Detectives have released three new videos that show a Minnesota grandmother wanted in the slaying of her husband -- as well as the brutal killing of a Florida woman -- driving up to a hotel and checking in following the second murder.
Lois Ann Riess, 56, was still running Tuesday afternoon from murder and theft charges in the slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, a Bradenton woman who was found shot to death April 9 in the Fort Myers Beach condominium where she was staying. Hutchinson, 59, had been dead for several days.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe Riess befriended Hutchinson at a nearby bar April 5 and either followed her or accompanied her two blocks to the Marina Village at Snug Harbor, where she killed her. Surveillance footage from the bar at the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery shows Riess chatting with a woman in a hat who detectives have identified as Hutchinson.
One of Hutchinson’s cousins also shared on Facebook an image of the slain woman wearing the same hat seen in the video.
Investigators believe Riess killed Hutchinson for her identity because the two women resembled one another. Hutchinson’s identification, cash, credit cards, keys and 2005 white Acura TL were taken after the slaying.
Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno described Riess to NBC News earlier this week as a “stone-cold killer” who authorities fear might kill again when she runs out of resources.
“She smiles and looks like anyone’s mother or grandmother,” Marceno said. “And yet she’s calculated, she’s targeted and an absolute cold-blooded killer.”
In one of the new videos released Tuesday, a car that appears to be Hutchinson’s stolen Acura is shown pulling into the parking lot of a Hilton hotel in the Ocala area. Ocala is located in central Florida, about 215 miles north of Fort Myers.
Surveillance footage from the lobby of the hotel shows Riess walking in and up to the registration counter to check in. She appears to be wearing the same blue shirt she wore at the Fort Myers bar, as well as in a surveillance image shot at Hutchinson’s condo complex.
Riess’ alleged path of travel, which led to at least one sighting in Louisiana, indicated she might be trying to make it to Mexico. She was last spotted, driving Hutchinson’s car, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Lee County Sheriff’s Office officials said.
Corpus Christi is about 150 miles from the Mexican border.
Agents with the U.S. Marshals Service are actively looking for Riess, and border officials are also on the lookout in case she tries to cross into Mexico.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has been searching for Riess since late last month, describes her as a white woman with brown eyes and pale blonde hair. She is about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 165 pounds.
The white Acura she is accused of stealing from Hutchinson has Florida license plate number Y37TAA.
Marceno said Riess is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who spots her should not approach her, but should call the nearest law enforcement agency.
People with information on Riess’ whereabouts can also call Southwest Florida Crimestoppers at 800-780-TIPS or the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at 877-996-6222. Callers may remain anonymous.
The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to her capture, and Crimestoppers is offering another $1,000, according to the sheriff in Dodge County, Minnesota.
Prior to the Hutchinson homicide, Riess was already suspected of gunning down her husband, David Riess, on their Blooming Prairie worm farm in mid-March. David Riess’ body was discovered, with multiple gunshot wounds, on March 23 after his business partner reported that he had been unable to reach him in a couple of weeks.
It was unclear exactly how long David Riess, 54, had been dead before his body was found.
Lois Riess became a person of interest in the slaying when Dodge County Sheriff’s Office detectives could not locate her. They got a tip that she was at a casino just across the state line in Northwood, Iowa, but she had left by the time they arrived.
Detectives tied Riess to Hutchinson’s death, in part, because the white 2005 Cadillac Escalade she was believed to be driving after her husband’s slaying was found in the area.
The Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported that investigators in Dodge County said Lois Riess transferred nearly $10,000 from her husband’s business account to his personal account after his death. She is then accused of forging his signature on $11,000 worth of checks made out to herself and cashing them.
She has been charged with theft for the forgeries. Murder charges are expected to be filed against her this week in David Riess’ death.
Police officials in Minnesota said that Lois Riess has a history of gambling problems. The Star-Tribune reported that court records there showed that she was previously accused of stealing more than $78,000 from her disabled sister, for whom she was the court-appointed guardian.
Court records indicated that the sister, who is now 62, suffers from mental illness and Parkinson’s disease and has the cognitive ability of a 10-year-old child, the newspaper reported.
Riess was appointed to serve as her sister’s guardian in 2012. A routine audit three years later found multiple “payments, gifts and loans” from the sister’s account, with no documentation to back up the transactions.
One $14,000 payment was supposed to have gone to the sisters’ father -- who was already dead.
An affidavit from the Minnesota Prairie County Alliance, a social services organization overseeing the issue, sought to have Riess’ guardianship terminated.
“I received a report that Lois Riess transfers funds from the guardianship account for (her sister) to Lois Riess’ own account,” the affidavit said, according to the Star-Tribune. “Lois Riess then withdraws the funds at the local casino.”
The new guardian of the sister’s account sought to have Riess repay the funds, but court records did not indicate whether or not she was ordered to, and there is no record that she was ever charged with a crime, the newspaper said.
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