The Washington Post

Extradition stay denied for Charles Severance


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

A man Alexandria police want to question in three homicides is set to be extradited Wednesday evening after a unanimous vote by the Supreme Court of West Virginia, officials said.

The state’s highest court denied a stay of extradition pending an appeal by Charles Severance, 53, who is wanted on a gun posession charge out of Loudoun County. That means that a ruling from Ohio County Circuit Court Judge James P. Mazzone, which set Severance’s extradition for 5 p.m. March 30, will apply unless further legal action occurs.

Public defenders representing Severance have argued that the charge against him, posession of a firearm by a non-violent felon, is a “sham” engineered to bring him back to Virginia so he can be interrogated in the February slaying of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato, the 2003 killing of real estate agent Nancy Dunning and the November slaying of regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby. Alexandria police have described Severance as part of their investigation but not a suspect in any of those cases.

Severance’s lawyers had hoped to delay the extradition order while appealing it to the state supreme court.

Severance was arrested in Wheeling, W.Va., in March. Witnesses testified during last week’s extradition hearing that Alexandria police traveled to West Virginia to apprehend Severance, who was staying under his own name at a local motel and was found in the public library.

The Loudoun County sheriff’s office has 10 days to pick up Severance from the Wheeling jail, spokeswoman Liz Mills said.

Earlier this month, authorities searched a pond in Oakton in connection with the Lodato killing but did not disclose whether they found anything. The scene is near a home owned by relatives of Severance’s.

Two search warrants for properties where Severance was known to have stayed, published in court filings, say he is also being investigated for murder. The warrants say investigators were looking for a tan or brown jacket, tan or green slacks, guns, various pieces of computer equipment, journals and anything that might contain DNA.

Police are treating the Lodato, Kirby and Dunning cases as possibly linked because markings on bullet fragments recovered from the scene of each killing appear to be similar.

A spokesman for the city of Alexandria, Craig Fifer, said at the time of his arrest that Severance bears an “obvious physical resemblance” to a police sketch of a possible suspect in the Lodato killing. He said that “a lot of people are asking if there’s a connection, and we’re looking into that.”

It’s unclear what — if any — evidence connects him to the killings.

“We’ll look at any possible connection he has,” Alexandria police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said.

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Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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