MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New documents show accused murderer Lois Riess was under criminal investigation in Minnesota in 2015.
But Riess was never charged. The documents from Dodge County show investigators were looking at charging Riess for taking tens of thousands of dollars from her disabled sister.
She was appointed her sister’s guardian in 2012.
Recently, Riess was arrested for a murder spree that allegedly started with her husband in Blooming Prairie last month, and ended in Florida with the death of Pamela Hutchinson.
Riess was on the run for almost a month before she was captured in a Texas bar last week. But this was not her first brush with serious legal trouble.
We found documents showing she was on authorities’ radar in Minnesota for felony theft three years ago.
A review of hundreds of documents show that in 2015, Lois Riess was very much on Minnesota law enforcement radar for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from her disabled sister.
A September 2015 document from Dodge County says, “Law enforcement is also looking into the matter for possible criminal charges.”
A civil judgement filed just a year ago against Riess said she owed her sister $100,000.
Susan Gaertner is the former Ramsey County attorney. She has no ties to the Riess case.
“If you steal money from anyone, especially from a vulnerable adult, of course you can be prosecuted. That’s a crime,” Gaertner said.
Documents WCCO found claim Riess spent thousands of her sister’s dollars at casinos and, deposited thousands into her own accounts. Gaertner, who reviewed documents in the case, says Minnesota law gives wide discretion to guardians.
“Twenty-twenty hind sight is always perfect,” Gaertner said.
Under pressure in 2016, Riess withdrew as guardian, and the courts appointed an independent guardian. According to Minnesota courts, 21,000 adult Minnesotans have court-appointed guardians.
Gaertner says even if Riess had been prosecuted for felony theft back in 2015, under Minnesota law, she would likely have never seen any prison time.
“We don’t put people in prison generally for stealing under $100,000,” Gaertner said.
We did reach out to Dodge County authorities for comment and did not hear back. That $100,000 judgement against Lois Riess filed a year ago remains open – court documents show Riess has not repaid her disabled sister any of that debt.