- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

RICHMOND — A jury deliberated 30 minutes yesterday before finding a man guilty of five counts of capital murder in the random killings of a popular Richmond family.

Ricky Jovan Gray, 29, faces the death penalty for the New Year’s Day slayings of Bryan Harvey, 49, his wife, Kathryn, 39, and their daughters Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4. The family was found in the basement of their burning home, bound, beaten and stabbed, with their throats cut.

Opening the sentencing phase of the trial, the prosecution told jurors that in addition to the Harvey killings, Gray confessed to killing his wife and another Richmond family less than a week after the Harveys were killed.

“Now you know why we want the death penalty,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Learned Barry said.

The penalty phase was to continue today.

As jurors returned the guilty verdict on the capital murder counts, Harvey family supporters blinked back tears of relief and Gray stood with his hands behind his back.

Gray and his nephew, Ray Joseph Dandridge, also 29, are suspects in a string of bloody crimes that began in November, including the killing of the other Richmond family. Dandridge was not charged in the Harvey killings.

Gray was found guilty of five violations of Virginia’s capital murder statute: killing more than one person within three years, killing more than one person as part of the same act, killing someone in commission of a robbery or attempted robbery, and two counts of killing a child younger than 14 by someone at least 21.

Gray pleaded not guilty to the slayings, but his attorneys acknowledged during the trial that he confessed after being apprehended by police in Philadelphia on Jan. 7 at the home of Dandridge’s father. The defense did not call witnesses in the trial and contested none of the facts of the state’s case during closing arguments.

The jury’s decision came after two days of graphic testimony that revealed chilling details of the Harveys’ final hours. Medical examiner Dr. Darin Trelka, who performed autopsies on the victims, described the Harveys’ extensive injuries and showed autopsy photos that left several jurors looking shaken and one in tears.

Mr. Harvey’s neck was cut in a sawing motion eight times — none of which was fatal, Dr. Trelka testified. Mr. Harvey’s body had “very severe” burns in several places and his head was struck six times with a claw hammer.

Prosecutor Matthew Geary demonstrated the blows by banging the hammer into the palm of his hand six times — counting each out loud for effect.

Mrs. Harvey also was stabbed and had saw-motion wounds to her neck — none of which was fatal, Dr. Trelka testified. Mrs. Harvey had injuries to her head and was burned.

Both died as a result of the head injuries.

Dr. Trelka also described horrific injuries to Ruby, who died from skull fractures and a stab wound to the back, and Stella, who died from smoke inhalation and a blow to the head.

Gray sat silently in his chair, fidgeting and occasionally rocking during the testimony.

According to Gray’s confession, he and two accomplices were looking for a house to rob on New Year’s Day when they noticed that the front door of the Harvey residence was open.

“It was an open door — a front door — that brought Ricky Gray into their home,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring said during closing arguments. “He came into that house, and he invaded what was clearly a household of love and peace. … What Mr. Gray brought was nothing but sadness, despair and destruction.”

Mr. Harvey was a guitarist and singer for the rock duo House of Freaks and a well-known member of the Richmond music scene. Mrs. Harvey was the co-owner of World of Mirth, an offbeat toy and novelty store in Richmond.

Mr. Herring showed the jury photographs of the family in happier times, and included a final image of four headshots of the family before they were killed — and four headshots of the family after.

“It was merciless, it was calculating, and it was mean,” Mr. Herring said.

Defense attorney Theodore Bruns told jurors during the penalty phase that Gray was high on PCP the night of the killings and had suffered severe sexual and physical abuse as a child.

“When does a murder begin?” Mr. Bruns asked. “Does it begin when the first wound is inflicted? Or when the motive is formed? Or does it begin perhaps years before that when a child grows up to believe that fear and powerlessness and humiliation are what the world holds for him?”

“Death is not the only justice,” he added.

Philadelphia police Detective Howard Peterman read to the jury the confession from Gray in which he admitted to the Nov. 5 slaying of his wife, Treva Terrell Gray, 35, who was found asphyxiated near woods in Washington, Pa., about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

“I’m not sure how she died, but I know I wasn’t in my right state of mind,” Gray said in the confession. “I’m sorry, and I miss her and wish we could trade places.”

Dandridge has been charged with capital murder in the Jan. 6 killings of Percyell Tucker, 55, his wife, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, 47, and her daughter, Ashley Baskerville, 21. They were found tied up in their home. Dandridge is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 18.

The ex-convicts, both of Arlington, also have been charged in the slashing assault and robbery of an Arlington man on New Year’s Eve and in a Jan. 3 home-invasion robbery in Chesterfield County.

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