- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

JARRATT, Va. | A former Army counterintelligence worker was executed by electric chair Tuesday for killing a Virginia couple, becoming the first U.S. inmate to die by electrocution in more than a year.

Larry Bill Elliott, of Hanover, Md., was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. He was convicted in Prince William County in May 2003 of the January 2001 shooting deaths of Dana Thrall, 25, and Robert Finch, 30, in the couple’s Woodbridge, Va., town house while Mrs. Thralls two young children were upstairs.

In the death chamber, Elliott would say only that he had prepared a final statement for his attorneys to read after the execution. In the typed statement, Elliott maintained his innocence.

“The very system that I spent a lifetime defending has failed me,” the statement said.

At 60, Elliott was Virginia’s oldest death-row inmate and among the oldest executed since the state took over the duty from local jurisdictions in 1908.

He was scheduled to be executed Oct. 5, but Gov. Tim Kaine pushed back the date, saying he needed more time to consider the case. Elliott claimed he was innocent.

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Kaine said he felt no compelling reason to stop the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court had refused to intervene a day earlier. Virginia’s last electrocution was in 2006.

Prosecutors said the killings were motivated by jealousy, that Elliott perceived Finch as a threat to a relationship between Elliott and ex-stripper Rebecca Gragg.

Elliott, who was married with three adult children and a teenager, and Ms. Gragg met online after she posted an advertisement looking for a “sugar daddy.” During their 18-month relationship, he provided her with furnished homes, a car and breast-enhancement surgery, all costing about $450,000, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said Ms. Gragg was involved in a bitter custody dispute with Finch.

Prosecutors said Elliott was obsessed with Ms. Gragg and killed Finch to win her love. A court hearing in their custody case was scheduled for the week that Finch was killed.

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

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.

Virginia death-row inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection. Elliott had planned to meet Tuesday afternoon with family members, a spiritual adviser and his attorneys, Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said without elaborating.

Of the 35 death-penalty states, seven Southern states still offer electrocution. Two others allow it only if lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional.

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

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