Po­lice say grand­mother killed woman and stole her iden­tity

The Day - - WORLD & NATION - By AVI SELK

With her plat­inum blonde hair and a cheru­bic smile, Lois Riess looks in pho­tos like what she is — a 56-year-old grand­mother from small-town Amer­ica.

And that, au­thor­i­ties say, makes her even more dan­ger­ous.

For the past three weeks, po­lice say, Riess has led them on a na­tion­wide pur­suit — from the Min­ne­sota worm farm where they found her hus­band shot to death last month; to Florida, where they sus­pect Riess be­friended and killed a woman who looks like her to steal her iden­tity; and fi­nally to Texas, where po­lice fear she may find her next tar­get.

“She smiles and looks like any­one’s mother or grand­mother, but she’s cal­cu­lat­ing, she’s tar­get­ing and she’s an ab­so­lute cold-blood killer,” Carmine Marceno, a deputy sher­iff Lee County, Fla., told NBC News on Florida, af­ter au­thor­i­ties lost Riess’ trail.

Riess and her hus­band, David, were well known and well liked by the 2,000 or so other res­i­dents of Bloom­ing Prairie, Minn., ac­cord­ing to the Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune. They were both reg­u­lars for lunch at the lo­cal Ser­vice­men’s Club, nearly 100 miles south of Min­neapo­lis. David owned and op­er­ated a farm for fish­ing bait — Prairie Wax Worms.

Con­cerned that David Riess had not been seen in more than a week, the Star Tri­bune re­ported, one of his busi­ness part­ners asked po­lice to look for him.

Of­fi­cers did, and found him dead of gun­shot wounds at the worm farm on March 23, the sher­iff of Dodge County told the news­pa­per. It was un­clear how long he’d been dead.

Lois Riess had left town by then. Ac­cord­ing to the Star Tri­bune, po­lice sus­pect she forged her dead hus­band’s sig­na­ture be­fore his body was found, trans­ferred nearly $10,000 into her ac­count, and headed to a casino across the Iowa bor­der.

NBC News re­ported Riess had a gam­bling ad­dic­tion.

She had left Iowa by the time po­lice tracked her there in late March, the Star Tri­bune wrote. State of­fi­cials be­gan to paste her pho­tos on Face­book, urg­ing any­one who saw her to call 911 and not go near her, as she was be­lieved to be armed and dan­ger­ous.

From Iowa, po­lice be­lieve, Riess drove to Lee County, Fla. There, they said, she met a woman named Pamela Hutchin­son, 59, with a sim­i­lar shade of light-blonde hair.

“She be­friended this woman. The woman prob­a­bly gave her some sob story,” Hutchin­son’s cousin Daniele Jef­freys later told WTVR. “My cousin went out help­ing the world . . . She’s just giv­ing to a fault. To her death.”

On April 5, the two women were recorded on sur­veil­lance cam­era at the Smokin’ Oys­ter Brew­ery in Fort My­ers, shar­ing a laugh.

Ac­cord­ing to the Star Tri­bune, an­other sur­veil­lance cam­era pho­tographed Riess at Hutchin­son’s condo in the same city.

On April 9, po­lice found Hutchin­son shot to death at her condo in the same city. An­other sur­veil­lance cam­era pho­tographed Riess at the build­ing. Hutchin­son’s un­cle told WTVR she’d been shot through the heart.

The dead woman’s purse had been emp­tied out, sher­iff’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. Her iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, credit cards and car keys were gone. So was her car.

The search for Lois Riess was now a mul­ti­state and fed­eral mat­ter. More pub­lic ad­vi­sories went out, with more pho­tos of the grand­moth­erly woman and the car she was be­lieved to be trav­el­ing in, which was now the car of the woman po­lice think she killed.

The ve­hi­cle was spot­ted near Cor­pus Christi, Texas, this month, Florida au­thor­i­ties an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence last Fri­day. Her cur­rent where­abouts are un­known.

The obit­u­ary for David Riess pub­lished last week, and men­tioned his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, but not wife.

“Pure evil,” Hutchin­son’s cousin told WTVR. “That’s re­ally the only thing that could res­onate with my sys­tem ... it’s just evil that flowed through.”

In Florida, the deputy sher­iff told NBC he had never seen a killing like it. “This is the first time in my ca­reer I’ve seen some­one steal some­one’’s iden­tity and tar­get them for the way they look in or­der to mur­der them,” Marceno said.

And he wor­ries it won’t be the last.

“I sus­pect Riess as some point in time with have no re­sources and she will be­come more des­per­ate,” Marceno said, “and may kill again.”

MIN­NE­SOTA BUREAU OF CRIM­I­NAL AP­PRE­HEN­SION

Lori Riess is sus­pected of be­friend­ing a woman who looks like her, steal­ing her ID and killing her.

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