Slaying of Wife of Former Alexandria Sheriff Linkied to 2 Slayings

Nancy Dunning Killed in Her Home A Decade Ago


The Alexandria Police Department is making headway in the solving the 10-year-old slaying of Nancy Dunning with the recent arrest of former Alexandria resident Charles Severance, 53. Authorities identified Severance as a “person of interest” in the killing of Dunning, Ruthanne Lodato and Ronald Kirby high-profile homicides.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an extradition order March 21 to bring Severance back to the state from West Virginia, where he is currently in jail on $100,000 bond.

Severance was located and arrested March 13 by law enforcement officials in Wheeling, W.VA, according to the police department’s new release. He is a convicted felon for the unlawful possession of firearms in violation of a Loudon County warrant. Although this charge is unrelated to the three Alexandria killings, his name was initially linked with a routine analysis of crime tips during the police department’s investigation.

Public Defender Shayne Welling, Severance’s court-appointed attorney, filed a request to delay the extradition hearing until April 24, after it was canceled late March. Welling will submit his objections to help Severance actively fight extradition.

Alexandria police announced the possible link in the Dunning, Kirby and Lodato homicides in a press release March 6 after receiving forensics from the Lodato case. The bullets proved to be in the same general rifling class compared to the evidence collected from the previous cases, yet the microscopic results were inconclusive in determining if the bullets came from the same firearm.

Alexandria music teacher Lodato, 59, was fatally gunned down on the morning of Feb. 13 at her Alexandria home when the suspect shot her and another victim after Lodato answered the front door. Both victims were taken to a local hospital where Lodato was pronounced dead. The other victim was not fatally wounded.

Transportation planner Kirby, 69, died of multiple gunshot wounds on the afternoon of Nov. 13, 2013, at his Alexandria home. Kirby was pronounced dead on the scene by medics after a relative found him unconscious. He was the Director of Transportation Planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments since 1987. This was Alexandria’s 5th homicide in 2013.

Dunning, dubbed “The Queen of Alexandria,” was killed on the evening of Dec. 5, 2003. She was found shot to death in her Del Ray home after she missed a lunch date with her friend.

According to files released by the FBI, prior to her death, Dunning’s husband and then Alexandria sheriff, Jim Dunning, received a death threat via a letter mailed to him in March 1990. The author threatened Jim Dunning’s life, as well as that of his family. The author wrote, “I will never be able to rest unconditionally until I get my REVENGE. I’m going to cause you as much pain and grief as you’ve caused me. I will start by killing your wife and children. Then I will kill you…I will come to you like a thief in the night-soon.”

Despite ongoing investigations and deciphering the death mail, attempts to catch Nancy Dunning’s killer remains unsuccessful. In an interview, Sgt. Michael Kochis not offer details about leads still under investigation but said there are still many.

“It is a very fluid, very active investigation at this point. All leads have not been exhausted, that is why it is not considered a cold case,” Sgt. Kochis said.

Dunning earned her title as “The Queen of Alexandria” due to her initiatives spearheading efforts to revitalize Alexandria. She was a popular local real estate agent.  The police believed that Dunning’s killer could be a past client. Nancy Dunning was last seen at the Potomac Yard Target. Police sought the public’s help in identifying a potential witness, a man who was photographed by Target’s surveillance camera. The potential witness was seen in the same area as Nancy Dunning. They exited simultaneously at 10:30 a.m. the day she was killed.  To this day, the witness has not been identified.

 A few years after his wife’s homicide, Jim Dunning moved to North Carolina, which led friends of his wife to speculate that he may have played a role in killing his wife. Jim Dunning, 62, died in his North Carolina home last year. Although no autopsy report was available, authorities said he died in his sleep. His death was not thought to be suspicious.

Gayle Reuter, a friend of Nancy Dunning, has helped raised over $100,000 for a reward fund for the case. Reuter did not respond to a request via social media for an interview for this story. But she told WUSA-TV in July that she believes “that somebody knows something. Hopefully, reminding people that there’s $100,000 waiting to be collected, somebody might come forward and with that one piece of information it would help the police solve the case.”

Anyone with information concerning the Nancy Dunning case can contact Sgt. Kochis at 703-746-6864. 

Updated by Sondai Costley.