Severance Trial: Husband of Victim Recalls Day of Murder

Norm Lodato recounted the moment he learned something horrible had happened to his wife of 36 years.

"I got a call from my neighbor and he said, 'There's been an incident at your house and you need to go home right away,'" Norm Lodato said, testifying in court Friday. 

Ruthanne Lodato, a beloved music teacher in Alexandria, had been shot and killed as she opened her front door Feb. 6, 2014. Charles Severance, a former Alexandria resident with a history of erratic behavior, has been charged with her murder and that of two other well-known Alexandria residents over 10 years.

Testimony in the case kicked into high gear Friday, with prosecutors introducing security camera video that they said showed Severance driving near the Lodato home minutes after the murder in a 1999 Ford Escort wagon.

Severance was driving a 1999 Ford Escort wagon when he was arrested in West Virginia six months later. 

Prosecutors even had the bumper of Severance's car brought into the courtrom. On it, spotlighted for jurors, was a sticker reading "Assassination City Derby," with a gun at its center.

However, other physical evidence introduced in court Friday failed to tie Severance to the crime. The front door and entryway was swabbed for DNA and dusted for fingerprints; a Virginia state crime
lab expert testified that none of the DNA samples collected matched Severance.

The lead detective on the case reported none of the 14 fingerprints taken matched Severance's.

Jurors also saw photos and diagrams made in the Lodato home just after the shooting. Two intact bullets were found, one in the kitchen, one in the living room.

Severance also is charged with murdering Nancy Dunning, wife of then-Sheriff James Dunning, in 2003, and transportation planner Ron Kirby in 2013. All three murder victims were shot in their homes, in broad daylight, in a wealthy residential neighborhood.

All the victims were prominent in the community; in addition to her role as a music teacher, Ruthanne Lodato's father and brother were once Alexandria judges.

Prosecutors have claimed Severance's hatred of the judicial system and of what he perceived as the city's ruling class drove him to kill. Severance had lost a child custody case in Alexandria.

Defense lawyers have said their client "certainly is very anti-law enforcement," but said Severance never mentioned any of the victims in his writings.

Early in the day Friday, Severance asked that the monitor at his table be turned off; it's where victim's photos and other evidence is displayed.

The trial could take up to six weeks. Jurors have Monday off for the Columbus Day holiday.

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