WHEELING - Governors from West Virginia and Virginia are now involved in the extradition of Charles Severance.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office confirmed that McAuliffe signed an extradition order Friday seeking the return of Severance from Wheeling to Loudoun County to answer a felon in possession of a firearm charge.
Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith said he expects to get a warrant dealing with the matter from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin next week.
"The governor from the demanding state issues his warrant to our governor," he said. "He reviews it and, once satisfied, issues a rendition warrant authorizing the extradition. At that time, we will determine how and where to serve the warrant on Mr. Severance."
Smith said Severance's attorney, Public Defender Shayne Welling, will then review the warrant and file a writ of habeas corpus with any objections he may have. The matter will go to another hearing before Circuit Judge James Mazzone.
Smith said could not predict a timeline for the process to unfold, but said a good estimate is about 60 days.
Welling, who said he learned of McAuliffe's action late Friday after returning from a visit with Severance and other clients in jail, said he will continue his extradition challenge.
"I'm surprised at how quickly this happened," he said. "On average they take much longer to obtain. I would assume the expedited process is due all the notoriety about collateral matters that have nothing to do with the wanted charge."
"I believe this goes to support my theory that they are using this in an effort to get Mr. Severance back to Virginia so they can investigate the collateral matter -and that is improper," Welling continued. "This is not about a class six felony gun charge."
Welling said the next step for him is to examine the warrant and present any defects at the extradition hearing.
McAuliffe's action is the latest move in a case marked by legal wrangling questioning whether Severance is being detained here on a firearms violation warrant or if he is a suspected serial killer.
Wheeling police arrested Severance, 53, of Alexandria, Va., on March 13 at the Ohio County Public Library in response to a tip from the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleging that he is wanted on a fugitive warrant out of Virginia for a firearms violation.
He is lodged in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond pending a status extradition status hearing set for March 31.
On Monday, Mazzone rejected the prosecutor's motion asking for Severance to be held without bond after Smith said Severance is being investigated by Alexandria authorities regarding three deaths in 2003, 2013 and last month.
Smith said photos of Severance at the gate of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. with a passport in this hand suggest he is a flight risk, and the fact that two guns tied to the case remain unaccounted for makes him a danger to society.
However, Mazzone reversed that decision Wednesday and returned bond to the original $100,000 cash amount during a hearing at which Smith failed to provide evidence or witnesses to corroborate his stance.
Welling has maintained the bond amount is excessive and the entire proceeding is pretextual because police picked up Severance on a "sham arrest" designed to give Virginia authorities time to further their investigation into whether he is involved in the three murders.