The Minnesota grandmother, who investigators suspect killed her husband before coming to Southwest Florida and killing another victim with the intention of taking the woman’s identity, was arrested Thursday in Texas.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshal Service held a joint press conference Friday morning, confirming that Deputy Marshals arrested Lois Ann Riess, 56, at a bar in South Padre Island, TX on Thursday evening on a murder warrant from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Reiss is also charged with grand theft, grand theft of a vehicle and criminal use of personal identification.
Authorities believe Riess shot and killed her husband, David Riess, at their home in rural Minnesota in March before fleeing. David Riess’ body was found March 23. A day later, Lois Riess was spotted at an Iowa casino, but left before law enforcement arrived. She’s been dubbed “Losing Streak Lois,” by law enforcement officials due to her known gambling addiction and a penchant for frequenting casinos.
Authorities believe Riess then eventually made her way to Southwest Florida, where she’s charged with shooting and killing Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton. Reiss then stole Hutchinson’s identity. Authorities believe Riess used the same gun she shot her husband to kill her second victim. Hutchinson was vacationing at Marina Village at Snug Harbor on Fort Myers Beach. That’s where Hutchinson’s body was discovered April 9.
Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno described Riess as a “stone cold killer.”
“The suspect had no sense of remorse in any which way because after she kills the victim, steals her credit cards, her ID, she obviously goes to the bank, withdraws money locally,” said Marceno.
He said she was impersonating the victim at that point. “And then later on, she leaves. No heart.”
Riess and Hutchinson were spotted together in surveillance video drinking at the Smokin’ Oyster Bar on Fort Myers Beach on April 5.
“In our surveillance video, when she befriends Pam Hutchinson, our victim, unfortunately, she’s smiling,” said Undersheriff Marceno. “So what does that tell you about her? She’s running, but guess what? She’s not changing her appearance. She’s living life: One day signing the victim’s credit card in her name and the next, her own.”
Riess and Hutchinson were similar in age and appearance, making it easier for Riess to use her I.D.
In addition to money, Riess also stole Hutchinson’s car and was next spotted surveillance video at the Hilton Hotel in Ocala, where she stayed as a guest April 6 and 7 under Hutchinson’s identity.
Hutchinson’s car was next spotted traveling through Louisiana. Riess was eventually identified by a tipster in South Padre.
Deputy U.S. Marshal with the Middle District of Florida’s Fort Myers Division, John Kinsey, thanked news media as integral to their search, as the tipster who contacted Marshals had identified her through a news report.
“Lois was sitting at a bar drinking, having a good time,” said Kinsey. “Deputies walked up behind her calmly, told her, ‘We know who you are.’ They put her hands behind her back and they escorted her away from the bar.”
Kinsey says he doesn’t find it particularly unusual that Riess did not resist arrest. “She knew it was coming,” he said.
Although Riess was caught near the U.S./Mexico border, Kinsey said that there's no indication she was looking to flee the country.
Whether or not Riess will be returned to Lee County to face charges is still being worked out between Florida and Texas officials.
The search involved hundreds of hours of work for members of the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, which includes the U.S. Marshal Service, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Myers and Cape Coral Police Departments as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. U.S. Deputy Marshals from the Brownsville, TX office as well as officers with the South Padre Island Police Department made the arrest.
“There’s a sense of relief today because a killer’s off the streets,” said Lee County Undersheriff Marceno. “And furthermore, no matter where she went, no matter where she hid, we were going to get her.”