Homicide

Defense asserts innocence in Alexandria killings, says mental illness made man look suspicious

  • Charles Severance, center, listens to his attorney during a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial.  (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

    Charles Severance, center, listens to his attorney during a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Charles Severance listens to his attorney during a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial.  (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

    Charles Severance listens to his attorney during a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Charles Severance prepares to leave the courtroom after a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial.  (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

    Charles Severance prepares to leave the courtroom after a pretrial hearing for his upcoming murder trial, Thursday, Aug., 13, 2015, in Fairfax, Va. Lawyers for Severance, charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span, said Thursday their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions. At the pretrial hearing, lawyers for Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming trial. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

Lawyers for a man charged with killing three Alexandria residents over a 10-year span say their client is innocent and that his mental illness and paranoia made him the target of unfounded suspicions.

At a pretrial hearing Thursday, lawyers for Charles Severance won the right to tell jurors about Severance's mental illness at his upcoming murder trial.

Prosecutors say the former Alexandria resident with a history of erratic behavior shot and killed three city residents in their homes dating back to 2003. Their evidence includes writings by Severance glorifying murder and his failed effort to gain asylum at the Russian embassy when police tried to interview him.

Defense lawyers say schizophrenia is behind Severance's writings and behavior.

Prosecutors say Severance is competent. They opposed allowing testimony about his mental health.