Southeast

Virginia man convicted of murdering sheriff's wife, two others in their homes

  • Charles Severance in court Wednesday.

    Charles Severance in court Wednesday.  (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

  • The funeral for Ruthanne Lodato in February 2014.

    The funeral for Ruthanne Lodato in February 2014.  (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Nikki Kahn, Pool)

A jury has convicted a man of fatally shooting three prominent residents of Alexandria in their homes over the course of a decade as part of a longstanding grudge against the northern Virginia city.

Charles Severance was convicted Monday in the deaths of Nancy Dunning, wife of then-Sheriff James Dunning, in 2003; transportation planner Ron Kirby in 2013; and music teacher Ruthanne Lodato last year.

Severance is a former Alexandria resident and fringe candidate for political office. Severance, in a wheelchair with a bad ankle, stared ahead as verdict was read.

Prosecutors say he wanted revenge after losing a child-custody case. Defense lawyers say authorities jumped to conclusions because of Severance's mental illness and violence-tinged writings.

Severance was found guilty on all 10 charges, including two counts of capital murder. Prosecutors have indicated they won't seek the death penalty. Severance will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.