Elliott places self nearby


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The 52-year-old Hanover, Md., man charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of a young Woodbridge couple admitted to police that he was in the couple’,s Rollingwood Village neighborhood when the murders occurred.

Prince William police Detective Charles L. Hoffman told those inside Prince William Circuit Court on Wednesday that Larry Bill Elliott sketched out a map of his actions in the Woodbridge neighborhood that night.

Elliott, 52, is accused of shooting Dana Thrall, 25, and Robert Finch, 30, inside their town house in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2001.

Prosecutors contend Elliott considered Finch an obstacle toward a romantic relationship between himself and Rebecca Gragg, 35. Gragg was Finch’,s former girlfriend and the mother of his two children.

Gragg told police she had met Elliott through an adult Web site in the late 1990s on which Gragg had advertised for a type of “sugar daddy.” Hoffman said Elliot told him he had met Gragg through a mutual friend, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her during their 11/2-year relationship.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have stated the relationship was of a non-sexual nature.

During Wednesday’,s proceedings, prosecutors presented several witnesses — most of whom were law enforcement officials — but also former neighbors of Thrall and Finch, who heard the shootings take place, and an acquaintance of Elliott.

Hoffman said during an interview on Jan. 3, 2001, that Elliott told him he had been in the area of Thrall’,s town house that morning because he went to check on something at Gragg’,s residence, which was a few miles away from Thrall’,s home. Gragg was in Florida at the time and wouldn’,t be back until a day or so later.

“He said he went to Robert Finch’,s house [earlier that day, when he had again come to Virginia to stop by Gragg’,s home] and he saw a black male with a slinky walk and thought it could be a drug dealer,” Hoffman stated in court. “He then said he went toward Maryland and fell asleep at a rest stop.”

Elliott told police Gragg and Finch were in a heated custody case involving their two children and he would often drive by the town house to do surveillance in order to see if he could catch Finch using drugs, which could help Gragg gain custody of her children.

“He was upset because there was a case of oil sitting on the walkway at Rebecca Gragg’,s house so he said he drove back to the house (to move the oil),” Hoffman said. “He stated that when he was in the area he liked to drive by Dana Thrall and Robert Finch’,s town house … .”

Because Elliott had been employed by Army Intelligence before retiring in 1991, defense attorneys said, he had the skills to do a “favor” for Gragg by staking out Finch’,s activities.

Defense attorneys William B. Moffitt and Henry Asbill contend that although their client was in the area of the town house, he never stepped foot on the property, and no witnesses saw him at the house at the time gun shots were fired, which were heard by several neighbors.

Detectives were led to Elliott after Finch’,s family said they felt Gragg had been involved in some way. When police went to her house they found that she was still in Florida, but noticed a car in her driveway.

Police confirmed the car belonged to Elliott, whom they later linked to a blue truck that had been called in to police by a newspaper delivery woman as a suspicious vehicle in the Rollingwood Village neighborhood around 4:15 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2001.

Detectives stated they interviewed Elliott for approximately 15 hours, and he didn’,t admitted to any involvement in the murders.

Police arrived to the town home at 4:27 a.m. and saw Finch, who was face down at the foot of the stairs near the front door. He was shot three times. Thrall, who prosecutors called an innocent bystander in her own home, was in the kitchen. She had been shot four times and was unconscious. She was pronounced dead two days later.

No other physical evidence was found at the scene except for a small drop of blood described as the size of a BB pellet found by Detective Thomas Leo on the inside handle of the back gate. Leo said the blood matched Elliott’,s DNA when tested by a laboratory.

When asked if he had taken photos of the blood on the gate, Leo said he didn’,t have them with him.

“I did take photos of the blood, but no photos turned out,” Leo said.

Detectives said Elliott was cooperative with them during his interview, and commented that he knew the tactics they were using from his own training. He voluntarily drove himself to a Maryland police station to be questioned after a brief encounter with an officer at his job.

Detectives said he only answered certain questions directly and at no time did he ask for a lawyer to be present.

When asked, he told officers he owned two firearms and told them where they were; however, when police went to retrieve those items they only found one gun.

According to testimony, Elliott had sent a light-hearted e-mail to a friend who was a licensed gun dealer on Dec. 27, 2000, asking how co-workers at Fort Meade might obtain a gun silencer.

“I did not reply to the e-mail,” said Randy T. Jackson. “I thought [the e-mail] was ludicrous. As a licensed dealer I do not possess the additional license for silencers. You also do not use silencers on an in-door range.”

Jackson told the jury that Elliott’,s e-mail suggested people at his work wanted to implement a shooting range near their Fort Meade office, but wanted to use silencers on the guns so that those nearby wouldn’,t be upset.

Prosecution will continue to call witness today in the Elliott case. The trial began Monday and is expected to last three weeks.

Staff writer Trina Goethals can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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