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Law enforcement: Search for Riess continues in Texas

April 14, 2018 GMT

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Florida law enforcement officials have launched a nationwide search for Lois Riess, who they believe fled to Texas, after naming her as a person of interest in a second homicide this week.

Three weeks after her husband was found murdered in Blooming Prairie, Riess is still on the run. Now, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida says they believe she is connected to a second homicide at Fort Myers Beach condo on April 9. There, law enforcement found 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson fatally shot. The medical examiner determined her death was a homicide.

Authorities believe Riess may have assumed her identity, and likely targeted Hutchinson due to the similarities in their appearances.

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“Her mode of operation is to befriend women who resemble her, and steal their identity,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Friday during a joint news conference with the Florida State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals in Florida.

Hutchinson’s purse was found in “disarray,” with all cash, credit cards and identification removed, Marceno said. Her car keys and vehicle, a 2005 Acura TL with Florida license plate Y37TAA, were also missing, Marceno said.

Authorities said Riess may be driving that vehicle. The 2005 white Cadillac Escalade she was believed to have been driving was found abandoned in the Fort Myers area.

Law enforcement believe that Riess has fled Florida and have spotted the stolen Acura in the Corpus Christi, Texas-area — though her current location is unknown.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warrant for Riess’ arrest. She is wanted for murder, grand theft of a motor vehicle and grand theft and criminal use of personal identification, according to Marceno.

“U.S. Marshals are actively involved in a national search for this dangerous fugitive,” Marceno said. “Riess is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached if located.”

Riess is described as 5-foot-5, blonde and 165 pounds. Investigators believe she may be armed and urged the public to call 911 with information on her whereabouts, but not to approach her.

Remembering David

Lois’ husband, David Riess, 54, was discovered dead on multiple gunshot wounds on the couple’s rural Blooming Prairie property on March 23. Authorities have ruled the death a homicide.

Riess was initially named a person of interest in her husband’s death after investigators say she illegally transferred $11,000 from David Riess’ business and personal bank accounts, according to the criminal complaint. She was charged with one count felony theft on March 27.

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The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office announced on Thursday that they are referring second-degree murder charges with the Dodge County Attorney’s Office. She had not been formally charged in Dodge County District Court by Friday afternoon. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are leading the investigation locally. U.S. Marshals in Florida joined the search after Minnesota officials contacted them at the beginning of this week.

David had a passion for the outdoors. It was that passion that led him to open Prairie Wax Worm Farm.

In 2002, Riess filed a patent for live bait with Gary Snyder, of Dodge Center, who said he was “very surprised” about the news of David’s death. They bumped into each other in Byron about 10 months ago, he said.

“Dave was a really good guy, he was a fun guy to work with. I guess I’m just blown away by the whole thing to be honest,” Snyder said. “I think the truth of it is, anybody who did know her is absolutely shocked,” said Nikki Dennis Ryks, who owns Nikki’s Scrapbook Nook, a minute down the road from the Riess’ rural Blooming Prairie property. Though she said she didn’t know the Riess’ well, “clearly no one would have ever seen this coming,” she said.

She believed the Riess’ moved to Blooming Prairie from Rochester in 2005. Dennis Ryks said she didn’t know the Riess family well, but ran into David a few times at a local bar, and he “was always laughing.”

Legal troubles

Lois was a longtime day-care provider in the Rochester area While she took care of many children in that role, legal documentation points to a concerning history with her own sister, for whom she acted as a guardian and conservator, the Owatonna People’s Press reported on April 3.

An attorney representing Kimberly Sanchez, Lois Riess’ oldest sister, told the newspaper that Riess has yet to pay back money Riess took from Sanchez when Riess acted as guardian and conservator for her sister, a vulnerable adult. On Dec. 19, 2016, the court ordered Lois Riess to pay pack Sanchez $100,533.93.

Of that, Riess has paid back “zero, despite collection efforts,” said J. Scott Braden of Braden & Messick in Faribault, in an interview with the paper.

Braden and other attorneys went to court in 2015, seeking to have Riess removed as her sister’s guardian after investigations revealed Riess had been taking tens of thousands of her sister’s money, some of which she was spending at nearby casinos, the Owatonna People’s Press reported.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s said their investigation and search for Riess at the end of March initially led them to Diamond Joe’s Casino, just across the Minnesota border, in Iowa. She had already left the casino by the time they arrived.