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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Killers Brendan Johnson and Cassandra Rieb: Young, Dimwitted, and Cold-Blooded

     Charles Severance and his wife Shirley, both seventy years old, had lived thirty years in Sterling, Colorado, a rural plains community 110 miles northeast of Denver. In 2014, the couple allowed their grandson, Brendan Johnson, a recent high school graduate without prospects, to take up residence in their modest, single-story $47,000 home.

     These decent grandparents had no idea that Brendan and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Rieb, had been planning to murder them for their house, their 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck, and $20,000 in the elderly couple's bank account. According to the harebrained murder plan, Brendan would smother his grandfather as he slept while Rieb, in similar fashion, executed Shirley Severance.

     During the early morning hours of May 20, 2014, the grandson, accompanied by his sociopathic girlfriend, launched their attack on Mr. and Mrs. Severance. But as if often the case involving killers who are dimwitted, things did not go according to plan, and certainly not smoothly. As Rieb began to smother Shirley Severance, Mr. Severance fought against his homicidal grandson. During the struggle, Brendan, unable to smother his grandfather, placed his hands around his neck to strangle him. Mr. Severance couldn't breathe, lost his strength, then died.

     While Brendan was killing his grandfather, his girlfriend continued to have problems dispatching Mrs. Severance. Having fought against being smothered, Shirley begged for her life and offered to give the couple money. Rieb discontinued the assault when Brendan took charge of the murder. The killer's grandmother pleaded with him to stop the attack. She again begged for her life and asked for a drink of water. As the victim drank from the glass, Brendan pulled out a knife to slit her throat. She moved, and the knife instead sliced her in the jaw.

     When the 70-year-old woman tried to escape, Johnson used the knife to stab her repeatedly. "Why are you doing this to me?" she cried.

     "You know why," he replied. Shirley Severance died a few seconds later.

     The double murder not only failed to unfold as planned, it produced a bloody crime scene that the degenerate killers would have to clean up. The killers dragged both bodies into a bedroom where they remained for a day while Johnson and Rieb did their best to clean up the blood and dispose of other physical evidence. But what were they supposed to do with the bodies?

     After scrubbing the murder site, the cold-blooded killers loaded Mrs. Severance into Mr. Severance's pickup truck and hauled her to a wooded area near a reservoir outside of town. At that spot, they cut off her head and set fire to the corpse.

     Two days after the murders, Johnson and Reib returned to the dump site outside of Sterling, placed Mrs. Severance's charred remains back into the truck, and drove the body thirty miles to an area near Lorenzo, Nebraska. At that place they buried the murder victim in a shallow grave.

     Mr. Severance's body remained at the murder scene because he was too heavy to carry to the truck. When planning how to dispose of the bodies, the killers failed to account for this victim's weight.

     On May 29, 2014, a few days after forging and cashing two checks on the Severance bank account for a total of $4,500, Brendan Johnson called 911 to report that he had just discovered his grandfather's body in his house. He also reported that his grandmother was missing.

     Police officers, in response to Brendan Johnson's phony 911 call, met the grandson and his girlfriend at the tiny house on Third Avenue. In the bedroom, the officers came upon Mr. Severance's decomposing corpse.

     Questioned that day at the police station, Johnson said his grandfather had died of a heart attack, and that he had no idea what happened to his grandmother. According to Johnson, prior to Mr. Severance's death, the old man had given him the pickup truck as a gift. He said his grandfather had also given him  the $4,500 drawn from his bank. Detectives didn't buy Johnson's story.

     When asked to take polygraph tests, the young killers confessed. Cassandra Rieb led officers to the place outside of Lorenzo, Nebraska where detectives discovered Shirley Severance's charred and dismembered remains. During her session with the polygraph examiner, Rieb said, "The plan was to kill them so he [Brendan] could get their inheritance. Together we went and we did it together. We had agreed to do it together, obviously. Like one gets one [of the victims] and one gets the other."

     On June 3, 2014, a Logan County prosecutor charged the young couple with two counts of first-degree murder along with several lesser offenses. Johnson and Rieb were booked into the county jail. The judge denied the murder suspects bond.

    In April 2015, Cassandra Rieb, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon. The judge sentenced the young degenerate to consecutive terms of 48 years and 32 years, respectively. Under Colorado law, Rieb will have to serve at least 75 percent of her sentence behind bars.

     In May 2015, Brendan Johnson, after initially pleading not guilty to murder and fourteen lesser charges related to the case, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The plea brought an automatic sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

    It's crimes like this that makes it difficult not to support the death penalty. 

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