Charles Severance to Appeal Extradition to Loudoun Co.

An Ohio County, W.Va., judge ordered Charles Severance to be extradited to Virginia to face a gun charge, but Severance -- a person of interest in three murders in Alexandria -- will remain in jail in West Virginia while he appeals.

Severance, 53, has been held in West Virginia on an unrelated gun charge from a warrant issued in Loudoun County, where he most recently lived.

The judge ruled that there is a valid arrest warrant in the gun charge, saying that was the only factor in his decision. Any other reason anyone would want to investigate Severance was not a factor in his decision, he said.

Severance has been in custody since March 13, when he was arrested at the county library in Wheeling. Police from several northern Virginia agencies and the FBI had been tracking him.

While the Loudoun County gun charge -- being a felon in possession of a firearm -- is what's been holding him, West Virginia authorities told the judge last month that Severance is a person of interest in Alexandria in three unsolved murders: Those of popular Realtor Nancy Dunning a decade ago; regional transportation planner Ron Kirby in November, and music teacher Ruthanne Lodato in February.

Although the judge had initially ordered Severance to be extradited to Virginia as soon as possible following Wednesday's hearing, Severance could be in West Virginia for another four months or more.

The judge stayed the extradition order for one week, but the defense has 30 days to file a notice of intent to appeal.

Shayne Welling, Severance's defense attorney, will also have to seek an extension of the stay from the West Virginia Supreme Court if he wants to keep Severance in the state while he appeals.

The West Virginia Supreme Court will then decide whether to accept the case and whether to hear oral arguments or just use the court filing. If the court accepts the appeal, the defense will have three months to perfect the appeal.

Last week, attorneys on both sides filed court documents detailing their arguments in advance of Wednesday's extradiction hearing.

Welling wrote that the Loudoun gun charge was a sham and was just being used to detain Severance while Alexandria police continue their homicide investigation.

But in his court response, Ohio County prosecutor Scott Smith called the Loudoun gun charge legitimate. Smith wrote that the Loudoun County warrant charging Severance as a felon in possession of a firearm was correctly handled.

In court Wednesday morning, Welling argued, "This really isn't about a Loudoun County gun charge. It never has been."

But the prosecutor argued that Alexandria didn't need Severance jailed just to continue its murder investigation and that parallel investigations could be conducted into both the gun charge and the killings.

Welling also said Severance had not attempted to flee Virginia because the warrant was issued after Severance had already left Loudoun County. When the judge asked whether Severance's intent for leaving Virginia should matter, Welling said yes, because his client had not attempted to flee with the intent of avoiding the charge.

The prosecutor said all that's required to be a fugitive is committing a crime and then leaving the jurisdiction, and the judge agreed.

Court documents filed last week reveal that Severance's girlfriend admitted buying him two guns, which disappeared from their Ashburn, Va., townhouse when he packed up and left just days before his arrest.

Welling also told the judge that he believed the extradition warrant from Virginia was based on faulty paperwork, because there are multiple copies of the arrest warrant with different handwritten numbers.

A Loudoun detective countered there is only one warrant for Severance's arrest, and the handwritten numbers are internal tracking devices.

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