Trial begins for alleged Virginia serial killer and fringe political candidate
Charles Severance (Mugshot)

The trial of an eccentric former Virginia political candidate charged with murdering three people over an 11-year period started on Monday with jury selection.

The suspect, Charles Severance, 55, was indicted last year for the slayings in Alexandria, Virginia, a Washington suburb. The seemingly random killings had fed fears that a serial killer was on the loose in the U.S. capital area.

Severance is charged in the 2014 slaying of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato, the 2013 shooting of regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby and the 2003 killing of real estate agent Nancy Dunning.

Prosecutors contend Severance killed his victims as revenge against what he perceived as Alexandria's ruling class after losing a child custody case.

The daylight shootings all occurred at the homes of the victims. Prosecutors have revealed several of Severance's writings, including one document that read, “Knock. Talk. Enter. Kill. Exit. Murder.”

Severance lived in Alexandria in the 1990s and the early 2000s and ran for mayor and Congress as a fringe candidate. He sometimes wore a tricorn hat, was known for ranting in public and once threw a punch at the organizer of a mayoral debate.

The trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court is expected to take six weeks. Severance faces murder, wounding and firearms charges.

(Reporting by John Clarke; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Walsh)