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Virginia Set to Electrocute Killer Who Gunned Down Couple to Win Love of Ex-Stripper

A former Army counterintelligence worker from Maryland who was convicted of gunning down a northern Virginia couple to win the love of a former stripper is set to become the first inmate to die of electrocution since 2006.

Larry Bill Elliott, 60, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the January 2001 shooting deaths of 25-year-old Dana Thrall and 30-year-old Robert Finch.

Elliott's execution comes one week after Virginia executed sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad by injection. Elliott made the rare choice of electrocution, an option taken by only four of the 80 inmates executed since they were given a choice in 1995.

Prosecutors said Elliott killed the couple to win the love of Rebecca Gragg, a former stripper and adult escort who was involved in a bitter child custody battle with Finch.

Elliott, of Hanover, Md., claims he is innocent. He was set to be executed on Oct. 5, but Gov. Timothy M. Kaine pushed it back, saying he needed more time to consider the case.

"Given the nature of these crimes and the facts that were presented at trial, I have no reason to question the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty or the jury's decision that death was an appropriate sentence," Kaine said at the time, adding that the complicated nature of the case required extra care "given the irreversible nature of an execution."

Elliott's lawyers filed a clemency petition Aug. 28 asking Kaine to commute Elliott's sentence to life in prison. Last week they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution until it can consider his appeal.

The court denied the request.

Kaine refuses to comment on pending clemency petitions.

Elliott, who was married with three adult children and a teenager, met Gragg online when she posted an ad looking for a "sugar daddy." Prosecutors said that over 18 months Elliott spent about $450,000 supplying Gragg with a home, private school for her two children, a car, breast enhancement surgery and a credit card.

Prosecutors said Elliott was obsessed with Gragg and killed Finch to win her love.

Finch was shot three times, and Thrall was beaten before being shot several times in the face and chest while her two boys, ages 4 and 6, were upstairs in the couple's Woodbridge town home. Gragg's children were not at the house at the time.

Elliott admitted being outside the house, saying he was spying on Finch trying to catch him doing anything that would make him an unfit parent. Police found his blood on the backyard fence.

Two separate juries convicted Elliott of the killings. A 2002 verdict was set aside because a juror discussed the case outside of the court. He was convicted again a year later.

Elliott claims his trial lawyers were improperly restricted in questioning Gragg, who testified for the prosecution.

Gragg denied any involvement until five months after the killings. After police told her she failed a polygraph test, Gragg implicated Elliott and said she hadn't come forward before because she was afraid of him. Elliott's lawyers were not allowed to ask her about the failed polygraph test, which they claim in his appeal would have showed her "bias and motivation to lie." She was never charged in the case.

Elliott's attorneys did not return telephone messages and e-mails seeking comment.

If Elliott's execution goes as scheduled, he would be the 105th person put to death in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.

The last Virginia inmate to chose electrocution was 27-year-old Brandon Hedrick, who died in 2006 for raping and killing a young mother. Kaine gave him up until the last minute to opt for lethal injection, but he went forward with electrocution.