A grandmother accused of killing her husband before traveling across the country, killing a woman and impersonating her, has been arrested in Texas, authorities said.
The hunt for Lois Riess, 56, of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, ended Thursday night, when she was captured in South Padre Island, Texas, the Lee County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities found Riess about 25 minutes after they got a tip from someone who spotted her at a restaurant, said Nikki Soto, a spokeswoman for the Texas resort town.
“I promised all along that Lois Riess would end up in a pair of handcuffs,” Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said in a statement. “Tonight, she sits in a jail cell in Texas. We are working as expeditiously as possible to bring her back to Lee County to face murder charges.”
Authorities began searching for Riess in Minnesota, where she allegedly killed her husband in March. The search expanded to Florida this month, when officials linked Riess to the shooting death of a woman who looked like her.
It was not immediately clear Friday when Riess next would be back in either state, Marceno said at a news conference.
“This case from the very beginning struck me as odd,” he said. “She looks like anybody’s mother or grandmother, yet she’s an absolute cold-blooded murderer.”
Cash withdrawals and a stolen car
Riess is believed to have killed 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson sometime between April 5 and April 9 in a condo in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, according to Deputy US Marshal John Kinsey and a marshals service news release. She aimed to steal the “victim’s driver license, credit cards and 2005 white Acura,” the agency said.
She faces charges of second-degree murder with a firearm, grand theft of a motor vehicle, criminal use of personal identification and another count of grand theft, said Samantha Syoen, communications director for the state attorney’s office.
“Riess’ mode of operation is to befriend women who resemble her and steal their identity,” Marceno said at an earlier news conference.
Investigators said Riess withdrew around $5,000 from Hutchinson’s bank account while in Florida, CNN affiliate WINK reported.
Her arrest came four days after Hutchinson’s car was seen about 50 miles from Corpus Christi, Texas.
Gambling on the run
Several bank transactions and Riess’ interest in gambling, which earned her the nickname “Losing Streak Lois,” had given investigators some clues as the hunted her across the country.
Before heading to Florida, Riess is believed to have cashed more than $10,000 in forged checks from her husband and her business. She also traveled to Northwood, Iowa, where she spent most of the day gambling at Diamond Jo Casino, the Dodge County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s Office said.
Surveillance video released Thursday shows Riess at a gas station next to the casino on March 23. She was buying a sandwich and asked for driving directions out of state.
Days after Hutchinson’s death, Riess stopped at Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana, CNN affiliate WINK reported. She played using her name and won $1,500.