- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RICHMOND | A former Army counterintelligence worker from Maryland who was convicted of gunning down a Northern Virginia couple to win the love of a former stripper is set to become the first Virginia inmate to die of electrocution since 2006.

Larry Bill Elliott, 60, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the January 2001 shooting deaths of Dana Thrall, 25, and Robert Finch, 30.

The scheduled execution comes one week after Virginia executed sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad by injection. Elliott made the rare choice of electrocution, an option taken by only four of the 80 inmates executed in the state since they were given a choice in 1995.

Prosecutors said Elliott killed the couple to win the love of Rebecca Gragg, a former stripper and adult escort who was involved in a child custody struggle with Mr. Finch.

Elliott, of Hanover, Md., asserts he is innocent. He was set to be executed on Oct. 5, but Gov. Tim Kaine pushed it back, saying he needed more time to consider the case.

“Given the nature of these crimes and the facts that were presented at trial, I have no reason to question the prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty or the jury’s decision that death was an appropriate sentence,” Mr. Kaine said at the time, adding that the complicated nature of the case required extra care “given the irreversible nature of an execution.”

Elliott’s lawyers filed a clemency petition on Aug. 28 asking Mr. Kaine to commute Elliott’s sentence to life in prison. Last week they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution until it can consider his appeal.

Mr. Kaine refuses to comment on pending clemency petitions.

Elliott, who was married with three adult children and a teenager, met Miss Gragg online when she posted an ad looking for a “sugar daddy.” Prosecutors said that over 18 months, Elliott spent about $450,000 supplying Miss Gragg with a home, private school for her two children, a car, breast enhancement surgery and a credit card.

Prosecutors said Elliott was obsessed with Miss Gragg and killed Mr. Finch to win her love.

Mr. Finch was shot three times, and Miss Thrall was beaten before being shot several times in the face and chest while her two boys, ages 4 and 6, were upstairs in the couple’s Woodbridge town home. Miss Gragg’s children were not at the house at the time.

Elliott admitted being outside the house, saying he was spying on Mr. Finch, trying to catch him doing anything that would make him an unfit parent. Police found his blood on the backyard fence.

Two separate juries convicted Elliott of the killings. A 2002 verdict was set aside because a juror discussed the case outside of the court. He was convicted again a year later.

Elliott claims his trial lawyers were improperly restricted in questioning Miss Gragg, who testified for the prosecution.

Miss Gragg denied any involvement until five months after the killings. After police told her she failed a polygraph test, Miss Gragg implicated Elliott and said she hadn’t come forward before because she was afraid of him. Elliott’s lawyers were not allowed to ask her about the failed polygraph test, which they claim in his appeal would have showed her “bias and motivation to lie.” She was never charged in the case.

Elliott’s attorneys did not return telephone messages and e-mails seeking comment.

If Elliott’s execution goes as scheduled, he would be the 105th person put to death in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.

The last Virginia inmate to choose electrocution was 27-year-old Brandon Hedrick, who died in 2006 for raping and killing a young mother. Mr. Kaine gave him up until the last minute to opt for lethal injection, but he went forward with electrocution.

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