Judge orders Severance extradited, but appeal causes delays
OHIO COUNTY, WVa. (WJLA) - An Ohio County judge Wednesday ordered that Charles Severance be extradited to Virginia to face weapons charges in Loudoun County - but a forthcoming appeal by his defense attorney could delay that extradition by as long as a few months.
From the moment Severance entered court, his parents were just an arm’s length away, watching closely and chatting with their son during breaks. But after the hearing, they had little to say to reporters, and little patience with the situation.
"We're private citizens and we want out -- just let us out," said Severance's father. "I have no comment. Print it and publish it."
The hearing got moving with defense witness Anand Patel, manager of the Knight’s Inn Motel in Wheeling, where Severance stayed the night before his arrest on March 13. The defense is arguing that the nature of a conversation between the two is evidence that Severance was not a fugitive on the run.
"Mainly about Wheeling history and where some revolutionary war sites were located," said Patel of their conversation.
The prosecution then called Loudoun County Detective Stephen Schochet, trying to prove that authorities were actively looking for Severance with the goal of extraditing him to Loudoun County and pursuing felony gun charges.
However, defense attorney Shayne Welling called the gun charges a pretext to get Severance in custody in connection with the three high-profile Alexandria murders of Nancy Dunning, Ron Kirby, and Ruthanne Lodato, further citing paperwork and investigators that arrived in Wheeling from Alexandria on the day of the arrest.
"Alexandria would have used any reason to detain Mr. Severance...This really isn't about the Loudoun county gun charge, never has been," said Welling.
Welling also argued that Severance is not a fugitive and was not in West Virginia fleeing from any charges in Loudoun County, as the charges were not filed until after he left the state.
Welling further argued that if Severance is extradited based purely on the evidence the prosecution has presented thus far, that it would be "a parody of our rule of law." He had requested that Severance not be extradited, and that he be granted asylum in Ohio County.
But prosecutor Scott Smith countered that there is nothing illegal about two investigations happening at once, adding that Severance is wanted in Virginia on felony charges and should be sent back – simple as that:
"They have not met their burden of challenging the proceedings by clear and convincing evidence."
In the end, Judge James Mazzone agreed, calling for Severance’s extradition to begin:
"For transfer to the appropriate authorities from the Commonwealth of Virginia for ultimate transportation back to Loudoun county."
"We certainly agree with the ruling," said Smith. "That's what we've been arguing all along."
Following the judge's decision in Ohio County court Wednesday, Welling asked for a stay of extradition to allow Severance the opportunity to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court - an opportunity the prosecution said would be "not meritorious."
Judge James Mazzone granted Severance a one-week stay of extradition in West Virginia in order to file such an appeal. However, if the appeal is granted, it could drag things out for a month or even longer.
Later on Wednesday, we asked those who live near where the three high-profile Alexandria murders took place if they are as on-edge now as they were a few months ago.
"I'd like to see some evidence," said George Bottiger. "I don't see any evidence…I don't know if he's really a killer, so I feel no different."
"I'm glad they have somebody -- they have some leads, they have something going on with it. It'd be worse if there was nobody," added Jennifer Hennessy.
As the longstanding court battle and separate murder investigations continue, Alexandria's mayor is urging residents to be vigilant, but still go about their lives.
"Fortunately, we haven't had any more incidents since the Lodato situation, and I think that in and of itself should be comforting to our citizens," assured Mayor Bill Euille.