Lois Reiss killed a woman who looked like her. She stole her money, her credit cards, and her car, then fled from Florida to Texas, where she may have been trying to do the same thing again, all to get away with killing her husband even further away — in Minnesota.
She’s since pleaded guilty to both murders and is serving two life sentences. But friends, family, and even strangers are still unnerved by close encounters with the killer grandma who very nearly got away.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Reiss killed her husband in March 2018 and fled to Fort Myers Beach, where she befriended Pam Hutchinson, 59. Then, she allegedly shot Hutchinson to death and headed to Texas in her victim’s car.
Tess Koster, a friend from Minnesota, was a snowbird and in Florida that spring. She heard all the scuttlebutt from her hometown about David Reiss’s death and Lois Reiss’s disappearance — as well as Lois’s considerable gambling debts, which may have prompted her to kill her husband — and then she saw Reiss just days before Hutchinson’s death at her Florida home, when Reiss stopped by.
“One day, I’m out cleaning the garage, and here pulls a Cadillac Escalade in my driveway,” Koster told WINK. “Our eyes met as I stepped forward to say, ‘Can I help you?’ And it was Lois, and I was just in shock, and I think she was shocked too because she quick, ‘Wrong house, wrong house,’ and got in her car and drove away.”
Koster, who said she thinks Reiss was hoping she wasn’t recognized, called 911, but the only warrant Florida authorities found was for theft and forgery. Law enforcement didn’t find her, and Hutchinson lost her life and her identity.
Once Hutchinson’s body — and Reiss’s abandoned Escalade — were found, officials zeroed in on the mother of three with five grandkids. Investigators thought she was using her slight resemblance to Hutchinson to get away.
But she’d headed on, checking into a hotel in Ocala, Florida, as Pam Hutchinson. Then she stopped at a casino and collected her winnings as Lois Reiss. Hutchinson’s bank cards were shut off by then, and license plate readers were tracking her car west, finally stopping in South Padre Island, Texas, where she hid the car and again began making friends. And she met Bernadette Mathis, sitting alone at a bar.
“She came in. She saw that I was sitting alone, and said, ‘Well, I guess we’re both having dinner alone this evening,” Bernadette Mathis told Nancy Grace on “Killers Amongst Us.” “She said that she just came back from Florida. That she was a widow. She was thinking about relocating … Guess that’s how she ended up back at my house, since I was going to show her around my area. We went in the hot tub. She had her bathing suit. She just brought a bathing suit and a little sun hat.”
But Mathis didn’t end up like Pam Hutchinson, possibly because of her home security cameras. Koster told WINK that was lucky. “She really has to thank her lucky stars she’s still here,” Koster said. “That would’ve been her next victim.”
Reiss was finally caught not long after when the manager of a South Padre Island restaurant recognized her and called police. US Marshals found her at the bar next door.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast:
[Feature Photo: Lois Riess/Police Handout]