NEWS- Harvey trial: Jury sentences killer to death

Eight months after the brutal New Year's Day slayings of popular musician Bryan Harvey, his wife, Kathryn, and their two daughters, Stella and Ruby, the trial for their accused murderer, Ricky Javon Gray, commenced in a Richmond court on August 16.         

A day later, the jury required little time– just 30 minutes– to convict Gray in the horrific murder.         

Among details to emerge: that Gray and his accomplice, Ray Dandridge, were already in the house when a family friend dropped nine-year-old Stella off after a sleepover. And, perhaps surprisingly, the news that Gray– who pleaded not guilty to five counts of capital murder– had confessed to the killings, saying, "None of this was necessary."

Harvey was best known in Charlottesville for his performances with The Dads, a pop rock group that appeared regularly on Charlottesville and other East Coast college stages during the 1980s, and for his 1990s work with House of Freaks and Gutterball.         

"The first time I saw him play was with his band, Gutterball, in New York about 10 years ago," Charlottesville musician Shannon Worrell told the Hook shortly after the slayings. "He was just an amazing guitar player– really loud and beautiful, a wall of sound."      

On August 16, jurors heard a recording of Gray's chilling confession and were shown crime scene photos, according to an extensive report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

 Following his arrest in Philadelphia on January 7, Gray told detective Howard Peterman how he and Dandridge discovered the open front door of the Harveys' south Richmond home and went inside with the intention of robbing the family while Ashley Baskerville– whom Gray and Dandridge allegedly killed days later– waited outside.      

According to the transcript published in the TD, Gray bound Bryan Harvey with an extension cord, and after Stella returned home, taped the hands of Kathryn and the two girls while Dandridge searched the upstairs for valuables. Gray said that when Kathryn and her daughters freed their hands and tried to get up, he "started cuttin' their throats" before grabbing a hammer and bludgeoning the family.      

Gray said he believed Dandridge returned at some point and cut Bryan Harvey, but he said he then hit him with the hammer until he stopped moving.      

The crime stunned Richmond, and as Times-Dispatch columnist Ray McAllister wrote in the August 18 issue, "It would be hard for anyone to sit in the Ricky Gray trial and not want vengeance."      

Untile the afternoon of Tuesday, August 22, jurors were still undecided about whether Gray should be sentenced to death. Under Virginia law, they had to reach a unanimous decision to impose the death penalty. If they couldn't decide, the sentence would automatically become life in prison without parole. Jurors listened to dramatic closing arguments and spent six hours deliberating on Monday before being sent home for the evening.       

Some jurors were in tears during the day, according to press reports, as deputy commonwealth's attorney Learned Barry showed cheerful family pictures of the Harveys and shouted, "For God's sake! You give him death for killing these children!"       

Defense attorney Jeffrey Everhart fired back, pleading for mercy and reminding jurors of Gray's mother's testimony that her son had been physically and sexually abused as a child, and that it wasn't "about leveling the scales." In the end, he asked the jury to avoid the "knee-jerk, visceral, 'He killed, kill him!'" reaction.          

On Tuesday, according to news reports, jurors looked "weary and frustrated" as they arrived at the courthouse.       

Shortly after 3pm on Tuesday, after over 12 hours of deliberation, the jury handed Gray the death sentence. According to news reports, the jury indicated that it was the killing of the young Harvey daughters that tipped the scales.      

"This is probably the most difficult thing you've ever done," Judge Beverly W. Snukals told the jury as she read their findings, the Times-Dispatch reported. "Probably for me, too."

Bryan Harvey (far right) was best known in Charlottesville for his performances with The Dads, a pop rock group that appeared regularly on local stages during the 1980s.