A Minnesota woman who led authorities on a cross-country manhunt pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Florida courtroom to fatally shooting a woman who prosecutors said was targeted because the two looked alike. Lois Riess, 57, singled out Pamela Hutchinson because they shared similar features, and Riess wanted to assume Hutchinson’s identity while on the lam, officials from the Lee County State Attorney's Office said . She was sentenced to life in prison, the AP reports. With a shock of white hair, Riess garnered national attention as the “fugitive grandma” before she was captured in April 2018 in Texas. “It was certainly one of the more unusual cases in my 25 year career as a prosecutor,” said Rich Montecalvo, chief assistant state attorney. Riess’ saga began in March 2018, when her husband, 54-year-old David Riess, was found dead at the couple’s Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, home; Lois Riess is also charged with his slaying.
Riess forged checks to steal $11,000 from her husband’s account and traveled south to Florida, where she found Hutchinson, prosecutors said. After killing Hutchinson, Riess made her way to Texas while using the dead woman's credit cards and vehicle, police said. On April 19, 2018, Riess was drinking cocktails at a South Padre Island, Texas, waterfront restaurant when she was arrested by two federal deputy marshals. An employee recognized her from surveillance video broadcast on television. On Tuesday, Riess pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a firearm, grand theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft, and criminal use of personal identification information of a deceased individual. Prosecutors withdrew the possibility of the death penalty on the murder charge as part of the plea deal. Samantha Syoen, the spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, wrote in a news release that Hutchinson's family was supportive of the plea agreement because they wanted Riess to be incarcerated for the rest of her days. (More on the strange case here.)