunning and capital murder in the cases of Kirby and Lodato. He also faces a number of weapons charges from each of the cases, according to information released Monday by police.

An official with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office referred calls about the timeline of the case to a spokesman for the Alexandria city government, who said Mr. Severance currently has no court appearances scheduled. It was unclear when he would be brought to Alexandria Circuit Court for arraignment.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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