A man arrested in West Virginia who has extensive ties to Alexandria and Loudoun County may be connected to the shooting death of Ruthanne Lodato and two earlier killings, according to news reports. A police spokeswoman, though, said detectives are “nowhere close” to charging the man with murder.
Police in Alexandria and Loudoun County had issued a lookout earlier this week for Charles Severance, 53, according to The Washington Post. He was arrested in Wheeling on Thursday.
Crystal Nosal, an Alexandria police spokeswoman, told the paper Severance had been arrested on a charge unrelated to the killings but stopped short of calling him a "person of interest."
“We are nowhere close to charging anyone with murder,” she told the Post. “We’re investigating every tip, so I would say of course we’ll investigate the possibility that this is connected.”
The department released this statement: "Recent news reports have linked Charles Severance to these investigations. Mr. Severance’s name was brought to the attention of the Alexandria Police Department during the routine analysis of crime tips. Further investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies determined that Mr. Severance is a convicted felon in unlawful possession of firearms. He was located by law enforcement officials in West Virginia, where he was arrested on a Loudoun County warrant for the weapons violation.
"The Alexandria Police Department has not charged Mr. Severance with any crime at this time. Detectives continue to follow up on the crime tip information; however, it is premature to name him as the only possible suspect in these investigations. The Police Department will only release information when it has been verified to be accurate."
Wheeling, W.Va. City Police Detective Sgt. Gregg McKenzie said the FBI contacted his agency about 11:45 a.m. Thursday, asking officers to look for a man who was wanted on a warrant in Loudoun County as a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the paper.
McKenzie said Severance was arrested without any resistance and taken to the West Virginia Northern Regional Jail, where he was being held Friday on a $100,000 cash bond.
The Lodato slaying was the latest of three high-profile residents, all of whom were gunned down in broad daylight with their killer or killers going unfound.
Lodato was killed last month after opening her door and being shot. In 2003, real estate agent Nancy Dunning was killed, and in November the victim was regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby.
Police said recently that common markings on bullet fragments in all three shootings led them to believe they may be connected and that they were investigating the slayings as connected.
Craig Fifer, an Alexandria city spokesman, said the man arrested in Wheeling bore an “obvious physical resemblance” to the police sketch of the suspect in the Lodato killing, and “a lot of people are asking if there’s a connection, and we’re looking into that.”
“We’re looking at him to see if there’s any possible connection with any cases here ... but he has not been charged in connection to those cases,” Fifer said.
The Post reported that Severance ran for mayor of Alexandria in 2000 and lost. In the 2000 Washington Post voter’s guide, Severance listed his occupation as “Expert witness, principal investigator, mentaldisorder.com.”
Severance was questioned by D.C. police on March 7, after he showed up at the Russian Embassy and asked for asylum, according to a police report obtained by the Washington Post.
The police report lists Severance’s address as on Gala Circle in Ashburn, Va., the Post reported, and says his occupation is an engineer. Severance was not arrested and no charges were filed.
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