Elliott, 55, of Hanover, Md. is charged with the shooting deaths of a Woodbridge couple, Dana Thrall, 25, and Robert Finch, 30, in their Rollingwood Village townhouse.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James A. Willett compared Elliott to a dam ready to burst in an opening statement that outlined the theory prosecutors presented at Elliott’s original trial: Elliott was jealous of Finch, who was in a child custody dispute with an adult escort with whom Elliott was infatuated.
“Rebecca Gragg, is, to put it mildly, a woman with a past. She trades in sexuality. The defense will make much of the salacious aspects of the case in hopes that’s where you will focus. But the real issue is why he [Elliott] did what he did,” Willett said.
Defense attorney William Moffitt’s opening remarks pointed at Gragg, the escort Elliott gave a house, cars, credit card and private school tuition for Gragg’s children worth a total of $450,000 to $500,000.
“The person who had the greatest motive is Rebecca Gragg. … She is not only a liar, she is a clever liar. Do not allow her to walk into this room, take the stand, swear to tell the truth and fool you,” Moffitt said. “He [Elliott] may be a lot of things, clearly he is a fool, but he is not a murderer.”
Most of the evidence Willett outlined Tuesday is circumstantial: witnesses who saw Elliott’s truck near the townhouse shortly after the crime and motive. Willett cited Elliott’s deceptiveness in interviews with police, and a single drop of blood on the back fence of the townhouse was identified as Elliott’s, Willett said. Moffitt argued that none of Thrall’s or Finch’s blood was found on Elliott or in his truck, and that unidentified blood was found on Finch’s pants. That blood was determined not to be Elliott’s, Moffitt said.
Prosecutors called their first witnesses, Dana Thrall’s mother and one of Gragg’s neighbors, before the court closed for the day.
Thrall’s mother described her daughter’s injuries, and watching Thrall die in a hospital after the attack. She also described Thrall’s neighborhood and home.
Gragg’s neighbor testified that he had seen a black pickup truck in Gragg’s driveway the day of the murder. The neighbor said he had seen the driver before; the man had helped Gragg move into the house.
Circuit Court Judge William D. Hamblen admonished jurors before adjourning not to discuss the case with anyone. Elliott’s original trial was nullified after Moffitt brought evidence to the court of juror misconduct.
The retrial is expected to last until about April 10. Prosecutors are expected to call more witnesses today.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.