FORT MYERS, Florida — Minnesota grandmother Lois Riess was in a Lee County courtroom Thursday, more than 15 months after she was accused of killing a woman vacationing in Fort Myers Beach and stealing her identity.
Riess, 56, remains in Lee County Jail without bond, accused of shooting and killing Pamela Hutchinson, 59, on Fort Myers Beach in April, 2018.
Thursday’s case management hearing was before Judge Robert Branning. He expressed unease over the amount of time the case has taken.
“I can’t believe this is the fourth or fifth case management hearing on a case that’s over a year old,” Branning said. The case has gone over the planned time frame.
Riess’ defense attorney Jay Brizel said he understood the judge’s frustration, but defended their slow movement on the fact that they have to do their “due diligence” on the case that spans five states.
He compared their case to a “duck on a pond,” though there appears to be no movement on the surface, they are thrashing away underneath.
A pretrial hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 17.
Minnesota native Riess is facing charges, including second-degree murder for shooting Hutchinson, then stealing the Bradenton woman’s car and ID and withdrawing more than $6,000 from her bank account.
The 20th Judicial Circuit state attorney’s office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in its case against Riess.
In June 2018, a grand jury indicted Riess on the murder charges as well as stealing Hutchinson’s car, identity and money. Authorities believe Hutchinson was targeted because of her similar appearance to Riess.
Riess was arrested on April 19, 2018, by U.S. marshals and police at a restaurant in South Padre Island, Texas.
She was sought for questioning soon after her husband, David Leonard Riess, 54, was found shot at the couple’s worm farm in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, in March 2018.
Riess had been on the run after that, driving south from Minnesota, with a stop at a casino in Iowa, before arriving on Fort Myers Beach.
A nationwide month-long hunt for Riess ended in the South Texas resort area as she drank cocktails at a marina-side restaurant.
She also was indicted on first-degree murder charges out of Dodge County, Minnesota, after her arrest.