FAIRFAX, VA — (WMAL) The prosecution and defense outlined their cases in opening statements Thursday in the murder trial of Charles Severance. He faces three counts of capital murder for allegedly killing real estate agent Nancy Dunning in 2003, transportation planner Ron Kirby in 2013 and music teacher Ruthanne Lodato in 2014.
Both sides will use Severance’s own writings as evidence to prove their arguments. However, the prosecution and defense have very different interpretations of those writings.
David Lord, a senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Alexandria, told the jury Severance often wrote about violence and revenge killings after losing custody of his son in 2003 following a long custody battle.
In one passage shown to the court, Severance wrote, “Violence wins” and “Murder on my mind and my mind on murder.”
He also wrote a poem called Parable of a Knocker that talked about assassinating people saying it’s in the best interest of the child, which is the reason the judge gave for granting his son’s mother full custody of the boy.
Lord said Severance blamed the courts, the police and people he called the “Alexandria elite” for the decision that robbed him of his son.
Defense attorney Chris Leibig acknowledged in his opening arguments that Severance’s writings can be angry and express his hatred of police but contended his client never acted on that hatred. He pointed out his client’s writings went beyond violence also referencing pioneer history, music and rules for a game he invented.
In addition to the writings, the prosecution said they would present evidence that proved the bullets from the guns used in the three murders came from the same gun, which was a type Severance owned at the times of the killings. While Lord said that type of gun is rarely used in murders, Leibeig said the state does not keep records that would prove that was the case.
Another point brought up by both sides was Severance’s arrest in Wheeling, West Virginia. The prosecution claimed Severance went there to avoid being questioned by police about Lodato’s murder. The defense, however, said Severance was on a historical trip to the area to learn more about pioneer history, a subject he enjoyed.
The defense ended its opening statement by saying persecutors jumped to conclusions, and their client isn’t guilty.
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