ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook spoke with members of the media Thursday morning, hours after the department put out a press release Wednesday night saying the department has "narrowed the focus" on Charles Severance in the murder investigations - but clearly stopping short of calling Severance a suspect.
Cook said they made the announcement to let the public know where they stand in the case, but he clarified that a suspect in this case, or any case for that matter, would typically be someone they plan to arrest or charge, and that is not the situation right now with Severance, who remains in jail in Loudoun County on weapons charges.
The chief would also not talk about any specific evidence that could connect Severance to the murders of Nancy Dunning, Ron Kirby and Ruthanne Lodato, only saying that circumstantial evidence has led them to narrow their focus on the investigations to him.
"Right now we're not prepared to name anyone, including Mr. Severance, as the person who committed these crimes, but we are looking more closely at him," Chief Cook said. "I cannot say what it's based on because, ultimately, we have to present a case to the Commonwealth's Attorney for prosecution in this case, so we don't talk about the evidence leading up to that."
Chief Cook also reiterated they have not recovered the guns believed to have been used in the three murders.
Meanwhile, Wednesday in Loudoun County, a judge found probable cause to send weapons charges against Severance to the grand jury next month.
When asked about the connection between the developments in Loudoun and the developments here, he called it "a little coincidental," saying the investigations are proceeding independent of one another.
Upon hearing the Alexandria Police Department's announcement, Janet Powers summed up the mood of Alexandria residents:
"Oh, definitely a sense of relief," she says.
Prominent realtor Nancy Dunning was gunned down in 2003, transportation official Ron Kirby was shot and killed last November, and beloved piano teacher Ruthanne Lodato was also shot and killed a few months later in February.
According to police, all were killed near their front doors.
"It just gives me chills to think about it," says Powers, who lives near Lodato's home and tells us the community has been in lockdown mode ever since her neighbor's death. "A meter reader came to the door the other day and I was upstairsI looked out the window to see who was knocking and I was like, 'I'm not going to the door.'"
The development that police have narrowed their investigation down to a man who is already behind bars has Carla Weber feeling much better about her move last year to Alexandria, regardless of the fact his guilt is but a question at this point.
"Thank goodness he's caught before he does any more damage to anybody else. I can sleep better at night," she said.
The Alexandria Police Department asks that anyone with information related to these homicides or Charles Severance call the Police Department's tip line at 703.746.6864.