A Loudoun County judge ruled Wednesday there is enough evidence to send a gun charge against a man being investigated in connection with three homicides in Alexandria to a grand jury.
The ruling by Judge Deborah Welsh means 53-year-old Charles Severance will remain in custody while prosecutors pursue a formal indictment.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the Ashburn woman Severance lived with testified she doesn't think Severance has anything to do with the murders of Nancy Dunning, Ruthanne Lodato and Ron Kirby.
Also Wednesday, Alexandria Police confirmed for the first time they've narrowed the scope of their investigation of the three murders to Severance.
"There are some things that are unique to Mr. Severance that we know now that we didn't know then," Police Chief Earl Cook said. "[S]o we decided to let our public know that we are focusing a little more on him at this stage of the investigation."
Cook stopped short of calling Severance a suspect.
"We just have to take things day by day, any time like this, I think there's some measure of comfort to the Alexandria community and especially the other families of the other victims," Lodato family friend John Kelly told News4.
Severance, 53, moved into Linda Robra’s townhome about three years ago after the couple started dating. Robra told prosecutors she owned two .38-caliber weapons at the time and purchased two .22s at Severance's urging.
"Charlie showed me a picture of the gun online and said it would be a good fit for me because it's small and I have small hands," Robra said.
Severance moved out March 10, shortly after he learned an Alexandria police detective wanted to talk to him, Robra said. When the house was searched two days later, the .22s were missing.
During a blistering cross examination, defense attorney Ed Ungvarsky focused as much on trying to discredit the Alexandria murder case as the gun charge. Robra admitted she couldn’t remember when she last saw the weapons, and she made it clear they belonged to her, not Severance. He's being charged in the case because he's not allowed to have guns after a felony conviction in 2005.
His lawyers say the charge is a sham to hold Severance while Alexandria police continue to investigate the unsolved shootings there, which are not connected to the weapons charge in Loudoun. Alexandria police have tried to question Severance but have declined to identify him as a suspect.
Robra said the only time she saw Severance in possession of a gun was when he showed her how to load it, and she testified she believes Severance is a non-violent person.
She also admitted that she kicked him out March 10 because she didn’t want the townhome searched. When asked if that was because she didn’t want police to find her marijuana, she remained silent.
An FBI agent testified that while no guns were found, in a search of Severance’s car they found a gun-cleaning kit.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first time Severance has been in a courtroom since his late April extradition hearing in West Virginia, where he was taken into custody. Then as now, his parents sat just behind him.
The grand jury meets July 14.