Papers detail journey of woman accused of slaying husband

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Blooming Prairie woman accused of killing her husband in Minnesota and a woman she later met in Florida stood in an acquaintance’s driveway staring at her car, then fled when the acquaintance appeared, according to newly released documents that detail her daily movements.

Lois Riess

The state attorney’s office for Lee County, Florida, released about 2,600 documents on Monday showing the day-to-day actions of Riess, charged with first-degree murder in the April 9 fatal shooting of Pamela Hutchinson in Fort Myers. Officials believe Riess targeted Hutchinson because they looked alike, and because Riess wanted to assume Hutchinson’s identity.

Riess, 56, garnered national news attention when she led authorities on a cross-country manhunt before she was captured on April 19 in Texas.

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Riess’ saga began in late March, when David Riess, 54, was found dead at the couple’s Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, home. Lois Riess forged checks to steal $11,000 from her husband’s account, traveled south to Florida and landed in Fort Myers, prosecutors say.

Also in March, a woman in Blooming Prairie received a call from a woman named “Stormy Liberty,” who asked for the address of Theresa Koster, a “mutual friend” who had a winter home in Fort Myers. The woman gave Stormy the address. Detectives discovered that Riess had used the name “Stormy Liberty” to open a cellphone account.

In early April, Koster went outside her house in Ft. Myers to find a woman staring at her car. Koster addressed the woman, and their eyes met — Koster later told police the woman was Riess.

“Wrong house,” the woman said, and left quickly.

Koster, who knew Riess from Minnesota — months ago, she’d invited the Riess couple to her Florida home — knew she was wanted by Minnesota authorities in connection with the death of her husband, and called police.

Investigators say Riess then met 59-year-old Hutchinson, who was in Fort Myers visiting a friend. Fort Myers is on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Investigators found surveillance video of the two women walking to Hutchinson’s condo-hotel room on April 4. The next night, the two women were caught again on surveillance video, at the Smoking Oyster Brewery on Fort Myers Beach.

The two women were close in age and stature, and both had almost white hair.

On April 6, hotel employees said someone claiming to be Hutchinson said she wanted to extend her stay, and her credit card was charged for an additional three days. Someone also withdrew $5,000 from Hutchinson’s bank account that day. That evening, an Acura registered to Hutchinson was seen pulling into a hotel in Ocala, a few hours north of Fort Myers.

Video caught Riess getting out of the car, and she checked in using Hutchinson’s credit card; she also put room service and a movie on Riess’ card.

Hutchinson’s body wasn’t found until April 9, when a hotel employee entered the unit. She was found dead in the bathroom, lying on a pillow and covered with a towel. She’d been shot twice, once in the heart and once in the side.

According to the records, both Hutchinson and David Riess were killed by small-caliber weapons in bathrooms, both had towels draped over their bodies and a rolled-up towel was wedged between the floor and bathroom door in both cases.

Riess made her way to Texas, and police said she used Hutchinson’s credit cards and vehicle.

In South Padre Island, Riess befriended a woman, and spent the night in her guest bedroom on April 15.

On April 19, Riess was arrested at a South Padre Island waterfront restaurant by two federal deputy marshals. An employee recognized her from surveillance video broadcast on television. She was drinking cocktails at the bar when she was taken into custody.

Riess was extradited to Florida, where she faces first-degree murder charges. Prosecutors haven’t said whether they’re seeking the death penalty.

She pleaded not guilty. Her son, Braden Riess, said she’s a “good lady,” but lately had her “own demons.”

“Something happened in her brain that made her snap,” he told “Inside Edition” in May.