‘Fugi­tive grandma’ gets life in pri­son for killing look-alike

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE -

ST. PETERS­BURG — A Min­nesota woman who led au­thor­i­ties on a cross-coun­try man­hunt pleaded guilty Tues­day in a Florida court­room to fa­tally shoot­ing a woman who pros­e­cu­tors said was tar­geted be­cause the two looked alike.

Lois Riess, 57, sin­gled out Pamela Hutchin­son be­cause they shared sim­i­lar fea­tures, and Riess wanted to as­sume Hutchin­son’s iden­tity while on the lam, of­fi­cials from the Lee County State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice said. She was sen­tenced to life in pri­son.

With a shock of white hair, Riess gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion as the “fugi­tive grandma” be­fore she was cap­tured in April 2018 in Texas.

“It was cer­tainly one of the more un­usual cases in my 25 year ca­reer as a prose­cu­tor,” said Rich Mon­te­calvo,

chief as­sis­tant state at­tor­ney.

Riess’ saga be­gan in March 2018, when her hus­band, 54-year-old David Riess, was found dead at the cou­ple’s Bloom­ing Prairie, Min­nesota, home.

Lois Riess forged checks to steal $11,000 from her hus­band’s ac­count, trav­eled south to Florida and landed in Fort My­ers, pros­e­cu­tors said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said sur­veil­lance footage showed the two women near Hutchin­son’s Fort My­ers condo-ho­tel room on April 4 and April 5. For the next two days, Riess was recorded on sur­veil­lance video — at times car­ry­ing garbage bags to the park­ing lot — but Hutchin­son wasn’t seen at all.

Af­ter killing Hutchin­son, Riess made her way to Texas while us­ing Hutchin­son’s credit cards and ve­hi­cle, po­lice said.

On April 19, 2018, Riess was drink­ing cock­tails at a South Padre Is­land, Texas, wa­ter­front restau­rant when she was ar­rested by two fed­eral deputy mar­shals. An em­ployee rec­og­nized her from sur­veil­lance video broad­cast on tele­vi­sion.

On Tues­day, Riess pleaded guilty to first-de­gree mur­der with a firearm, grand theft of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle, grand theft, and criminal use of per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion of a de­ceased in­di­vid­ual.

Pros­e­cu­tors with­drew the pos­si­bil­ity of the death penalty on the mur­der charge as part of the plea deal.

Sa­man­tha Sy­oen, the spokes­woman for the State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, wrote in a news re­lease that Hutchin­son’s fam­ily was sup­port­ive of the plea agree­ment be­cause they wanted Riess to be in­car­cer­ated for the rest of her days.

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