Witness recounts sounds of murder

The retrial of Larry Bill Elliott, 55, for the murders of a Woodbridge couple in January 2001 continued Wednesday with further prosecution witnesses. Elliott, of Hanover, Md., is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Robert Finch, 30, and capital murder in the death of Dana Thrall, 25.

“Something hit my wall and literally shook my house,” Thrall and Finch’s neighbor Tina Miller said of the night of the shooting. “I heard three or four more loud, hollow sounds. Then I heard the most horrible scream I ever heard in my life. Horror movies can’t describe it. It sounded like Dana.”

Miller’s and Thrall’s townhouses shared a wall, and Miller said that in Thrall’s home it would have been a stairwell. Finch was fatally shot as he descended the stairs. Thrall was beaten in the face and shot in the head in her kitchen.

In Elliott’s original July 2002 trial, and in opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors said Elliott was jealous of Finch, who was in a child custody dispute with Rebecca Gragg, 35, an adult escort with whom Elliott was infatuated.

A newspaper carrier, Mary Bracewell, had reported a suspicious person in the neighborhood, who she said had walked toward Thrall’s townhouse. Officers looked for the man but were unable to find him, only a truck matching the description of Elliott’s.

Gragg’s mother, Laura Didion, also testified, describing her daughter’s six-year relationship with Finch and the months in 1999 and 2000 that Elliott supported Gragg financially. Elliott spent about $400,000 on Gragg, providing her with a furnished home in Dale City, two cars, a cell phone, credit card and breast enlargement surgery. Under cross-examination, Didion said she told Elliott her daughter was using him, that he should stop giving Gragg money and let Gragg stand on her own feet. Neither Elliott nor her daughter listened to her, Didion said.

The prosecution’s final witness before the evening break was the lead investigator, Prince William police Detective Charles Hoffman, who described several interviews he had with Elliott. During the interviews, Elliott contradicted himself, saying at first that he didn’t know Finch, but later saying he had been to Finch and Thrall’s neighborhood hundreds of times, Hoffman said.

Elliott’s trial will continue Monday with defense attorney William Moffitt’s cross-examination of Hoffman. Elliott’s original July 2002 trial was nullified after Moffitt brought evidence to the court of juror misconduct. The retrial is expected to last until about April 10.

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