Lois Riess, the former Minnesota fugitive wanted in two killings, went to great lengths to conceal the murder of a woman in a Florida condo, stuffing a towel under the bathroom door to block the smell of decomposition and calling the front desk to extend her victim’s stay, according to court documents.
Riess, 56, remained in the Lee County jail in Fort Myers, Fla., after a judge on Sunday ordered her held without bond ahead of a pretrial detention hearing scheduled for Thursday. Riess is being held on a second-degree murder charge and three other felony counts in connection with the death of Pamela Hutchinson. Authorities say Riess targeted Hutchinson because the women looked alike.
Hutchinson, 59, was found dead April 9. By then, she had likely been dead for days, according to investigators who used surveillance videos to piece together a timeline of events and track Riess’ movements.
According to an arrest warrant request affidavit filed in Lee County, Hutchinson checked into the Marina Village at Snug Harbor, a waterfront resort condominium in Fort Myers Beach, on April 3. She had come to be with a friend who was spreading her husband’s ashes on Sanibel Island. The next evening, Hutchinson was spotted walking to her room with a woman later identified as Riess. The two women were spotted together again April 5, walking back to Hutchinson’s room after dining at the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery. That was the last time Hutchinson was seen alive.
About 8:35 p.m. April 5, cameras at the condo caught Riess on a fourth-floor landing, “distraught, upset and possibly crying.” The next morning, April 6, a condo employee said she got a call from a woman she believed to be Hutchinson, asking to extend her stay by three days.
Over the course of that morning, Riess was seen leaving the room several times carrying luggage, loaded garbage bags and tote bags. She also made a stop at Wells Fargo and withdrew $5,000 from Hutchinson’s account. She ditched her Cadillac Escalade in a park a mile from the condo.
Riess left the condo around 12:30 p.m. April 6 in a white Acura believed to belong to Hutchinson. That night the same vehicle was spotted at a hotel in Ocala, Fla., where Riess used Hutchinson’s credit card to pay for a room, order room service and a movie. Between April 7 and 8 she was spotted in Louisiana and Texas.
There were no key swipes to unlock unit 404 at the condo between the afternoon of April 6 and 7:38 p.m. April 9, when the general manager went in after getting reports that the water was not working. Investigators found Hutchinson shot to death in the master bathroom; a pillow with a bullet hole in it lay underneath her. A towel had been placed over her body and another towel outside the bathroom door was stuffed in the crack below it.
Authorities determined Hutchinson was shot twice with a .22-caliber handgun, the same type of gun Riess is suspected of using to shoot her husband in the couple’s Blooming Prairie, Minn., home. David Riess, 54, was found dead on March 23. Murder charges in Dodge County, Minn., are pending.
Riess was arrested April 19 in South Padre Island, Texas, after a nationwide hunt that lasted four weeks. She will be returned to Minnesota to face charges after the proceedings in Florida, where she is charged with one count of second-degree murder, plus one count each of grand theft, grand theft of an automobile and criminal use of personal identification. She was assigned a public defender.