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Florida to seek death penalty against ‘grandma’ accused of killing woman to steal her identity

Posted at 3:06 PM, Jul 04, 2018

Florida prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a grandmother accused of killing a woman, then impersonating her, court documents show, as she gambled her way across several states this spring after allegedly killing her husband.

Lois Ann Riess, 56, of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, according to a notice of intent to seek the death penalty filed Monday by the Lee County state attorney's office.

Prosecutors list several factors as grounds for the death penalty, including that the capital offense of first-degree murder with a firearm was carried out to avoid a "lawful arrest" and was "committed for pecuniary gain."

"The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification," according to the notice of intent.

Authorities began searching for Riess in her home state, where she is suspected of killing her husband in March in Dodge County before hitting the road.

In Florida, Riess is believed to have killed Pamela Hutchinson, 59, sometime between April 5 and April 9 in a condo in Fort Myers Beach, according to Deputy US Marshal John Kinsey and US Marshals Service news release.

"She bears a striking resemblance to the deceased, and has stolen the victim's driver license, credit cards and 2005 white Acura TL," the Marshals Service said at the time.

Riess was arrested in South Padre Island, Texas, in April -- four days after Hutchinson's car was seen about 50 miles from Corpus Christi.

She is being held without bond in Lee County, Florida.

Riess also was indicted by a Florida grand jury for grand theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification information of a deceased individual of $5,000 or more, CNN affiliate WINK reported, citing the state attorney's office.

Investigators said Riess withdrew around $5,000 from Hutchinson's bank account while in Florida, the affiliate said.

'Losing Streak Lois'

Several bank transactions and Riess' interest in gambling, which earned her the nickname "Losing Streak Lois," gave investigators clues as they hunted her across the country.

Before heading to Florida, Riess is believed to have cashed more than $10,000 in forged checks from her husband and her business. She also traveled to Northwood, Iowa, where she spent most of the day gambling at Diamond Jo Casino, the Dodge County, Minnesota, Sheriff's Office said.

Surveillance video shows Riess at a gas station next to the casino on March 23. She was buying a sandwich and asked for driving directions out of state.

Days after Hutchinson's death, Riess stopped at Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana, WINK reported. She played using her name and won $1,500.