Lights blazing, cameras rolling and sound equipment adjusting.
It may have looked a bit like Hollywood in early December in the downtown area of Blooming Prairie, especially at the Steele County Times. Our small office was crammed with more cameras, lights and sound equipment than I’ve seen in quite a while. On top of all that, there were no less than 10 directors, producers, camera operators and others tripping over each other.
At one point, the excitement poured out into the streets of Blooming Prairie, with yours truly walking down with a camera in front. It didn’t take long for a few curious on-lookers to reach out to our office wondering what in the world was happening.
On Dec. 14, a crew from HBO in New York came to Steele County to begin piecing together a three-hour documentary on Lois Riess, the infamous killer from Blooming Prairie. HBO is an American pay television network by WarnerMedia Studios and Networks.
Most know the story, but in case you don’t, Riess killed her husband in their rural Blooming Prairie home in March 2018. Then, she fled the state and ended up killing a woman she’d befriended while on the run in Florida. She is now serving a life sentence without parole in the state women’s prison in Shakopee.
This isn’t the first time Riess has made national headlines. During her run from the law, many national TV shows picked up the story to help authorities catch her. It worked. A bartender at a Texas bar recognized Riess from TV coverage and called police to end a month-long manhunt.
The saga continued to be covered nationally and locally after Riess’ capture and court hearings.
Last January, Dateline NBC showcased the Riess murders in a two-hour special. The show featured various law enforcement officials, prosecutors, friends of Riess and people affected by the tragic outcome of Riess’ killing spree.
When stories of local interest grab the attention of national media organizations, one of the first places they often reach out to is the local newspaper. As you may recall, the Times was thrust into covering what quickly became a national story beginning the weekend David Riess’ body was discovered in his home. We were the first media outlet to break the story on our website. And, I might add, it generated the most activity to our website ever—27,000 views within the first couple of days.
During their recent visit, HBO producers interviewed me about how we covered the story and the overall impact it had on the community. It will be worked into an in-depth documentary outlining the entire tragic case.
I even learned something new from the HBO crew. Braden Riess, the 35-year-old son of Dave and Lois Riess, died on Nov. 9 after battling addiction. He was the only family member who spoke out after his mother’s crime spree by appearing on Inside Edition.
“Addiction is a powerful disease and the road to recovery is never a straight line,” Braden’s obituary read. He was laid to rest at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kasson.
The Riess murder saga is one of the most difficult stories I have covered in my journalistic career that spans 30 years. It’s heart-wrenching what has happened to this family. Sadly, nobody will ever know what led Lois Riess to murder her husband and upend the entire family.
HBO told me they will be working on the documentary for most of this year. The crew will be returning to Blooming Prairie at least once more to interview more people. It won’t air until late this year or early next year. I will keep everyone updated on when the documentary is completed.
In the meantime, as people go in hot pursuit of living a normal life, the shock waves will continue to ripple through the community.