Jury hears arguments on killer’s sentence

A year and a half after Dana Thrall’s murder, her children are unable to sleep without lights on and are frightened by loud noises reminiscent of the gunshots that killed their mother and her boyfriend, Robert Finch.

Thrall’s teen-age brother is still so wrought with grief that his family “can’t reach him.”

Her mother grieves every minute of every day.

The family’s sorrow is among the reasons Prince William County prosecutors urged jurors to sentence Thrall and Finch’s killer, Larry Bill Elliott, to death.

Thrall, 25, and Finch, 30, were killed in their Rollingwood Village home Jan. 2. Elliott, 53, of Hanover, Md., was convicted of the murders Thursday.

The sentencing phase of Elliott’s trial began Monday and jurors started deliberating what sentence to impose.

He faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Prince William County prosecutors said the crime was so heinous and the impact on the victims’ families so profound that Elliott deserves to die.

Elliott’s attorneys urged the jury to instead impose a life sentence and asked them to consider his years of military service and testimony from his friends.

Prince William Common-wealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said Elliott was an “inherently dangerous” man who coldly planned the murder of Finch, knowing Thrall and her children would also be in the home.

Elliott was obsessed with Finch’s ex-girlfriend, Rebecca Gragg, 34, a stripper he met through an adult classified ad, prosecutors said. Elliott was insanely jealous of Finch and saw him as an obstacle to his desired relationship with Gragg.

Several members of Thrall’s family testified Monday and spoke of the impact her death had on her two young sons.

The children, ages 4 and 6 at the time of the murders, were told a “bad man” killed their mother. Now living in California with an aunt and uncle, they are scared that “bad men” will come hurt them and have trouble being alone.

The boys have asked disturbing questions about their mother’s death and how she was killed, said Cynthia Thrall, Dana’s mother.

“They asked very difficult questions — things 4 and 6-year-olds should not have to consider at any time in their lives,” she said.

The boys’ aunt and guardian, Rebecca Thrall, said they talk about the murders regularly and ask if the “bad man” is sorry for what he did and wonder why doctors couldn’t save their mother.

Elliott’s friends and co-workers also testified, painting a picture of a dedicated “workaholic” who put in 14-hour days and threw pizza parties for his staff. As a friend, he was kind, trustworthy and “generous to a fault.”

He is the father of four children.

Elliott’s wife, Cathy, said that in 26 years of marriage she has never seen him angry.

She said their marriage became increasingly strained two years ago and she was not aware of her husband’s involvement with Gragg.

Elliott and Gragg’s relationship began about two years ago when she advertised for a “sugar daddy.” In the following year and a half, Elliott spent more than $400,000 on Gragg, paying for all her living expenses.

William Moffitt, one of Elliott’s attorneys, portrayed Elliott as a lonely, middle-aged man who saw Gragg as his life’s last hope for excitement and happiness.

He asked the jury not to judge Elliott by the actions of one day, but by his life as a whole, which was largely dedicated to national security. Elliott was a high-ranking Army counter-intelligence specialist.

Moffitt said prosecutors are “recklessly” seeking the death penalty and a sentence of life in prison is in order.

“It will be dark, it will be damp, it will be frightening. It will be all of those things and it will last for a long time. He is 53 years old, it will not be over in a second — the punishment will go on and on and on,” he said.

The jury will continue deliberations at 10 a.m. today.

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