FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Minnesota woman accused of killing her husband and a Florida woman and leading authorities on a cross-country manhunt was indicted by a grand jury in Florida, officials said Wednesday.
Officials in Lee County, Florida, said a grand jury indicted 56-year-old Lois Riess on first-degree murder with a firearm. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence in prison if she is convicted.
Riess will be arraigned June 11.
For the death penalty to be sought, the State Attorney's Office would have to convene a death penalty review committee, Samantha Syoen, communications director for the State Attorney's Office, said.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney's office said prosecutors won't discuss whether they'll seek death at this stage of the case.
Court documents say 54-year-old David Riess was found dead at the couple's Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, home in March. Authorities say Riess went to Fort Myers and met 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson. Investigators believe Riess killed Hutchinson to assume her identity. Riess was captured in Texas.
"Further investigation revealed that Ms. Hutchinson was targeted due to the similarities in their appearance," Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said. "Riess' mode of operation is to befriend women who resemble her and steal their identity."
Detectives say it's unclear how Hutchinson and Riess met, but investigators found surveillance video of the two women at a local restaurant near a Gulf of Mexico beach and at the Hutchinson's condo-hotel building in early April.
Hutchinson's body wasn't found until April 9, when a hotel employee entered the unit. She was found dead in the bathroom, lying on a pillow and covered with a towel. She'd been shot twice, once in the heart and once in the side.
"She smiles and looks like anyone’s mother or grandmother," Marceno told NBC. "And yet she’s calculated, she’s targeted and an absolute cold-blooded killer."
Ten days later, Riess was arrested at a waterfront restaurant by two federal deputy marshals in South Padre Island, Texas, when an employee recognized her from surveillance video broadcast on television. She was drinking cocktails at the bar when she was taken into custody.
After Riess was arrested, Hutchinson's cousins spoke to PIX11's sister station WTVR in Richmond, Virginia.
Riess was extradited to Florida, where she was charged with one count of second degree murder, plus one count each of grand theft, grand theft of an automobile and criminal use of personal identification. Charges in Minnesota are pending.
Riess has been assigned a public defender, and appeared in a court hearing in Lee County on Thursday. A woman answering the phone at the Lee County public defender's office said there is no comment on Riess' case.
The Florida grand jury also indicted Riess on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification information of a deceased individual.