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Virginia Man Convicted Of Revenge Serial Killings On City's "Elite"

Charles Severance, 55, faces three life sentences for targeting people he saw as the "elite" of Alexandria, Virginia, over the course of more than a decade.

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A 55-year-old Virginia man was convicted of killing three people and injuring another as part of a decade-long grudge against the city of Alexandria and the people he saw as its "elite."

A jury recommended on Monday that Charles Severance serve three life sentences for the murders of Nancy Dunning in 2003, Ron Kirby in 2013, and Ruthanne Lodato in 2014, the Associated Press reported. Severance was also convicted of wounding Lodato's caretaker, Dorcas Franko, who went on to identify him as the gunman in court. Severance was also found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors said Severance, a former resident of Alexandria, sought revenge against community leaders after he lost a child custody case.

Nancy Dunning was the wife of Alexandria Sheriff James Dunning, Kirby was a transportation planner, and Lodato was a music teacher.

Prosecutor on Severance: "He showed no mercy. He showed no remorse. He has robbed 3 families...of 3 precious & loving lives"

In their case, prosecutors described Severance as a monster and pointed to his erratic behavior and writings that mentioned murder and revenge killing. After being questioned by detectives in 2014, he attempted to seek asylum through the Russian embassy.

Defense attorneys said Severance's actions could be explained by his mental health history, which included paranoia and schizotypal symptoms.

Liebig: Severance did not get enough help or treatment when he was young. This is not pure evil. That's too much of a simplification.

For years, the crimes instilled fear among Alexandria residents, and in the interest of giving Severance a fair trial, his case was moved outside of the county. Dunning's death was a high-profile unsolved case for more than a decade. Over the years, suspicion was cast on her family members, including her husband, Alexandria's sheriff.

James Dunning withdrew from public life after his wife's death and died in 2012, before Severance was identified as her killer.

On Monday, family members of the victims told reporters that they felt comforted that he would not harm anyone else.

Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at

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