BLOOMING PRAIRIE, MINN. — Suspected of murdering her husband, on the run from police in Minnesota, Lois Riess stopped to look up old friends in Florida.
They believe she came to kill them.
"I'm happy to be alive and I feel lucky," said Tess Koster, who told her story Friday in Blooming Prairie, where she and her husband returned Thursday night from Florida just in time to find out Riess had been captured in Texas.
"My buddy sent me a text that they caught her," said Rod Koster. "We yelled and screamed. We were scared."
The Kosters believe they're the reason Riess fled to Fort Myers Beach, Fla., where Riess allegedly killed one of the Kosters' neighbors, 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson.
The Kosters had known Riess and her husband, David, for more than 10 years. Rod Koster had fished with David Riess, and the Riesses had stayed at the Kosters' cabin.
"We even invited them to come stay with us in Florida a couple of years ago, but they didn't come," Tess Koster said.
That connection apparently became a part of Riess' long run from the law.
Using a cheap cellphone she bought under the alias "Stormy Liberty," Riess found the Kosters' address in the development where they live and own several rental condos.
On April 2 — more than a week after police believe Riess killed her husband and fled Minnesota — Tess Koster looked up from cleaning out the garage and saw a woman with silver hair get out of a Cadillac Escalade and walk toward her.
The woman had a notepad in her hand and was looking at house numbers.
"Can I help you?" Tess Koster called out. Then, she said, "Our eyes met, and my heart skipped a beat. It was Lois Riess!"
Riess immediately turned and walked away, muttering "Wrong number, wrong number," Koster said. Riess got in her vehicle and drove away.
Koster and her husband believe Riess came to rob them — and possibly kill them. Tess Koster is 58 and bears a resemblance to the 56-year-old Riess — who, a week later, allegedly killed a neighbor of the Kosters, stole her identity and fled to Texas, where she was captured Thursday night.
The Kosters knew Riess was a fugitive and immediately called police, who confirmed that the caller ID "Stormy Liberty" belonged to Riess. Amazingly, even as police and U.S. marshals searched for her, Riess hung around the Kosters' neighborhood for a full week, walking the streets and eating at local restaurants.
It was April 9 — seven days after Tess Koster spotted her — when Hutchinson's body was found. Her timeshare condo was less than a block from the Koster residence.
During that week, Tess Koster said, she was petrified, thinking Riess might return to her home. The Kosters found out later that on the day Riess appeared at their residence, she had gone to one of the couple's rental condos, knocked on the door and told the renters she was supposed to be staying there.
Not knowing who she was, the renters told Riess she was mistaken, and she left.
The Kosters lived in fear for more than two weeks, thinking that Riess might somehow come back to do them harm.
"Tess was a wreck until last night," Rod Koster said.
"I'm so glad she was caught," Tess Koster said, adding, "How can a gambling problem turn into murder?"