Lois Riess indicted by grand jury on first-degree murder charge
Lois Riess was indicted Wednesday afternoon for first-degree murder with a firearm, the State Attorney’s Office said in a press conference.
The 56-year-old woman is accused of killing her husband in Minnesota, then killing a woman in April on Fort Myers Beach.
Detectives said Riess murdered Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton, because they looked alike, then stole her white Acura, credit cards and her identity.
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The State Attorney’s Office convened the Lee County Grand Jury to also indict Riess on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification information of a deceased individual.
The indictment presented Wednesday for first-degree murder with a firearm supersedes the second-degree murder charge filed earlier by the State Attorney’s Office.
Sheila Luttrull, a visitor to Southwest Florida, said she was shocked to find Riess was facing second-degree murder charges.
“Sitting there, befriended her and stole her ID, I mean how much more premeditated can you get?” Luttrull said.
Former prosecutor Mike Chinopolous said the state attorney’s office may have filed the original second-degree murder charge if there was a lack of evidence for pre-meditation.
“Sometimes even what we know, we can’t prove in a court, because the standard in court for a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s a really high standard,” Chinopolous said.
After taking this case to a grand jury, Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox believes the charge is warranted.
“Our office convened a grand jury to hear this case because we believe the facts and the evidence found by LCSO are sufficient to charge first-degree murder,” Fox said.
Riess could face life in prison, but a first-degree murder charge could also carry the death penalty.
“Anytime anybody is charged with murder, it has the ultimate punishment — somebody’s life meaning if you lose you’ll spend the rest of your life in a cage,” said Fort Myers defense attorney Joe Viacava.
Riess is scheduled to be arraigned on these charges on June 11.