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New footage released of ‘killer grandma’ suspected in 2 homicides; $6,000 reward offered for capture

Detectives have released three new videos that show a Minnesota grandmother wanted in the slaying of her husband -- as well as the brutal killing of a Florida woman -- driving up to a hotel and checking in following the second murder. 

Lois Ann Riess, 56, was still running Tuesday afternoon from murder and theft charges in the slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, a Bradenton woman who was found shot to death April 9 in the Fort Myers Beach condominium where she was staying. Hutchinson, 59, had been dead for several days. 

>> Read more trending news

Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe Riess befriended Hutchinson at a nearby bar April 5 and either followed her or accompanied her two blocks to the Marina Village at Snug Harbor, where she killed her. Surveillance footage from the bar at the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery shows Riess chatting with a woman in a hat who detectives have identified as Hutchinson.

One of Hutchinson’s cousins also shared on Facebook an image of the slain woman wearing the same hat seen in the video. 

Investigators believe Riess killed Hutchinson for her identity because the two women resembled one another. Hutchinson’s identification, cash, credit cards, keys and 2005 white Acura TL were taken after the slaying. 

Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno described Riess to NBC News earlier this week as a “stone-cold killer” who authorities fear might kill again when she runs out of resources. 

“She smiles and looks like anyone’s mother or grandmother,” Marceno said. “And yet she’s calculated, she’s targeted and an absolute cold-blooded killer.”

>> Related story: Minnesota grandma sought in deaths of husband, Florida ‘lookalike’ killed for ID

In one of the new videos released Tuesday, a car that appears to be Hutchinson’s stolen Acura is shown pulling into the parking lot of a Hilton hotel in the Ocala area. Ocala is located in central Florida, about 215 miles north of Fort Myers. 

Surveillance footage from the lobby of the hotel shows Riess walking in and up to the registration counter to check in. She appears to be wearing the same blue shirt she wore at the Fort Myers bar, as well as in a surveillance image shot at Hutchinson’s condo complex. 

Riess’ alleged path of travel, which led to at least one sighting in Louisiana, indicated she might be trying to make it to Mexico. She was last spotted, driving Hutchinson’s car, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Lee County Sheriff’s Office officials said. 

Corpus Christi is about 150 miles from the Mexican border. 

Agents with the U.S. Marshals Service are actively looking for Riess, and border officials are also on the lookout in case she tries to cross into Mexico. 

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has been searching for Riess since late last month, describes her as a white woman with brown eyes and pale blonde hair. She is about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 165 pounds. 

The white Acura she is accused of stealing from Hutchinson has Florida license plate number Y37TAA. 

Marceno said Riess is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who spots her should not approach her, but should call the nearest law enforcement agency. 

People with information on Riess’ whereabouts can also call Southwest Florida Crimestoppers at 800-780-TIPS or the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at 877-996-6222. Callers may remain anonymous. 

The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to her capture, and Crimestoppers is offering another $1,000, according to the sheriff in Dodge County, Minnesota. 

Prior to the Hutchinson homicide, Riess was already suspected of gunning down her husband, David Riess, on their Blooming Prairie worm farm in mid-March. David Riess’ body was discovered, with multiple gunshot wounds, on March 23 after his business partner reported that he had been unable to reach him in a couple of weeks. 

It was unclear exactly how long David Riess, 54, had been dead before his body was found. 

Lois Riess became a person of interest in the slaying when Dodge County Sheriff’s Office detectives could not locate her. They got a tip that she was at a casino just across the state line in Northwood, Iowa, but she had left by the time they arrived. 

Detectives tied Riess to Hutchinson’s death, in part, because the white 2005 Cadillac Escalade she was believed to be driving after her husband’s slaying was found in the area. 

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported that investigators in Dodge County said Lois Riess transferred nearly $10,000 from her husband’s business account to his personal account after his death. She is then accused of forging his signature on $11,000 worth of checks made out to herself and cashing them. 

She has been charged with theft for the forgeries. Murder charges are expected to be filed against her this week in David Riess’ death. 

Police officials in Minnesota said that Lois Riess has a history of gambling problems. The Star-Tribune reported that court records there showed that she was previously accused of stealing more than $78,000 from her disabled sister, for whom she was the court-appointed guardian. 

Court records indicated that the sister, who is now 62, suffers from mental illness and Parkinson’s disease and has the cognitive ability of a 10-year-old child, the newspaper reported

Riess was appointed to serve as her sister’s guardian in 2012. A routine audit three years later found multiple “payments, gifts and loans” from the sister’s account, with no documentation to back up the transactions. 

One $14,000 payment was supposed to have gone to the sisters’ father -- who was already dead. 

An affidavit from the Minnesota Prairie County Alliance, a social services organization overseeing the issue, sought to have Riess’ guardianship terminated.

“I received a report that Lois Riess transfers funds from the guardianship account for (her sister) to Lois Riess’ own account,” the affidavit said, according to the Star-Tribune. “Lois Riess then withdraws the funds at the local casino.”

The new guardian of the sister’s account sought to have Riess repay the funds, but court records did not indicate whether or not she was ordered to, and there is no record that she was ever charged with a crime, the newspaper said. 

Man shoots self in leg, blames ‘2 black men’

A Virginia man is charged with filing a false police report after authorities alleged that he accidentally shot himself in the leg and blamed it on two imaginary black men.

Eric Hunter Jones, 23, is also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, felony receiving stolen property and reckless handling of a firearm, according to Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office officials

Sheriff’s deputies were called around 11:40 p.m. Saturday to an Econo Lodge, where they found Jones suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg. He told the deputies that two unknown black men approached him and shot him. 

>> Read more trending news

While Jones was taken to a hospital, detectives went to the motel and started interviewing potential witnesses in the hopes of locating the assailants. Sheriff’s Office officials said that their investigation led them to the conclusion that Jones shot himself. 

Armed with a search warrant, the detectives found a gun in Jones’ room that they believe he injured himself with, according to a news release. A check of the weapon’s serial number indicated that it had previously been reported stolen by its owner. 

After receiving treatment at the hospital, Jones was released into police custody and charged in the shooting. 

He remained in the Rappahannock Regional Jail Tuesday morning, jail records showed. His bond had not been set at that time. 

Georgia teen shot, killed while walking to store, witness says

Authorities are investigating a deadly shooting in Union City, Georgia,  in which a young man was shot several times Monday afternoon.

A witness told WSB that it was his younger brother, 17-year-old Chevelle Thompson. He said Thompson was walking to a nearby store when he was shot twice

>> Read more trending news 

Police blocked off part of the neighborhood as they investigated. The Fulton County medical examiner was called to the scene.

Witnesses said that, at some point, Thompson got into a car and rushed to find help in a nearby neighborhood.

“My first thing was to call 911 when I came out of the door,” a witness told WSB. “The operator asked me to hold on and she was going to have them give me instructions to apply pressure wherever the gunshot wound was.”

“It sends chills through my body that there’s a murderer out here on the loose,” resident Stephanie Brooks told WSB. “To see a loss of life, this young man who had potential and a future, I can only imagine what his mother is feeling right now.”

So far, no one has been arrested. Union City police said the neighborhood is typically quiet. Those who knew Thompson said the shooting is unnerving.

Mother arrested after newborns found dead in Florida home, police say

An arrest has been made in the case of two newborn babies found dead in a Florida home, investigators said.

Rachael Lynn Thomas, 30, was taken into custody Monday afternoon. The mother of the infants faces two counts of child neglect and one count of tampering with evidence.

>> Read more trending news 

Police were called to a West Melbourne, Florida, home Sunday afternoon.

Police said the deaths are suspicious but did not release a cause for the deaths. One of the infants was taken to a nearby hospital Sunday and the other was pronounced dead at the home.

“It is something that is very serious. We will methodically investigate this to try to get the answers that the children here deserve,” said Cpt. Richard Cordeau of the West Melbourne Police Department. 

Thomas is being held in the Brevard County Jail on $30,000 bail.

Neighbors said Thomas lived at the home with her mother and kept to herself. They said they’ve only seen one infant and an older child with Thomas. 

Melbourne police and the Department of Children and Families said they have not had any previous contact with Thomas. DCF has opened an investigation into what led to the deaths.

The infants’ siblings are being cared for by relatives.

Georgia man chases ex, her new boyfriend and shoots at them, police say

Decatur, Georgia police are searching for a 23-year-old man accused of shooting at his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend Sunday morning.

The couple was leaving a hotel shortly before 11 a.m. when they saw Rickeyon Jenkins, 23, of Baxley, Georgia, according to a post on the City of Decatur Police Department Facebook page.

>> Read more trending news 

Police said Jenkins had a gun and fired toward the couple while they were in the parking lot, prompting them to flee in their vehicle.

Jenkins allegedly pursued and continued to fire, shooting the victims’ vehicle and also ramming it with his own vehicle, a sliver, four-door, early 2000s Mercury Grand Marquis.

The couple had lost Jenkins by the time they reached another street and called 911. 

“Officers observed damage to the victim’s vehicle consistent with gunshots and also recovered physical evidence at the original scene...,” the post said. “Neither of the victims were physically injured.”

Jenkins is charged with aggravated assault.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts or the case was asked to contact mark.hensel@decaturga.com or 678-553-6687. Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta can also take information at 404-577-8477 and allows callers to remain anonymous.

Minnesota grandma sought in deaths of husband, Florida ‘lookalike’ killed for ID

A Minnesota woman has become the subject of a nationwide manhunt after allegedly killing her husband, as well as a Florida woman who investigators believe was killed for her identity.

Lois Ann Riess, 56, is shown on surveillance video in a Fort Myers brewery, chatting with a woman found dead four days later in a timeshare condominium where she was staying two blocks away. Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said during a Friday news conference that deputies went to the Fort Myers Beach condo on April 9 regarding a call for medical assistance.

They found Pamela Hutchinson, 59, who had been shot multiple times, Marceno said. Her purse was in disarray, with all identification, cash and credit cards stolen. 

Her car keys and her white Acura TL were also missing. 

“Further investigation revealed that Ms. Hutchinson was targeted by the suspect due to the similarities in their appearance,” Marceno said

Investigators fear that Riess could be running short on resources and could kill again to further fund her flight from capture, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported

“Riess’ mode of operation is to befriend women who resemble her and steal their identity,” Marceno said Friday. “U.S. marshals are actively involved in a national search for this dangerous fugitive.”

The Fort Myers News-Press reported that Hutchinson was in Fort Myers to help a friend mourn her husband. They were planning to spread his ashes in the Gulf of Mexico, the newspaper said.

Hutchinson’s last Facebook post was on April 4. In a post written the day before, she talked about how Fort Myers Beach was “hopping” and she thanked a friend for recommendations on local hangouts, saying she had a “fabulously good time.” She wrote that she could hear music from one bar at her condo, No. 404 at Marina Village at Snug Harbor. 

“Also got to see the sun rise and set,” Hutchinson wrote. 

Her posts indicated that she had decided to stay in Fort Myers Beach an extra day before heading home to Bradenton. 

The News-Press reported that surveillance video from the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery in Fort Myers shows Riess, wearing a light blue shirt, talking to a woman identified by investigators as Hutchinson. The video was shot around 5:40 p.m. on Thursday, April 5.

Surveillance images from Hutchinson’s condo complex also appear to show Riess there, wearing the same blue shirt, the Star Tribune reported. It was not immediately clear when those images were shot. 

A relative of Hutchinson’s said on the slain woman’s Facebook page that she and other relatives were supposed to meet Hutchinson at her Bradenton condo on April 7 to spend the weekend with her, but she never showed up. They learned from a neighbor that she was out of town, but did not know where she had gone or who she was staying with. 

Phone calls and texts to Hutchinson went unanswered, the relative said. 

It would be another two days before her body was found. A man staying at the condo complex told the News-Press that the building manager asked him for help getting the door of Hutchinson’s unit open because something appeared to be blocking it. 

She was trying to get inside because the water to some of the units was not working. 

They found Hutchinson’s body in the bathroom with a pile of towels, Troy Strohm said. It appeared that Hutchison, who had blood coming from an ear, had been dead for a few days. 

“As soon as you opened the door, it just smelled like a dead animal,” Strohm told the newspaper

Detectives who tied Riess to Hutchinson’s death learned that Riess was also a suspect in the Dodge County, Minnesota, death of her husband, David Riess. According to the Star Tribune, David Riess was found shot to death March 23 on the couple’s worm farm. 

Lois Riess became a suspect in the Florida homicide after investigators there found a white 2005 Cadillac Escalade she was believed to be driving after her husband’s slaying. 

“Our detectives have reviewed hundreds of hours of video and traveled throughout the state and collected hundreds of items for forensic examination, and have coordinated efforts with our state and federal agencies,” Marceno said. 

Riess has apparently fled southwest Florida and traveled through the southeast states to Texas. The most recent sighting put her in Corpus Christi, the undersheriff said. 

The fugitive is charged in Florida with murder, grand theft of a motor vehicle and grand theft and criminal use of personal identification, Marceno said. 

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has been searching for Riess since late last month, describes her as a white woman with brown eyes and pale blonde hair. She is about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 165 pounds. 

The white Acura she is accused of stealing from Hutchinson has Florida license plate number Y37TAA. 

Riess is known to frequent casinos, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported. 

Marceno said Riess is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who spots her should not approach her, but should call the nearest law enforcement agency. 

People with information on Riess’ whereabouts can also call Southwest Florida Crimestoppers at 800-780-TIPS. 

The Star Tribune reported that second-degree murder charges were expected to be filed this week against Riess, who lived with her husband in Blooming Prairie, a city of about 2,000 people 85 miles south of the Twin Cities. David Riess’ body was found after a business partner reported to police that he had been unable to reach him for a couple of weeks. 

Officers who went to Prairie Wax Worm Farms to conduct a welfare check found the 54-year-old with multiple gunshot wounds. It was not immediately known how long he was dead before his body was found. 

Dodge County Sheriff’s Office investigators were unable to find Lois Riess, but got a tip that she was at a casino just across the state line near Northwood, Iowa, the newspaper reported. When law enforcement officers arrived, they learned she had been there, but left before their arrival. 

After her husband’s death, Lois Riess is suspected of transferring nearly $10,000 from his business account to his personal account, then forging his signature on three checks totaling about $11,000. She has been charged with theft for the forgeries, the Star Tribune reported

David Riess’ obituary lists the couple as having three grown children and five grandchildren. 

Former ‘Jerry Springer’ producer charged with killing deaf, blind sister in 2015

A former producer for television shows including “Divorce Court” and “The Jerry Springer Show” was arrested last week and charged with killing her disabled sister in a 2015 garage fire. 

The Los Angeles Police Department reported Thursday that Jill Blackstone was arrested in Baltimore on murder and animal cruelty charges. Blackstone is accused of drugging her sister, Wendy Blackstone, on March 14, 2015, and putting her and the siblings’ three dogs in the garage of their North Hollywood home and setting it on fire. 

Wendy Blackstone, 49, and two of the dogs perished in the blaze.

ABC7 in Los Angeles reported that the fire was started by a charcoal barbecue pit left burning in the garage, which filled with carbon monoxide. Wendy Blackstone was found unresponsive next to one of the dogs.

The Baltimore Sun reported that paramedics tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Wendy Blackstone was deaf and legally blind, the newspaper reported. 

>> Read more trending news

“Homicide detectives believe the motive was Jill’s frustration of being forced to provide Wendy long-term care, as well as the associated financial hardship,” a news release from the LAPD said

Wendy Blackstone died of the combined effects of Xanax and inhaling the gas that built up in the garage, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s website states. The manner of death was still listed online as undetermined Monday morning. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that Wendy Blackstone’s autopsy report indicated that her death was “very suspicious” and “possibly staged.” When she was found, an alleged suicide note was in her hand.

Investigators believed that Jill Blackstone wrote the note. 

Near Wendy Blackstone’s feet was a Weber grill and an ash-filled trash can, both of which were considered to be sources of the carbon monoxide, the Times reported. A nearly empty vodka bottle was found nearby, though the autopsy showed no alcohol in Wendy’s system. 

Detectives found several other notes near her body with end-of-life instructions, including a “do not resuscitate” order, but none of the notes had been signed by Wendy Blackstone. 

Jill Blackstone later told detectives that a friend called her home and she “just ‘came to’ and did not remember what happened,” the Times reported. She also told investigators that the grill was used in the garage to keep it warm.

She also said the charcoal was used to roast marshmallows, the newspaper reported. 

ABC7 reported that Jill Blackstone was believed to have set the scene up to look like a suicide or accident. The notes and Blackstone’s inconsistent statements led detectives to suspect her of killing her sister. 

She was arrested shortly after the fire on suspicion of murder, but the Los Angeles County district attorney ultimately decided against filing charges, the news station reported. 

The district attorney ordered further investigation into the case just days later, the Times reported

Homicide detectives and arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department conducted separate probes in the case, the LAPD news release said

“The investigative follow-up required for a successful prosecution included significant travel, research, numerous interviews and additional forensic evidence processing, which added time to this extremely complex and sensitive investigation,” the news release said. 

The district attorney filed murder and animal cruelty charges against Blackstone last month. Homicide detectives tracked her last week to a relative’s home in Hoboken, New Jersey.

When they spoke to her lawyer, the attorney told authorities that Blackstone was hospitalized in Baltimore for treatment of a medical condition, LAPD officials said.

She was taken into custody Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As of last week, she remained in Baltimore Police Department custody, awaiting extradition to California. 

Substitute high school teacher arrested for allegedly running ‘fight club’

A substitute teacher at a Montville, Connecticut, high school has been arrested for allegedly running a “fight club” at the school.

WFSB reported Thursday that Ryan Fish, 23, has been charged by police with four counts of reckless endangerment as well as two counts of risk of injury to a minor, and second-degree breach of peace.

>> Read more trending news 

An investigation started by the Montville Police Department in December 2017 found that Fish was supervising the fights, which happened in October 2017, in the classroom. 

BuzzFeed News reported that, according to an arrest warrant it obtained, Fish is seen encouraging students to “Engage in the fighting behavior” at Montville High School. The warrant contains profanity in descriptions of some of the incidents.

Four victims, two 16-year-old males, a 15-year-old male a 14-year-old male and one 16-year-old male witness are included in the arrest warrant.

WFSB reported that the four victims told police about the fights.

According to the warrant, police spoke with Assistant Principal Tatiana Patton Dec. 15, who told police that video surfaced of two kids slap fighting each other in the classroom where Fish was acting as a substitute math teacher.

“I would let them be teenagers and let them get their energy out,” Fish told police, according to the warrant. “I will admit that I did at one point egg them on,” he said.

“The truth is I’m an idiot and wanted to befriend them. I’m immature.”

Patton said she met with Fish and Principal Jeffrey Theodoss about the fights. Fish, the warrant said, “responded ‘boys will be boys,’ that he grew up in the country and ‘boys do stuff like that.’” Fish’s employment was terminated Oct. 10, the warrant said.

“As soon as we learned of his involvement in this, we immediately terminated his employment,” Montville Public Schools Superintendent Brian Levesque told BuzzFeed News. "Student safety is our highest priority each and every day. We believe our staff does a great job of protecting the safety of our students each and every day. This situation was very unfortunate, but not indicative of our regular operations.”

The Hartford Courant reported that Fish was arraigned in Norwich Superior Court Thursday. Police set his bail at $70,000. A court clerk said he was released after his arraignment and is to return to court May 8. 

State child advocate Sarah Healy Eagan said she is following up with the state Department of Children and Families to see how it is responding to the school district’s “apparent failure to follow the mandated reporter law,” the Courant reported.

Day care worker arrested after allegedly smoking meth on job

Authorities said a woman in Montana exposed children to methamphetamine while using the drug at a YMCA day care center where she worked.

>> Read more trending news 

Autumn Sienna Heinz, 30, was arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal endangerment, criminal mischief and criminal possession of drugs, according to the charging document released by the Missoula County Detention Facility.

Approximately 12 children were in Heinz's care at the day care facility, KHQ reported. Heinz is accused of smoking meth in a laundry room and an employee bathroom, the latter in which she exhaled into an exhaust van, exposing the children and other staff members to the toxic smoke, KHQ reported. 

The day care is closed for cleaning, which could cost up to $80,000, KHQ reported. 

Police officers helped sneak massive drug shipment into Memphis, affidavit says 

Two Tennessee police officers face felony drug charges after they were arrested during an elaborate undercover sting, according to an affidavit.

>> Read more trending news

Kevin Coleman and Terrion Bryson of the Memphis Police Department are charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver, and sell -- along with criminal attempt felony and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

In February, the Memphis Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit received information that Coleman and Bryson were stealing money and drugs, according to an affidavit of complaint.

Investigators said the officers conducted two traffic stops while on duty and stole money from an undercover officer.

On April 5, Bryson began contacting an undercover officer about protecting a shipment of drugs that would be brought into Memphis, according to the affidavit.

Less than a week later, the officers told the undercover officer they wanted $10,000 to “offer security for the shipment of narcotics.” The pair then agreed to protect 2.5 kilograms of heroin, according to the documents.

During the negations, Coleman, while on duty, allegedly threatened physical harm to the undercover officer’s family if “the arrangement was a setup.”

Eventually, they agreed on a $9,000 fee for the officers to protect the shipment of drugs being brought into the city, according to the affidavit. They allegedly wanted $4,500 up front. Once the drugs got to Memphis they would protect them from being seized and they’d get the other $4,500, according to the affidavit.

On April 12, $4,000 was put into a vehicle in the parking lot of a Walmart in Memphis. Bryson came to the location, went into the vehicle and took the money as payment to protect the heroin, according to the affidavit.

Later that day, Bryson was off duty and Coleman was on duty driving a police car when they met the undercover officer, who they thought had the shipment of heroin. The two escorted the “shipment” to a storage unit, where they were given another $5,000, according to the affidavit.

The two officers left and went to another location, where they were arrested in the middle of a meeting.

Arresting officers recovered $5,020 from Bryson’s vehicle. Coleman told investigators he thought they were protecting three kilograms of heroin, according to the affidavit.

Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams said it’s a sad day when a police officer turns to crime. 

"Even if you look at social media you have a lot of officer speaking out against this because they are out here working hard,” Williams said.

Williams says the accusations the officers are facing is a disgrace to the badge. "You can have a hundred attaboys and one boo-boo, something like this and it sets you back if not months but years of hard work,” Williams said.

Bryson and Coleman have been relieved of duty pending this investigation, police officials said.

Both will be in court Monday morning.

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