- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

RICHMOND — A man accused of suffocating a Richmond family entered into a last-minute plea agreement yesterday that will spare him the death penalty.

Ray Joseph Dandridge admitted to the Jan. 6 killings of Percyell Tucker, 55, his wife, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, 47, and her daughter, Ashley Baskerville, 21. The victims’ faces had been covered in duct tape, and the parents’ throats were cut.

By withdrawing his not-guilty plea, Dandridge was spared a possible death sentence and instead was sentenced to life in prison on each of three counts of capital murder.

Prosecutor Michael Herring said he agreed to the plea because of inconsistencies in Dandridge’s police confession and concerns that the trial judge would allow jurors to consider a first-degree murder conviction.

“Am I satisfied it was the smart and right thing to do? Yes,” Mr. Herring said. “Do I feel good about the outcome? No.”

Daisy Adams, the sister of Mrs. Baskerville-Tucker, was more emphatic.

“I don’t feel he should wake up and breathe when my sister’s gone,” she said tearfully outside of court.

Dandridge’s plea came after both sides had rested in the trial. The defense did not present any witnesses.

Prosecutors say Dandridge, 29, and his uncle, Ricky Jovan Gray, killed the family as part of a violent rampage that included the slaughter of a second Richmond family about a week earlier.

Under the plea agreement, one of the capital counts against Dandridge — killing more than one person in a three-year period — was modified to include the slayings of the second family. Prosecutor Learned Barry said that was done to assign Dandridge culpability, even though he did not appear to be the triggerman in that case.

Gray, also 29, was convicted last month of capital murder in the New Year’s Day slayings of Bryan Harvey, 49, his wife, Kathryn, 39, and daughters Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4. The family had been bound, beaten with a hammer and stabbed, their throats cut and their bodies set ablaze. Gray told police that Ashley Baskerville was an accomplice in the Harvey slayings.

The jury recommended that Gray be sentenced to death. Formal sentencing is set for Oct. 23.

Mr. Herring said he considered the differences in the two sets of slayings when debating yesterday’s plea agreement.

“This was a very different crime scene involving very different victims, most notably the absence of children,” he said.

The ex-convicts from Arlington were arrested Jan. 7 in Philadelphia at the home of Dandridge’s father. Gray has not been charged in the Baskerville-Tucker slayings, and Dandridge has not been charged in the Harvey killings.

Dr. Darin Trelka, the state medical examiner, testified yesterday that the Baskerville-Tucker family was suffocated, their faces wrapped in duct tape and socks stuffed in their mouths. Several friends and family members of the victims closed their eyes as graphic autopsy photos were displayed.

Gray also confessed to the Nov. 5 killing of his 35-year-old wife, Treva Terrell Gray, in Washington, Pa., about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. In his confession, Gray said he beat his wife to death in their bed with a piece of pipe while Dandridge held her down.

The two have been charged in the slashing assault and robbery of an Arlington man on New Year’s Eve. They are considered persons of interest in the Dec. 18 slaying of a Culpeper woman and were charged in Chesterfield County with a Jan. 3 home-invasion robbery.

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