Lois Riess at Lee County Jail
The state has filed their notice that they intend to seek the death penalty against Lois Reiss, who allegedly befriended then killed a fellow tourist on Fort Myers Beach. Reiss was wanted in relation to the death of her husband in Minnesota (though at the time, only theft charges had been filed), and it is alleged that she targeted a woman who resembled her so she could steal her identity as she evaded authorities. She is alleged to have killed that woman, stolen her car, and was eventually captured in Texas.
It is not surprising that the State is seeking the death penalty, as they had obtained an indictment for first degree murder a few weeks ago. That is a precursor for seeking the death penalty. Further, the allegations include some aggravating factors, for instance, alleging that the murder was for pecuniary gain and was done to aid the flight from another crime. CNN picked up the latest story, as ‘Losing Streak Lois’ as garnered some national attention, both for the dramatic crime, and the nickname she was given by U.S. Marshall’s for her gambling habit.
Posted in Criminal Law, Death Penalty, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Gray Menace, Texas
Tagged death penalty, fort myers beach, lois riess, minnesota, murder, texas
The State Attorney’s office held a press conference today to announce that a grand jury had returned an indictment for first degree murder charges against Lois Riess, the granny who allegedly killed a woman on Fort Myers Beach to steal her identity. Authorities have alleged that “Losing Streak Lois” Riess was hiding out from Minnesota, where she is a suspect in her husband’s murder, and used the identity and property she stole from the lady she killed to flee, ultimately until her capture in Texas. She may end up facing murder charges in Minnesota as well, but right now Lee County will proceed first. The indictment for first degree murder supersedes the second degree charges, and may be the next step for the state to announce that they will seek the death penalty. Only a grand jury can indict on first degree murder, and we should expect an announcement soon if the state intends to seek the death penalty.
Jorge Guerrero Torres
The state has announced its intention to seek the death penalty against Jorge Guerrero Torres, who was indicted about a week or so ago for first degree murder in the kidnapping death of nine-year-old Diana Alvarez. Authorities located Guerrero’s phone with incriminating pornographic pictures involving the girl. He has been convicted in Federal court and sentenced to 60 years for child pornography. When he was in jail, he allegedly made incriminating statements that he killed Alvarez and hid her body, leading to the murder charges he now faces. The notice is the next step, after the grand jury indictment for first degree murder, to seek the death penalty, which has been reinstated in Florida.
Yesterday the State Attorney’s Office and LCSO held a major press conference to announce not one, but two, grand jury indictments for first-degree murder. The first was in the high-profile disappearance of Diana Alvarez. Jorge Guerrero-Torres has been charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and lewd and lascivious molestation: the first degree murder charge could be subject to the death penalty, if the State decides to seek it. Guerrero is already under a federal sentence for possession of child pornography related to the case: there was a challenge to the admission of evidence from his cell phone, but the court permitted it in the federal case, which is a good indicator in the state case. Further, NBC-2’s Jaclyn Bevis reported in December that Guerrero may have made a jailhouse confession to killing the girl and hiding her body.
The other indictment was for a much more recent case, but not the Lois Riess case… yet. The other case was in the robbery-murder of a taxi driver in Lehigh Acres just last month. Three co-defendants have been charged, and two of them are teenagers… one only 13 years old. Not many details have been released, but the State indicated today they sought the indictment due to the “horrendous nature of the crime“. 20-year-old Ricky Lagonde allegedly had a gun and threatened the victim, but the teenagers then shot him.
The other news of the day was that a press conference was held by “ARM”, the Animal Recovery Mission. ARM has been pushing for charges to be brought for some Lee County farms they allege were operating as illegal slaughterhouses and illegally selling horse meat. ARM and their investigators ran their own undercover operations, and presented videos and other evidence first to LCSO and later to the State Attorney’s office, who declined to file charges. Earlier press conferences from ARM have lead to protests against animal cruelty in Lee County. One of the concerns that the State has cited is the difficulty in introducing surreptitiously obtained videos as evidence in court, as our local State Attorney’s office learned the hard way. ARM brought their legal adviser to the session today, and he argued that since the videos were taken at a business with many people around, there was not an expectation of privacy, and that the videos would therefore be admissible. And even if the videos didn’t come in, the ARM witnesses would be available to testify. There’s a lot more to the issue, but suffice it to say, tensions are high on both sides.
Now, a cynic might point out that it was very convenient for the politicians who might be up for election this year that the big indictment announcements came on the same day as the controversial press conference. A cynic might wonder why, after almost two years, and months after the arrest and confession of Jorge Guerrero-Torres, the state obtained an indictment right before the ARMs media push: a push that has been seized on by the outsider running for State Attorney against the Chief Assistant ASA that presented the announcement today. The news of the day ended up being the new charges, and not the activists asking why the State had not moved on the ARM allegations, though it still made some news. I’m not that cynic, and I know that there are legitimate legal reasons that make it very difficult for the State to prosecute the ARM cases. That cynic might also point out that if it had been intentional timing, it was a brilliant bit of political maneuvering to control the biggest stories in the media on what was shaping up to be a bad day for people who have elections coming up.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Tampa Bay area, Uncategorized
Tagged animal cruelty, arm, diana alvarez, election, jorge guerrero-torres, murder, ricky lagonde, sexcrime
Lois Riess Lee County mug shot
Extradition complete, alleged killer-granny Lois Riess has arrived in Lee County, and at first appearance today, the judge determined she will be held without bail. Riess is currently facing second degree murder charges in the death of Pamela Hutchinson, who’s body was found a couple weeks ago on Fort Myers Beach. Riess allegedly killed her, stole her identity, her vehicle and cash, and used them to flee to Texas, where she was caught last week. Riess is also suspected in the death of her husband in Minnesota, though charges are still pending there. LCSO even had her delivered to the main office so they could give her a perp walk: a rare ‘honor’ not seen since they picked up Mark Sievers.
While the current charges are for second degree murder, the State could take the case to a grand jury to indict for first degree murder, as the murder appears to be premeditated. If the charges are upped to first degree, the state could decide to seek the death penalty, in light of the aggravating factors that Mrs. Riess may have committed the offense for pecuniary gain and to aid her flight from the earlier murder she may have committed. There may be mitigating factors, such as mental health issues: Texas has indicated that she suffers dementia. Insanity could be a defense, if the mental health disorders were so severe she could not tell right from wrong, though the fact that she may have plotted a murder to abscond on a previous murder would vitiate her insanity claim. The case will be interesting from a legal standpoint.
Lois Riess, ‘Losing Streak Lois’
Lois Riess, who is accused of killing a woman who looked like her in Fort Myers as she fled from charges of murdering her husband in Minnesota, was arrested a few days ago in Texas. Minnesota authorities have indicated that they will wait for Florida to prosecute her while they are still building their murder case against her. There is a warrant for murder charges out of Lee County, while Minnesota initially only filed theft related charges, but it is expected that murder charges will be filed when the investigation is complete. It remains to be seen if Lee County will seek to indict on first degree murder charges, or leave it at second degree. She will face life in prison either way, but the State could seek the death penalty if they up it to first degree murder.
Lois Riess, who was arrested in Texas and facing murder charges in Fort Myers and her native Minnesota, had an extradition hearing today. She waived her right to fight extradition to either state: so whoever comes to get her first can bring her back. It is expected that Florida will collect her first: Lee County filed murder charges while the murder case from Minnesota was still under review, and she could potentially be facing first degree murder charges for the tourist she allegedly shot to steal hear identity on Fort Myers Beach.
Apparently, some authorities are calling her “Losing Streak Lois”, due to her gambling losses at casinos… but she might have been apprehended to quickly for that to stick. This silver fox was not sly enough to avoid capture. The Star Tribune has good details of the alert restaurant employees that spotted her and helped authorities capture her in Texas. Likely, the prosecutors in Lee County and in Minnesota will talk and decide who will prosecute her first, and it would not surprise me if she ends up headed to SW Florida.
Posted in 10-20-Life, Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Gray Menace, Texas
Tagged extradition, fort myers beach, lois riess, losing streak lois, minnesota, murder, swfl, texas