Murder victim’s ex takes stand
Rebecca Gragg, 34, testified in Prince William Circuit Court last week that Elliott called her after the murders of a young Woodbridge couple and said he was in a car, surrounded by police and covered in blood. He also spoke of bloody garbage bags he needed to throw away.
Gragg was interviewed by police several times immediately following the January 2001 murders and on various occasions afterward, but made no mention of Elliott’s phone call until May 10.
Elliott, 52, is accused of shooting Robert Finch, 30, and Dana Thrall, 25, inside their town house in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2001. He is charged with capital murder and faces the death penalty if found guilty.
Finch is the ex-boyfriend of Gragg, a stripper with whom Elliott was involved. Prosecutors assert Elliott killed him because he was jealous of Gragg’s lingering feelings for Finch.
Under cross-examination by Elliott’s defense attorneys Monday, Gragg said she withheld information about the phone call because she was scared of Elliott and possible repercussions.
“I was more afraid of Bill than I was of what [police] would do to me if I didn’t tell them [about the call],” she said.
But defense attorneys pointed out inconsistencies in Gragg’s statements, including an interview two days after the murder when she told police she believed Elliott had nothing to do with the murders.
Gragg also testified that she never told Elliott she loved him, but defense attorney William B. Moffitt presented a Valentine’s Day card she gave Elliott, in which she wrote glowingly about how much she cared for him.
Gragg met Elliott in the late 1990s through an adult Web site on which Gragg advertised for a type of “sugar daddy.” Both Elliott and Gragg were married at the time and each have said their relationship was nonsexual.
Elliott spent more than $400,000 on Gragg, paying for three homes, a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a credit card she used regularly.
Gragg and Finch had two children together and were embroiled in a bitter custody battle at the time of the murders.
Prince William County prosecutors said Elliott’s obsession with Gragg led him to kill Finch.
Defense attorneys pointed out Monday that Gragg was involved with other men during her relationship with Elliott, including her husband who at times lived with her in a house Elliott paid for. They suggest Gragg wanted Finch dead to ensure she would maintain custody of her children.
Gragg said her relationship with Finch was tumultuous and at times violent. At one point, she told police that “if [Finch] and I stayed together, one of us was going to end up dead,” Gragg testified. She was in Florida at the time of the murders.
Still, Gragg always maintained Finch was the love of her life and said their relationship never truly ended.
Gragg said she consulted Elliott, a former Army intelligence officer from Hanover, Md., when she wanted to hire a private investigator to spy on Finch. She believed Finch was selling drugs and wanted to catch him in the act and use the evidence against him in their custody battle.
Elliott agreed and paid $2,000 for the investigative service, but no evidence against Finch was ever found.
Gragg testified that Elliott said “he could [do surveillance] better” than the service and that he went by Finch’s house on occasion.
Elliott admitted to police that he was outside Finch and Thrall’s town house in Rollingwood Village on the night of the murders, but said he had nothing to do with the crime. He said he was doing surveillance in hopes of catching Finch involved in drug activity.
Finch was shot three times, in his chest, back and head. Thrall was shot in the head and upper chest. Ten bullets recovered from the scene were all fired from the same gun, likely a .38 or .357 caliber revolver, according to the testimony of state forensic scientist Gary Arntsen.
That type of revolver only holds five to six bullets at a time, meaning the killer reloaded during the murders.
The gun used in the shootings has not been found by police.
Five of the bullets were “glaser bullets,” an uncommon variety that contain many lead pellets that disperse into the target on impact.
Monday was the fifth day of Elliott’s trial, which will last through the end of the month.
Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.