Severance Victims' Families Share Their Grief, Thank Jury for Guilty Verdict in Murders

Widower of victim: "My house was filled with love and laughter. Now it's hard sometimes to recall those times"

The family of one victim of Charles Severance sobbed in the courtroom Monday as he was found guilty of 10 charges in a series of killings that terrified residents of Alexandria.

All three victims were shot in their own homes in broad daylight -- and, years later, their relatives say the verdict allows them a chance to fully grieve.

"Now that the defendant has been found guilty we can finally start to mourn," said Marilyn Kirby, Ron Kirby's daughter, outside of court. Severance had just been sentenced to three life terms plus another 48 years and $400,000 in fines.

"It's been 11 years, 10 months and 28 days since our mom was brutally murdered by Charles Severance. We had long ago lost hope that justice would ever come," said Liz Dunning, the daughter of Nancy Dunning, after court.

Nancy's husband, James Dunning, had been the Alexandria sheriff and once was investigated as a possible suspect in the investigation. He died of a heart attack in July 2012.

"Our relief today is mixed with anguish that our dad is not here standing beside us, finally feeling the weight of cruel and unfair suspicion being lifted from his shoulders, that had already carried a too-heavy load," Liz Dunning said.

"This chapter's close is not closure; we will greive the loss of our amazing, funny, kind, mom for the rest of our lives every day," she said. "But it is important, and tremendous relief, this act of justice."

In court, the families testified to the depth of their loss.

"My house was filled with love and laughter," said Norm Lodato, the widower of victim Ruthanne Lodato. "Now it's hard sometimes to recall those times."

Prosecutors say Severance, 55, developed a hatred of "the elite" after losing custody of his son in Alexandria; all three victims were prominent residents there. 

Anne Haynes, the widow of victim Ron Kirby, began to sob as she ended her testimony, recalling how her husband had given her driving directions shortly before he was killed.

"The last thing he said to me is, 'Call me when you get lost,'" she said. "And I'm truly lost without him."

Kirby, 69, a transportation planner with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, was found dead in the couple's home Nov. 11, 2013.

"There will never be another Ron Franklin Kirby," Haynes said. "He was everything to me."

Marilyn Kirby, Ron Kirby's daughter, stopped midway through her testimony, breaking down into tears on the stand discussing the loss of her father.

She asked the jury for the maximum punishment for Severance, telling them that her father will never walk her down the aisle at her wedding, or meet his grandchildren, she said.

"That's the only thing my dad asked of me: to have his grandbabies before he dies," she said.

Kirby's ex-wife, Molly Kirby, refused to mention Severance by name in court, instead using only his initials.

"When CS thinks of his son, I hope he sees our son and daughter" and all the other victims' children, she said.

She thanked the jurors both at the beginning and the end of her statement, wrapping up her time on the stand by telling them, "Thank you for your time away from your families to give some peace to ours."

Lodato's brother, Greg Giammittorio, told jurors about his sister, a music teacher, who was fatally shot Feb. 6, 2014 after answering a knock at her door.

"She went out of her way to help me be happy," he said. "And she continued to do that for me and many others the rest of her life."

He said that Lodato, 59, had taken wonderful care of their late mother, who was never the same after Lodato was murdered.

"It was unimaginable that someone would come to my sister's house and shoot her," he said.

Lodato's daughter, Lucia Lodato, said she is still acutely feeling the loss of her mother.

"She was far from finished being my mom," she tearfully told jurors, adding that she'd relied on her mother.

"She was still the person I called... She was my sounding-board for big decisions," Lucia Lodato said. Jurors were seen wiping their eyes as she spoke.

Norm Lodato described his wife as "kind, caring, pragmatic, loving, calm and loyal. She had grit, determination, and loved to have fun."

"She loved children, music and the hearts," he said. "She was the best mother and partner. She had a strong faith and she lived that faith."

He added, "She was never idle; she was in constant motion... She loved me and for that I'm truly grateful."

Patty Moran, the sister of victim Nancy Dunning, told jurors that nearly a dozen years after the death of her sister, she still thinks of her every day.

"She was my very best friend; she was my rock," Moran said.

Dunning's daughter, Liz, thanked jurors for the guilty verdicts, especially after so many years had elapsed since Nancy Dunning was found dead in her home in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood.

The Dec. 5, 2003 murder was a long-running mystery in Alexandria, until authorities said they'd linked the crime to the two more recent murders of Kirby and Lodato. Dunning's husband, former Alexandria Sheriff Jim Dunning, died in the intervening years.

"My family has long ago stopped believing that this day [would] come and it has... so thank you," Liz Dunning said.

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