Prosecutors handling the Lois Riess murder cases have agreed to have her serve the first of her life sentences in a Minnesota prison, making it highly unlikely she will do any time in Florida.
Riess shot and killed her husband, David, in 2018 in the couple's home in Blooming Prairie, Minn. She then fled to Florida where she befriended a woman with a similar appearance, killed her and stole her identity.
Riess pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in her husband's death in August in Dodge County District Court, which cleared the way for her to serve her life sentences with no opportunity for parole at the women's prison in Shakopee.
Prosecutors in Florida had sought the death penalty but withdrew that possibility and accepted a plea for a life sentence in 2019. They also agreed to let Riess serve sentences concurrently in her home state.
Two principles led to that decision, said John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Attorney General Keith Ellison. Riess committed the first murder in Minnesota and only committed the murder in Florida to avoid arrest and prosecution for her husband's death. And it served as an expedient resolution of the case for the Riess family.
"We are grateful to our criminal justice partners from across the nation who brought a series of terrible crimes to an end, and brought a killer to justice," Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose posted on Facebook after Riess' sentencing in Minnesota.
The two killings grabbed national and international headlines and earned Riess nicknames such as "Losing Streak Lois," due to her penchant for gambling, and "Granny Killer."
While on the run, Riess drove from Minnesota to Fort Myers Beach in Florida, where she struck up a friendship with 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson at a seaside eatery because they looked alike. After dining together on April 4, 2018, Riess went back to Hutchinson's condo and shot her. Hutchinson was found dead in her room four days later.
Riess drove off in Hutchinson's car and used the deceased woman's credit card to pay for a hotel room and her ID to withdraw $5,000 from Wells Fargo. Riess also withdrew another $500 from Hutchinson's account at another bank.
Florida Chief Assistant State Attorney Richard Montecalvo said an extensive network of freeway cameras helped authorities track Riess as she drove north out of Florida, then west, stopping at casinos in Louisiana before heading to Texas. U.S. marshals arrested Riess a month after the murders as she ate dinner in a restaurant in South Padre Island, Texas.
The traffic camera video and images from hotels and casinos were key in building the case against Riess, Montecalvo said. His office compiled more than 1,200 photos, many of them graphic, and more than 2,000 pages of documents.
Montecalvo called the case "bizarre, like something pulled out of a Hollywood movie." He said the images and documents helped build a strong case to take to trial and that information shared with Dodge County authorities helped bring about a "perfect resolution" to the case, meaning Riess will never be free.
During her Minnesota sentencing, Riess said she deserved the punishment she received. "What I did was an unpardonable crime," she said.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768