Teenage couple admitted to plotting murder of grandparents for money, affidavits reveal

STERLING, Colo. - A teenager and his girlfriend admitted to killing his grandparents in Sterling in a plot to hasten his $20,000 inheritance, according to arrest affidavits released after the couple appeared in court for the first time Wednesday.

Charles Severance, 70, was found dead in his home at 409 S. Third Ave., on May 29 after his grandson called to report a medical emergency. For several days, his 70-year-old wife Shirley was considered missing.

Her remains were found late Monday night and early Tuesday morning at Prewitt Reservoir, about 18 miles from Sterling, and in Lorenzo, Nebraska.

Sterling police announced the arrests of Brendan Lee Johnson, 19, and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Ann Reib, at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. They face charges including first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.

Arrest affidavits reveal the teenagers both told police they planned to smother the grandparents with pillows as they slept.

"We had agreed to do it together; Obviously… like one get one and the other get the other one," Reib allegedly said in a quote included in the affidavit.

Reib said that Charles Severance fought back and died as he was being choked. The teens thought he might have had a heart attack.

The affidavit also says Reib told investigators that Shirley Severance asked the couple why they were doing this and offered them money. She was eventually killed by multiple stab wounds and strangulation.

The couple allegedly carried out the murders on May 20, nine days before they reported Charles dead. In the interim, Reib told investigators, Johnson used his grandfather's truck to attend a concert in Denver and to transport his grandmother's body.

Both Johnson and Reib eventually admitted to burning and burying the grandmother's body. During his first interview, however, Johnson allegedly told officers his grandfather had loaned him the truck and written him checks on dates after he was actually deceased.

The affidavit shows Johnson said he was given two checks totaling $4,500.

In a second recorded interview, Johnson allegedly told officers a very different story. The affidavit states he told investigators he and Reib began planning the murders earlier in the month.

After the murders, Johnson said he and Reib returned to the home the next day to take his grandmother's body to the reservoir, where he poured gas on the body and set it on fire. While it was burning, the affidavit states, he tried to cut off an arm and a leg. Afterward, they buried her body in a fire pit.

They returned for the body on Thursday but "could not get it because people were camping in the area" and left it there until May 28, when they dug it up and drove it to Nebraska.

Police say Reib told them Johnson wanted to inherit their house and $20,000 from their checking account.

Johnson and Reib are scheduled to return to court on June 18.

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