A Florida woman from the Bradenton area was killed in Fort Myers Beach, and the suspect in her death may have stolen her identity to flee across the country, according to investigators.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said in a news conference Friday that Lois Riess, 56, is wanted in connection with a recent fatal shooting and may have selected her victim because their appearances were similar.
Deputies were called to a unit at the Marina Village complex in the 600 block of Old San Carlos Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach on Monday where deputies found 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson dead from gunshot wounds. Her death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office, Marceno said.
A public information officer with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that Hutchinson is from the Bradenton area but could not give an exact address.
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Christine Shedden said she lived with Hutchinson for about three months last year in Bradenton. Shedden said Hutchinson needed a place to stay, so she offered up space in her home.
“She was just a very good friend big-hearted person,” Shedden said.
She described Hutchinson as a sympathetic person who was “very giving” and made friends easily.
Shedden said Hutchinson was in the Fort Myers Beach area to visit with a friend but was staying on her own.
A man told the News Press that the Marina Village manager was going room-to-room but stopped to asked him to open the door to the unit where Hutchinson was found. Troy Strohm said he helped her open the door and found the room’s resident in the bathroom. He guessed she could have been dead for a few days because they “smelled something weird.”
Hutchinson’s purse was in disarray when deputies arrived, and credit cards, cash and identification appeared to be removed. Her keys and vehicle, a white 2005 Acura TL with Florida license plate Y37TAA were also missing, Marceno said.
Investigators believe Riess targeted Hutchinson because of their similar appearance and stole her identity.
“Riess’ mode of operation is to befriend women who look like her and steal their identity,” Marceno said.
“It’s just hard to wrap your head around imagining the end of her life, how terrifying it must have been,” Shedden said. “It just devastates me to think it may have been done for an old car, a little bit of money and her identity.”
Riess is also a person of interest in her husband’s death in Dodge County, Minn., and has a warrant for felony theft.
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office announced an arrest warrant on a charge of felony theft for Riess on March 29 after her husband’s murder.
Investigators believe after David Riess was murdered, Lois Riess transferred nearly $10,000 from her husband’s business account into her personal account and forged his signature on three checks for an additional $11,000 from his personal account to her account.
In addition to the warrant for theft, investigators say she is a person of interest in her husband’s death.
Her husband was supposed to go on a fishing trip, but a friend called police when he did not arrive. He was found shot multiple times in his Blooming Prairie, Minn., home, NBC 2 reported.
Riess also owes her sister more than $100,000, according to the Post-Bulletin. An attorney representing Riess’ sister said that she had not paid back money taken while acting as guardian and conservator for her sister. Riess was court ordered to pay $100,533.93 on Dec. 19, 2016.
Lee County officials believe Riess has fled to Texas, but her whereabouts are unknown, and the U.S. Marshals Office is searching for her nationwide. Riess is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.