Woman sought in shooting had troubled past

Published 8:21 am Thursday, March 29, 2018

By Jeffrey Jackson

Owatonna People’s Press via The Associated Press

A woman, currently sought by police as a “person of interest” in the shooting death of her husband in rural Dodge County, was stripped by the courts of guardianship of her older sister three years ago after the woman reportedly took tens of thousands of dollars of her sister’s money, some of which she spent at a nearby casino, according to court documents.

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Lois Riess, 56, of rural Blooming Prairie, is the object of a search by multiple law enforcement agencies after police discovered the body of her husband, David Riess, 54, Friday night at their home just over the Dodge County line. In a statement released Monday afternoon by Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose, David Riess died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

In that same statement, Rose said that Lois Riess “is known to frequent casinos.”

Her frequency at casinos played a role in Lois Riess’ losing her role as guardian and conservator of her older sister, Kimberly Sanchez, in September 2015, according to court documents. That was just over three years after Lois Riess had petitioned the courts to be named guardian and conservator of Sanchez, 61.

In initial court documents about the guardianship, Sanchez was described as an “incapacitated person” who “lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions.” In addition, the documents say that Sanchez was bipolar with a cognitive level of a 10-year-old, suffered from clinical depression and had a mental breakdown in October 2010.

On April 10, 2012, Riess was named guardian of her sister.

Riess moved her sister to an assisted living facility in Owatonna in March 2015. In a report filed by Riess on behalf of her sister in August of that same year, Riess reported that Sanchez’s cognitive level had diminished and that she had developed Parkinson’s disease.

However, during that same time, investigators with Minnesota Prairie County Alliance and the Steele County Sheriff’s Office were investigating allegations of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult concerning the treatment of Sanchez.

In an affidavit, an adult protection social worker from the Alliance reported that she “received a report that Lois Riess transfers funds from the guardianship account for Kimberly Sanchez to Lois Riess’ own account. Lois Riess then withdraws funds at the local casino.”

Riess was also thought to have transferred $20,000 from Sanchez’s account into her own account and then to have written a check for $20,000 to someone the investigator believed was Riess’ son.

In all, the investigator reported that Riess wrote more than $30,000 worth of checks from Sanchez’s account without Sanchez’s permission.

It was also about this same time — April of 2015 — that court documents show that Sanchez had inherited $200,000.

A subsequent audit of the conservator account showed the need for Riess to make several “adjustments” to how she had been handling her sister’s money.

In one instance, a debt payment of just over $14,000 was made from Sanchez’s account to Sanchez’s father, William Witte. But according to the auditor, Witte was deceased and there was no documentation to prove that there was such a debt owed and no explanation of what the debt was for.

In another instance, the auditor determined that Riess had received nearly $8,500 in guardian/conservator fees for such things as taking Sanchez to doctors’ appointments, running errands and managing Sanchez’s financial affairs. However, Riess had not offered any supporting documentation for the fees charged.

And in yet another instance, gifts totaling $15,000 were paid out of Sanchez’s account to a niece and nephews as part of an inheritance. The auditor said that such gifts needed to be approved by the court before they were paid.

In her affidavit to the court, the adult protection social worker asked that a change in the guardianship of Sanchez be ordered by the court and that Alternative Resolutions, an Owatonna-based company offering guardianship services, be named guardian and conservator of Sanchez. The court ordered the emergency petition on Sept. 28, 2015. Alternative Resolutions has been Sanchez’s guardian ever since.

In the subsequent months, attorneys for the various sides were in court numerous times to determine what were legitimate expenses for Riess as the guardian of Sanchez and what Riess should repay. On Dec. 19, 2016, the judge ordered Riess to repay $100,534.

When that ruling came down, prosecutors decided not to pursue criminal charges against Riess, said Christy Hormann, the chief deputy with the Steele County Attorney’s Office, to which the guardianship case of Sanchez has since been transferred.

“She was ordered to pay it back,” Hormann said of the judgment against Riess. “That would have been the goal in a criminal case.”

Riess is now being sought in connection with the shooting death of her husband.

Blooming Prairie Police were called to the Riess property on Friday evening for a welfare check on David Riess by individuals who said they had been unable to reach him. When police arrived, they reportedly looked in a window of the home and saw David Riess’ body. At that point, the police contacted the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office which took over the investigation.

Lois Riess is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 165 pounds with brown eyes and blond hair.

Law enforcement say she likely is driving a white 2005 Cadillac Escalade SUV with Minnesota license plate 864 LAE. The vehicle is registered to David Riess.

She is believed to be armed and dangerous.

Anyone with knowledge about this investigation or about the whereabouts of Lois Riess is asked to contact the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office at (507) 635-6200.