Death penalty sought for Colorado teen, boyfriend in elderly couple’s slaying

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2014 11:06 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado prosecutor said on Friday she will seek the death penalty for a teenage woman and her boyfriend charged with killing the man's grandparents to inherit $20,000 and a house.

Logan County District Attorney Brittny Lewton said in a statement that her office will pursue capital punishment for Cassandra Ann Rieb, 18, and Brendan Lee Johnson, 20.

The pair was arrested in May and charged with first-degree murder for the slayings that month of Charles and Shirley Severance, who were both 70 and lived in Sterling, about 110 miles (177 km) northeast of Denver.

Charles Severance was found dead in his home and Shirley Severance’s dismembered remains were later discovered in two locations, with some body parts near a reservoir in Colorado and others in a remote area across the state line in Nebraska, according to a police affidavit filed in court.

The pair confessed to their roles in the couple's death under questioning by police, the document said.

Johnson told detectives he plotted the killings for three weeks with the goal of inheriting his grandparent’s home. Rieb told investigators Johnson claimed he also stood to collect $20,000 from his grandparents' checking account.

Johnson told investigators his grandfather died of a heart attack when he was choking the man, and that he and Rieb stabbed and strangled his grandmother.

Former Colorado prosecutor Bob Grant said he could not recall the last time a prosecutor in the state sought the death penalty for a woman, as Lewton has done in the case of Rieb.

"Usually the thinking among prosecutors is that a jury will view a woman as an accomplice rather than as a primary actor," said Grant, who prosecuted the only inmate executed in Colorado in the last 47 years.

Rieb is set to return to court for a hearing later this month, and Johnson has a separate hearing in October.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Robert Birsel)