In September 2014, Charles Severance, 54, was charged with the murder of three well-known residents in Alexandria, Virginia over a 10-year period. Previously known for his unsuccessful political campaigns, which were characterized by his odd behavior at political forums, Severance’s case has already drawn significant attention after he was accused of being a serial killer. However, recent information suggests that Severance’s alleged crimes may have been inspired by an unfavorable child custody decision.
In documents filed on Thursday, December 4, prosecutors stated that writings seized from Severance reveal that the defendant was angry after a court decision removed his son from his custody. This resulted in a hatred for Alexandria’s “enforcement class” and the creation of a political doctrine that announced Severance’s intention to assassinate members of the “status quo utopian elite.” These statements provide an unexpected but plausible reason for why he chose his victims: real estate agent Nancy Dunning, who was killed in 2003, was the city sheriff’s wife, while Ronald Kirby, murdered in 2013, was a regional transportation planner. Meanwhile, Ruthanne Lodato, killed in February 2014, was a music teacher with deep-rooted connections to the city’s education system and the city of Alexandria as a whole.
Previously, the murders were believed to be the work of a serial killer due to the specific nature of the crimes: all three were gunned down in their homes in broad daylight, by a shooter who left no signs of forced entry. All of the victims lived within two miles of each other. Each shooting also featured the same type of ammunition: .22 hollow-point rounds, a kind of ammunition that is also reportedly mentioned in Severance’s writings. While each of the murders appears to have used different guns, experts in the case have testified that they have never seen this combination of make, model and caliber in another case.
Currently, the statement released about Severance’s writing is merely one theory. However, it could still have a profound effect on local and national divorce cases, especially given the infamously contentious nature of custody disputes.
“It is important to embrace and maintain a collaborative approach amongst the parents to contribute toward a resolution of family and child custody issues,” says Robert Bellinger, Principal Attorney at The Bellinger Law Office. “This approach allows the parents to craft a resolution of their own choosing rather than leaving it in the hands of the court.”
Severance, who has a felony record and a noted history of strange behavior, was originally taken into custody in West Virginia on a weapons charge. Since his imprisonment, he has once allegedly tried to escape confinement by taking a rope of knotted sheets into an outdoor recreation area and trying to measure the fence. Currently, his case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2015.