Lois Riess, the Minnesota grandmother with a gambling addiction, was captured Thursday night in South Texas, far from where she allegedly killed her husband in Minnesota and a woman who looked like her in Florida, according to local and national authorities.
Riess was arrested without incident in a restaurant in the resort area of South Padre Island, just north of Mexico, at 8:25 p.m. Thursday by two deputy marshals, said John Kinsey, deputy U.S. marshal in Florida. She was spotted by citizens, who alerted authorities.
The grandmother of five is suspected of killing her husband in Blooming Prairie, Minn., in late March and Pamela Hutchinson in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., earlier this month.
Authorities said Riess is in the San Pedro Island jail, and that they are working with Florida and Minnesota investigators to determine where she will be sent next. The white Acura she is suspected of stealing from Hutchinson was nearby and is being combed for evidence, they said.
“I promised all along that Lois Riess would end up in a pair of handcuffs,” said Carmine Marceno, undersheriff in Lee County, Fla. “Tonight, she sits in a jail cell in Texas,” she said in a statement. “We are working as expeditiously as possible to bring her back to Lee County to face murder charges.”
Riess had last been spotted north of Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 8 — just three hours north of where she was arrested.
The U.S. Border Patrol had been put on alert and Mexican authorities were notified to be on the watch for anybody trying to use Hutchinson’s ID, said Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Schall.
Riess, who likes to visit casinos, began her cross-country flight after she allegedly killed her husband, David, in their Blooming Prairie home in late March. She then drove the family’s Escalade to Florida. The vehicle was found abandoned at Bowditch Point Park in Fort Myers Beach, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sometime after dining at a Fort Myers Beach brewery on April 5 with Hutchinson, Riess shot Hutchinson and made off with her cash, credit card, white Acura and identity, authorities say. Marceno said Riess likely targeted Hutchinson because the two women bore a striking resemblance.
On April 6, Riess used Hutchinson’s credit card to pay for a hotel room in Ocala, Fla., authorities said. She also used Hutchinson’s ID to make a $5,000 withdrawal from a Wells Fargo Bank, and she withdrew another $500 from Hutchinson’s account while she was in Ocala. Riess also tried to make a $200 purchase at a gas station in Louisiana, authorities said.
Lee County authorities called Riess a “coldblooded killer,” and this week U.S. marshals elevated the search for her to “major case” status. That put her among offenders considered to be some of the country’s most dangerous individuals.
Riess has been charged with murder, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and grand theft and criminal use of personal identification in Florida. She also faces second-degree murder charges in Dodge County, Minn., where she transferred nearly $10,000 from her husband’s business account into his personal account and then forged his signature on three checks to herself for $11,000, according to theft charges recently filed in Minnesota.
Some in her southern Minnesota prairie town of 2,000 people speculated that Riess snapped because of gambling debts.
Staff writers Paul Walsh, John Reinan and Tim Harlow contributed to this report.