August 09, 2018 09:35 AM
Court documents released Tuesday by Lee County include graphic photos from Pamela Hutchinson’s hotel room and testimony from several witnesses Lois Riess encountered in her time on the run.
Riess, 56, is charged with murder in Florida in 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson’s death, which happened in Fort Myers in April. Florida prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty in the case.
Riess is also a suspect in the death of her husband, David, in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, in March. Riess' saga began in late March, when David Riess, 54, was found dead at the couple's home. Lois Riess forged checks to steal $11,000 from her husband's account, traveled south to Florida and landed in Fort Myers, prosecutors say.
Authorities believe Riess went to Florida and befriended Hutchinson before killing her and stealing her identity.
According to the records, both Hutchinson and David Riess were killed by small-caliber weapons in bathrooms, both had towels draped over their bodies and a rolled-up towel was wedged between the floor and bathroom door in both cases.
The witness testimony and scene photos released Tuesday show the rolled up towels and how the body was draped.
One of the paramedics who first examined Hutchinson's body said the team was told the woman had been dead for a few days, but they grabbed their gear anyway.
RELATED: Lois Riess Indicted on First-Degree Murder Charge in Death of Florida Victim
Immediately, first responders found towels rolled up in front of the door, according to the interview transcript. A hotel worker told police the towels were rolled up "real neat. It just didn't seem right."
She was wearing a pink hat, white shirt, jean shorts and black sandals with earrings, rings and a necklace. A pillow was lying on top of her legs, while a towel was under her hands and another underneath her torso.
The officer found Hutchinson's body first. The paramedic was told not to enter the bathroom since it was a crime scene. Multiple witnesses would tell police there was a strong smell in the room and noted it was hot. The air conditioner was turned off.
RELATED: Documents Detail Journey of Woman Accused of Slaying Husband
Hutchinson's first cousin, who was interviewed by police April 10, told investigators Hutchinson was in Fort Myers for the weekend because she was going to help a friend from out of town spread her husband's ashes on the beach, according to the interview transcript.
That woman was interviewed by police later on April 10.
The two attended dental assisting school together in 1979, the transcript states. Hutchinson spent time with her friend and friend's family for two days on Sanibel Island where they had dinner and watched the sunset at Captiva.
A realtor who was helping Hutchinson purchase a new property and a friend both said they didn't hear responses from Hutchinson for days.
The realtor said the approval for the property went through days later, but she was unaware Hutchinson had died.
Investigators interviewed a woman from Blooming Prairie, Riess’ hometown, who was with her husband at their Florida home in Fort Myers when Riess arrived unexpectedly.
The two had an exchange, though what Riess allegedly said was redacted. The woman told law enforcement she had known Riess for 20 years. The two had seen each other around the small town that has a population of nearly 2,000 people.
Their conversation lasted 30 seconds, and the woman ran into the home and told her husband whom she had just seen. She wanted to follow Riess in their car and call 911, but the woman’s husband advised her to dial 911, saying Riess was likely armed.
The woman later learned Riess had called her daughter who was at the family business in Blooming Prairie and gave a false name. The pair talked for about seven minutes. The daughter gave recommendations on what to order at a restaurant near her parents' house where Riess said she was. Riess had called asking for her parents' address, saying she was in town and wanted to say hi.
The Associated Press reported the alias Riess used was "Stormy Liberty."
The couple could not get through to 911. They then called Seal County, and the agency said to call Dodge County. They were redirected again to call the Fort Myers Police Department, then the police told them to call the sheriff's department. The woman estimated it took half an hour before they got someone, according to the interview transcript.
"Pretty scary," she said.
At the time, the woman was aware of David Riess' death and knew Lois was on the run.
The woman speculated in her interview transcript Riess may have been scoping out the property to see if they were home. The April 2 visit was around the time the couple normally returned to Minnesota.
Surveillance cameras captured Riess in an ATM drive through, and the data dump includes another series of photos from a bank surveillance camera in Fort Myers Beach on April 6.
Riess is seen fanning out money and wearing a straw hat.
A different witness in South Padre Island, Texas, told investigators Riess befriended her and spent the night in her guest bedroom on April 15.
The woman told investigators she had surveillance cameras in her home, which she believes may have frightened Riess, according to interview statements.
A few witnesses in Texas told investigators they had one drink or saw someone have one drink in Riess' presence and lose the ability to make sound decisions or remember what was going on.
Riess was eventually arrested April 19 in Texas after a nationwide manhunt.
Riess was arrested at a South Padre Island waterfront restaurant by two federal deputy marshals. An employee recognized her from surveillance video broadcast on television. She was drinking cocktails at the bar when she was taken into custody.
The evidence dump gives a glimpse into what Riess was carrying when she was in Texas.
One witness told police Riess was often seen reading when she was at Motel 6.
The items collected in Riess’ Texas hotel room included a self-help workbook entitled, “Mind and Emotions: A Universal Treatment for Emotional Disorders.”
In the workbook, a page with the headings, “BREATHING MINDFULLY” and “MINDFULNESS OF EMOTIONS” was bookmarked. The bookmark was a business card for the Mayo Clinic’s Mood Disorder Unit with the location and phone number highlighted.
There was a picture of children, presumably her grandchildren. She had two calendars, one for 2012-2013, and the other for 2016. There was also a piece of mail addressed to Riess, a composition notebook and a copy of the magazine “The Pioneer Woman.”
A different book had Bible quotes and pages bookmarked with a handwritten note and picture of a woman. One of the pages bookmarked had the quote, “Thou shalt not kill,” on the page, sourcing the Bible verses Exodus 20:13 and Matthew 20:18.
Another note in the book included the handwritten message, “All we are, are the people who remember us.”
The bookmark is included with the quote, “I have given them the glory you gave me - the glorious unity of being one, as we are - I in them and you in lee, all being perfected into one.”
Other pages in the book had various Bible verses underlined.
Most witnesses said they did not know anything about Riess' background or family. One witness said Riess mentioned her husband, and she appeared emotional.
The crates of evidence, which included several pairs of shoes and clothing, as well as two pistols, were shipped to Texas.
The authorities who drove Riess from Texas to Florida said she was a little "difficult" at first, but then she was quiet for most of the ride.
Riess has waived her right to appear at her last few court appearances.
Riess has pleaded not guilty. Her son, Braden Riess, said she's a "good lady," but lately had her "own demons."
"Something happened in her brain that made her snap," he told "Inside Edition" in May.
Riess has not yet been charged in David Riess' death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated: August 09, 2018 09:35 AM
Created: August 08, 2018 04:33 PM
Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company