Defense wants gag order in case of Severance, the ‘person of interest’ in Alexandria slayings


Charles Severance listens to his lead defense attorney, Shayne M. Welling, during a recess in his extradition hearing at the Ohio County Circuit Court on April 23, 2014, in Wheeling, W.Va. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Defense lawyers for a man deemed a “person of interest” in three unsolved Alexandria killings want to bar discussion of his case outside the courtroom.

Ed Ungvarsky office filed a motion in Loudoun County District Court for a gag order in the case of Charles Severance, who currently faces only a felony gun possession charge there. On Wednesday, a judge scheduled a June 12 hearing on the motion, a spokeswoman for the commonwealth’s attorney said.

The gag order would prevent both prosecutors and defense attorneys, as well as any investigators in the case, from speaking to the news media, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office said.

The unusual case, which is being handled by Loudoun’s chief prosecutor and the Virginia Capital Defender Office, has attracted media attention far outside the norm for a low-level felony. Alexandria police are investigating Severance, 53, in connection with the deaths of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato, regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby and real estate agent Nancy Dunning. Severance has not been charged in the Alexandria slayings, which authorities have said may be linked, and police have said that he is not a suspect.

Alexandria’s mayor has called him a “person of interest,” but it’s unclear what, if any, evidence connects him to the killings.


Charles Severance is a “person of interest” in three high-profile killings in Alexandria, Va. (West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority)

Longtime residents of Alexandria remember Severance as an odd character at the fringes of the city’s political life in the 1990s and early 2000s. He ran for mayor and a congressional seat in 1996 and 2000, garnering a small number of votes.

Severance is being held without bond in Loudoun after being extradited from West Virginia, where prosecutors argued he was a fugitive from justice. Defense attorneys there described the gun charge as a “sham” designed to give Alexandria police an opportunity to interrogate Severance about the killings.

Severance was not present in court for Wednesday’s motion scheduling. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for June 18.

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Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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