CRIME

Charles S. Severance arrested in Wheeling, W.Va.

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(WJLA) - Police are investigating whether a man in custody in West Virginia has a connection to a series of high-profile murders in Alexandria.

Severance faces weapons charge

Ashburn neighbors react to arrest

(Photo: Ohio County, W. Va.)
Murder Suspect Sketch and Charles S. Severance mugshot.

Charles S. Severance, 53, was arrested as a fugitive on a weapons charge on Thursday at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, W.Va.

This surveillance video shows Severance checking into a Wheeling, West Virginia motel before checking out on Thursday.

"[He was] basically in town to sight-see," said the motel manager, Anand Patel.

At the time, Patel had no inkling that police in Alexandria and Loudoun County were looking for Severance. But the next day, Wheeling officers, state police, and the FBI arrested him at the local library on an outstanding Loudoun County warrant – the charge being a felon in possession of a firearm.

"The cops came, they told me about him, I told them where I sent him," said Patel. "The next thing you know, they said they had arrested him."

Police seized a library computer that Severance had been using for about two hours. In court on Friday morning, he is now in jail after declining to post the $100,000 bond.

"Right now we cannot say Severance is a suspect," said Alexandria Police spokeswoman, Crystal Nosal.

Police are declining to even call Severance a “person of interest” in the February murder of Ruthanne Lodato, the slaying of Ronald Kirby last November, and the killing of Nancy Dunning in 2003, with Nosal insisting:

"We will look at all possibilities of our investigation. We do not have anyone charged in these murder cases right now."

Police say they never found a gun at the library, and investigators will not confirm Patel’s assertion that they did not find any weapons in his hotel room. Detectives have since seized Severance’s car.

Anne Haynes is Kirby’s widow, and says that the notion of a possible break in the case does not alleviate her pain and sense of loss – regardless of who the killer is:

"I am not vengeful. There's no motivation for what he did. It was a bizarre, wrong thing to do."

Amid all of this is a bizarre side note. The MPD report describes how Severance appeared at the Russian embassy one week ago seeking asylum – but he was turned away.

Investigators are questioning whether Severance, who ran for mayor in Alexandria in 1996 and 2000, has any connection to the deaths of Lodato, Dunning, and Kirby -- all three prominent community members of Alexandria.

The murders span 10 years, but two occurred in the past four months.

Alexandria mayor Bill Euille calls Severance a "person of interest."

"I don't want anyone to think this is the person we and the police have been looking for," Euille said.

But with a white beard and similar facial features, Severance matches the description of a suspect sketch released last month in the Lodato case.

Severance visited Russian Embassy to request asylum

A Metropolitan Police Department report shows Severance went to the Russian Embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in NW Washington on the afternoon of Friday, March 7, to request asylum. He was "sent on his way" and labeled an "unwanted guest" in a report taken by officers.

Severance's effort to seek asylum happened about 24 hours after Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook held a news conference discussing possible connections between the three killings.

Severance had website called "Mental Disorder" / Ashburn neighbors talk to ABC7

This is a website belonging to a Charles Severance called “Mental Disorder” that is written in the third person. It states that Severance ran for Alexandria mayor in 1996.

"He just sort of came out of the woodwork...he wasn't really part of the fabric of the community," explained Kerry Donley, who ran against him.

"Unbeknownst to me, the city manager and police chief assigned an undercover officer to shadow me at campaign events because they were so concerned about this fellow."

In Ashburn, neighbors say that Severance had lived in this townhome for the past five or six years. He stood out, almost always wearing a long black trench coat and short shorts.

"He would just stay to himself, come out and work on the yard or get on his bike and ride in the neighborhood for hours at a time," said neighbor Crystal Smith.

But on Wednesday night, they got the first hint that something was wrong when a team of law enforcement officers raided the home.

"His garage door was up -- they were pulling things up, ripping things apart, about 30 to 40 cop cars, FBI..." said neighbor Michelle Smith. "They were standing there with these big guns, and it was scary."

Residents had heard about the Alexandria murders, but never thought Severance could be connected to the cases.

"We always knew there was something strange about this guy, but I never would have thought anything about what they said -- never, never," said Crystal.

Alexandria residents react to Severance arrest

The news of Charles Severance's arrest and possible connection to the Alexandria murders doesn't take Ron Kirby's widow's pain away.

"I am hopeful. I don't think about it," Anne Gray Haynes says. "I am not vengeful, I am not angry, I am devastated."

The Alexandria community has felt varying levels of devastation since three of its residents within a two-mile radius were shot and killed inside their homes - all in the middle of the day.

"It is so emotional because we are new to the neighborhood," says Alexis Scudder. "We have children and this made us feel under siege."

Severance's last known address in Alexandria is on Gunston Rod, close to the homes where the three unsolved murders happened.

"It's really frightening," says Marilyn Munson, who lives on Gunston Road. "We've all lived a life of luxury of not knowing someone could be in our midst."

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