LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) — Virginia governor Terry McAulliffe has signed an executive order requesting the extradition of 53-year-old Charles Severance, who is a person of interest in three high-profile murders in Alexandria.
Severance has been held without bond in Wheeling, West Virginia since police detained him on an outstanding firearms warrant from Loudoun County. To date, Severance has been fighting the extradition.
At a bond hearing Monday, Ohio County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Smith told a judge that Severance “is being investigated by authorities” in the Alexandria killings and should be kept in jail because he represents a danger to the community. In a subsequent phone interview with The Associated Press, Smith described Severance as a “suspect” in the slayings.
During the hearing Monday, prosecutors introduced an image of a peculiarly dressed Severance in front of the Russian Embassy where he was requesting asylum earlier this month. Lawyers argued his desire demonstrated a flight risk.
Smith also told the judge that when Severance first learned that authorities wanted to speak to him about the unsolved killings, he tried to seek asylum in the Russian embassy in Washington, which he cited as evidence that Severance could be a flight risk if he were granted bail.
D.C. police responded to the embassy on March 7, the day after Alexandria Police announced that they had evidence potentially linking all three unsolved slayings, to deal with an “unwanted guest.” Severance told police he was trying to enter the embassy to seek asylum.
Alexandria Police have said that they are nowhere near close to charging anyone with the killings, but want to talk to Severance. Severance is a longtime city resident and two-time mayoral candidate, whose name came to authorities in a tip.
The random nature of the killings has left Alexandria residents on edge, especially after police last month said that ballistics evidence showed possible connections to all three killings — the Feb. 6 killing of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato, the November 2013 killing of transportation planner Ronald Kirby and the 2003 slaying of Nancy Dunning, a real estate agent and wife of then-Sheriff James Dunning.
Police have said they are investigating the killings as a series of crimes, but cautioned that the ballistics evidence is not conclusive and that they do not yet have proof that all three killings were committed by one person.
In addition to the ballistics evidence, all three killings occurred in residential neighborhoods in the middle of the day, and occurred after the victim either answered a knock on the front door or at least presented themselves at the front door, police said.
All three were prominent in the local community. Police put out a sketch depicting an older white male suspect, balding and with a full gray beard.
Alexandria Police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said they will not name anyone as a suspect until an arrest is made, and that investigators want to be sure that they don’t develop tunnel vision and focus on one suspect. Police still want the public to come forward with any information that might be pertinent to the cases.
Severance ran for mayor in Alexandria in 1996 and 2000. Police records currently list him as an Ashburn, Va. resident.
Current Mayor Bill Euille, then on the city council, recalled candidate forums where Severance answered every question with a speech about legalizing drugs.
A civil case in Alexandria Circuit Court shows that he lost custody and visitation of his son, Levite, in 2000 when the boy’s mother sought a protective order. She said Severance behaved in a threatening manner when she tried to leave him, setting out a rifle on a pillow in their home and leaving ammunition carefully arranged on a sock.
The judge in 2000 ordered Severance be denied visitation until he undergo a mental health examination, saying the case “is a most unusual one presenting real issues of safety for the plaintiff and her son.”
A transcript of that court hearing shows that Severance reluctantly admitted under cross-examination that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but he believed it was the doctors who were at fault.
“I have diagnosed the psychiatrists with mental disorders,” he said. “I qualify myself as mentally competent.”
He said he tried once to take a medication, Risperdal, prescribed for him by a psychiatrist. He said the medication twisted his stomach and made him sick, leading him to conclude it was part of a plot against him.
He tried unsuccessfully in 2009 to gain custody of the boy, saying that he is “guided by a Holy Ghost” and listing his qualifications for custody, including the fact he “does not have any strange body piercings … is not a whining victim of post traumatic stress disorder … and has never encouraged a child, adolescent or adult male to be a homosexual.”
Severance operates a website, mentaldisorder.com, in which he said his son “was legally isolated and separated from his father by the notorious City of Alexandria Juvenile Court. Although vilified by the inferior opinions of some judges, Charles Severance remains a God-fearing, highly respected, and solid citizen of Virginia.”
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