The retrial of Larry Bill Elliott for the murder of a Woodbridge couple in January 2001 closed Monday afternoon with Elliott’s defense attorney demanding a document Elliott’s romantic interest, Rebecca Gragg, says she signed during a police interview.
Elliott, 55, 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. Prosecutors said Elliott was jealous of Finch, who was in a child custody dispute with Gragg, 35, an adult escort Elliott met on the internet.
Gragg testified Monday she received phone calls from Elliott the day of the murders, saying he “had blood all over him” and “all of our problems were taken care of.” Gragg said she discussed the phone calls with lead detective Charles Hoffman during a smoking break, and that she signed a paper summarizing the content of the phone calls.
The document, which wasn’t discussed at the original trial, wasn’t produced by evening recess. It is unclear whether it will be presented Tuesday. Defense Attorney William Moffitt said that “a narrative from Hoffman of the interview doesn’t reflect he required Rebecca Gragg to write out or sign anything.”
Moffitt questioned Gragg about why she didn’t tell police earlier about the incriminating phone calls. He also asked her about remarks Hoffman made during the May interview, suggesting Gragg was lying to police, and had made inconsistent statements.
Under questioning from the prosecution and defense, Gragg said she didn’t tell police about the calls until May 2001, despite previous interviews in January 2001. Gragg said she was scared of Jerry, “a deep undercover” friend of Elliott’s. Elliott was a former Army counter-intelligence specialist. Gragg testified Monday that Elliott told her Jerry was watching and would hurt people she cared about.
“[Elliott] said Jerry was just checking up on me for Elliott, so he could keep me in line,” Gragg said. “[Elliott] said people’s lives were in danger and he couldn’t control what was going to happen.”
Gragg testified for much of the day, describing how she met Elliott and Finch, how the relationship between her and Elliott progressed, and her child custody dispute with Finch. Gragg said Elliott answered an ad she placed on an Internet personals site for a “sugar daddy.” Between the summer of 1999 and January 2001, Elliott spent more than $450,000 on her, Gragg estimated.
Gragg earlier admitted to impersonating Elliott’s wife over the phone in late December 2000 so that he could transfer “thousands of dollars” from Cathy Elliott’s account into another account.
“He said I had got him into this situation, and I needed to help him get out,” Gragg said. “He gave me information on a piece of paper and said he needed me to pose as his wife.”
Monday morning, Moffitt asked for a mistrial because Hoffman mentioned that one of the police officers who interviewed Gragg was a polygrapher.
“It was a lead balloon dropped in the court room by this police officer,” Moffitt argued. “I either have to question him [about the polygrapher] or ask for a mistrial.”
The mistrial was denied; Judge William D. Hamblen chose to instruct jurors to ignore the remark instead. Outside of the jury’s presence, Hamblen said the polygraph test results are “hocum.”
“Appellate courts in this jurisdiction have ruled they are devoid of any value at all,” Hamblen said.
Monday was the second time Moffitt has asked for a mistrial. He was successful in September 2002, when 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.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.