Lois Riess flashed a cherubic smile as she checked into a hotel in Ocala, Fla., hardly looking like a gambling grandmother believed to have killed her husband in Blooming Prairie, Minn., and a woman she had met just the day before in Fort Myers Beach.
“She’s confident, doesn’t look over her shoulder, like she’s not hiding anything,” said John Kinsey, deputy U.S. marshal in Florida. “She was very nonchalant.”
Kinsey was describing a new set of surveillance videos released Wednesday by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office which showed Riess arriving at a Hilton Hotel about 8 p.m. April 6. She’s wearing a blue top similar to what she was seen wearing on April 5, the night she was chatting up 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson at the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery in Fort Myers Beach. It’s also the same outfit Riess was seen wearing outside the Marina Village condo after she allegedly killed Hutchinson and stole her white Acura along with her cash, credit cards and identity.
Authorities have not said if Riess used Hutchinson’s credit cards to pay for the room at the Hilton, but the video does give them a better sense of when Hutchinson’s death occurred and when Riess left Fort Myers Beach. Hutchinson’s body was discovered inside her rented condo April 9 after relatives became concerned they could not reach her.
Between April 7 and April 8, surveillance images captured Riess in casinos in Louisiana, Kinsey said.
Authorities have dubbed her “Losing Streak Lois” due to her penchant for gambling.
“She went from casino to casino to make money, or because she is addicted to it,” Kinsey said. “She is consumed by it.”
Riess was last seen April 8 in Refugio, Texas, about 40 miles north of Corpus Christi, Kinsey said. She had not been seen in Corpus Christi, which is about an hour north of the Mexican border, said Lt. John Chris Hooper of the Corpus Christi Police Department. She was last spotted driving south in a white Acura on Hwy. 77 in Texas.
Billboards in four states
New billboards featuring the face of the southern Minnesota fugitive were going up in four states this week as the U.S. marshal’s office intensified its search for Riess, who has been on the run for more than three weeks.
Billboards are going up in Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona in hopes of generating tips that could lead authorities to a “coldblooded killer” who has been wanted since March 23 when authorities found her husband shot dead.
The billboard campaign joins the marshal’s office’s offer of a $5,000 reward for information leading to the woman with five grandchildren who is now the focus of a nationwide search. CrimeStoppers of Florida is offering a $1,000 reward.
“Unfortunately, there have been no further sightings,” since, Kinsey said. “She blends in real well. She is an average 56-year-old white female walking around and that is part of the problem.”
Border officials put on alert
Kinsey said border patrols have been put on alert and Mexican authorities have been notified to be on the watch for anybody trying to use Hutchinson’s ID.
Authorities believe that Riess shot her husband, David, in their Blooming Prairie home in late March, then took off in the family vehicle and drove 2,000 miles to south Florida. Once there, she likely targeted Hutchinson because the two women have a striking resemblance. It is believed Riess used the same firearm used to kill her husband and Hutchinson, authorities have said.
Riess has been charged with murder, with grand theft of a motor vehicle, and grand theft and criminal use of personal identification in Florida. Murder charges out of Dodge County are pending.
In 2016, Riess was replaced as guardian of her disabled sister and ordered to repay $100,534 that she took from her sister and spent at casinos, court records show.
Riess is believed to be armed and dangerous.
“A grandma lost it, killed her husband and possibly befriended a woman to kill her and steal her identity,” Kinsey said. “We deal with murders all the time, but this one is odd, more so than our usual cases.”