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String of brutal slayings shocks Virginia city

Even police were shocked at the brutality of a string of slayings in a relatively peaceful Richmond, Va. neighborhood.
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The neighborhood where Bryan and Kathryn Harvey were raising their two young daughters is an oasis of suburban serenity in the middle of a city that ranks high on lists of dangerous places.

Many of the gracious, century-old homes in Woodland Heights have backyard sandboxes and swing sets. Many residents don't lock their doors. Only last summer, a rash of toolshed break-ins was considered a crime wave.

Then, on New Year's Day, neighbors noticed smoke curling from the Harveys' two-story, red-brick house with a lime green door and called 911.

What was discovered inside was so gruesome that homicide detectives cried. All four Harveys -- Bryan, 49; Kathryn, 39; Stella, 9; and Ruby, 4 -- had been bound with tape and beaten. Their throats were slit.

It was only the beginning.

Five days later, police acting on a tip went to a working-class neighborhood a mile from the Harveys' home and found three more bodies. Like the Harveys, Ashley Baskerville, 21, her mother, Mary, 47, and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, 55, had been tied up before being slain in their home.

Police believe all seven victims were killed by two ex-convicts from Arlington County who are uncle and nephew. Ricky J. Gray and Ray J. Dandridge, both 28, were charged in the slayings. Since Gray and Dandridge were arrested Jan. 7 in Philadelphia, police have linked them to other crimes in a trail of death and violence stretching from Virginia to Pennsylvania, like a page torn from "In Cold Blood."

The men have told police they slashed the throat of an Arlington man on New Year's Eve, and police suspect they robbed a Chesterfield County couple in their home three days later. In addition, Gray is a suspect in the death of his wife of barely six months, Treva Terrell Gray, whose body was found in November in a weedy lot south of Pittsburgh.

With police and prosecutors under a gag order, much about the crimes and the suspects remains unknown. Although they have criminal convictions that date to adolescence, nothing hinted at the rampage that police say came next.

Gray and Dandridge grew up together, more like brothers than uncle and nephew. Gray, whose sister is Dandridge's mother, is eight months younger than his nephew. A decade ago, they were convicted in a string of armed robberies in which they preyed on college students and cabdrivers, snatching such small items as sunglasses, wristwatches and pocket change.

But if it is unclear how two small-time robbers might have become wanton killers, as police allege, the picture that emerges is of two young men who could not keep away from each other -- or from trouble.

'They raised hell together'

"I was trying to get him started on the right track," said Ronald Wilson, Dandridge's father, who was helping his son, fresh out of prison, find run-down houses in Philadelphia to buy and renovate. "Then they got together. From back when they were kids, I always felt any time they got together, they would get in trouble. I'm not pointing any fingers. It seemed they influenced each other. They raised hell together."

Little is known about their youth in Arlington. Wilson said they were always in tandem, playing and sleeping over at each other's houses. Both enjoyed chess and videos.

Dandridge attended Yorktown High School but did not graduate. Gray attended ninth grade at Washington-Lee High School and spent 10th grade at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va. He did not return after the 1993-1994 school year, officials said.

In October 1995, Gray and Dandridge, along with two others, were caught robbing people with a loaded handgun. They committed minor-league holdups -- backpacks and watches from two Georgetown University students; a pager, sunglasses and $1 from a man.

"I was more of a follower than a leader," Dandridge said in a handwritten letter to the Alexandria judge, asking for mercy. "I have low self esteem and am in dire need of a sense of direction."

Dandridge was convicted of robbery and handgun charges and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Gray was convicted of robbery and sentenced to four years; he got out in three. At St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Va., Gray earned a general equivalency diploma. Soon after his release, he was arrested on drug charges.

According to records in Alexandria Circuit Court, he had been in jail in 2000 awaiting trial on an abduction charge for which he was later acquitted. During a strip search, jailers found cocaine. He pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and was sentenced to 16 months.

In separate charges brought in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Gray pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Court documents say he obtained crack cocaine for his "customers." He was sentenced in September 2000 to 10 years in prison, but a year later prosecutors asked for a reduced sentence because of Gray's "substantial assistance" to prosecutors.

Gray marries, wife found dead
During one of his interludes from prison, Gray met Treva Terrell.

She also had done time in the Alexandria jail, although it is unknown for what. While an inmate in 2002, she was sexually assaulted by a sheriff's deputy who ran the work-release program to which she was assigned. In a criminal case against the former deputy, Eric Mayo, Terrell testified in Alexandria Circuit Court that she had complied with the sexual demands to keep from being thrown out of the program.

By the time Gray was released from prison in January 2005, Terrell had moved with her family to Washington, Pa., southeast of Pittsburgh. Her mother, Marna Squires, said she felt it was a "safer" place.

When Gray showed up in Pennsylvania after prison, Squires said her daughter helped him get on his feet. He enrolled in electricians school and was hired at the telemarketing company where she worked.

One day last summer, Squires's daughter announced that she and Gray had just been married. The couple moved into a house that Squires owns. Gray's mother moved to town, and Squires rented her a house, too. And when Dandridge was released from prison Oct. 26, after serving 10 years, he moved there.

Ten days later, Treva Terrell Gray's body was found. Police in Washington, Pa., say they consider Dandridge and Gray "persons of interest" in the investigation of her death.

It is not known exactly when or why Dandridge and Gray came to Richmond. But on New Year's Eve, the spasm of violence linked to the two men began.

In an apparently random robbery, Dandridge and Gray slit the throat of a 25-year-old Arlington man, who survived the vicious attack, police said.

Then the Harveys were discovered dead in their home, which had been set on fire.

'Fun-loving people'
Bryan and Kathryn Harvey were well known throughout Richmond. Anyone who was a teenager there during the 1980s had heard his band, the Dads. He also was the singer-guitarist for a two-man rock band called House of Freaks, which recorded two albums and developed a cult following. Despite success, Harvey and his musical partner, Johnny Hott, returned to Richmond from Los Angeles, more interested in making music than deals.

Lately, Harvey had been a computer technician for the Henrico County school system but still rocked in a five-man band called NrG Krysis (pronounced energy crisis). The group performed songs from the 1960s and 1970s, frequently dressed in polyester leisure suits.

Kathryn Harvey ran a whimsical gift store called World of Mirth, and those who knew the couple said it was a metaphor for their lives.

"They were such fun-loving people," said Richard Cowling, who lives across the street from the Harvey house and whose granddaughter often played with Stella. "They always had strings of lights up, whether it was Christmas or not. They just had a playful attitude toward life."

Last week, the entrance to World of Mirth in Richmond's Carytown district was lined with hundreds of flowers, candles and small stuffed animals. In the display window was a Day of the Dead shrine, with fanciful skeletons, brightly colored tin trinkets and religious candles. A television screen played home videos of Bryan Harvey performing with his band, wearing a white costume like Elvis in his Las Vegas period.

Initially, the viciousness of the crime led police to consider it an act of passion or vengeance committed by someone who knew the family. Later, they told neighbors there is no known connection between the Harveys and the suspects. Last week, a mobile police command center remained parked outside the Harveys' home, a reassuring presence in the rattled neighborhood.

Two days after the Harvey slayings, Roy Mason was watching television from his living room recliner at home in Chesterfield, just south of the Richmond city line. His wife, Dale, 57, who has multiple sclerosis, uses a wheelchair and is legally blind from diabetes, was in the bedroom.

Two men came to the door for directions, then burst in and pushed Roy Mason, who is in his seventies, down on the couch, according to accounts he gave to his wife's sister, Bonnie Goolsby and nephew, Roger Toney. The men took a TV, DVD player, computer and $800 from the Social Security check Dale Mason had cashed that morning, Toney said.

After half an hour, the men threatened to lash the couple together. But Roy Mason talked them out of it.

"He begged and pleaded with them that his wife was sick and if anything happened to her, he wouldn't be able to get to her," Toney said. To the couple's surprise, the men agreed to leave them untied. Indeed, the intruders were polite throughout, saying to Roy Mason, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir."

Connecting crimes

The Masons are afraid to return to their modest home of 38 years, with the new handicapped ramp leading to the front door, Toney said. And for a week, Roy Mason did not realize the incident had anything to do with the Harvey killings. But when he saw Gray and Dandridge on television after their arrest, he immediately recognized them as the intruders, Toney said.

He also recognized one of the victims. Midway through the Masons' ordeal, a woman had joined them and stolen a video game. When photographs of the next three slaying victims were released, Toney said, Roy Mason identified Ashley Baskerville as the female accomplice.

Suddenly, the Mason break-in did not look random. Gray and Dandridge had been staying in the townhouse of a woman who lives behind the Masons. The woman's daughter was friendly with Baskerville, whom she met when they were in a detention center together.

Baskerville had been in and out of detention since she was 12. She had recently returned to the South Richmond home where her mother, who worked for a dry cleaner, and her stepfather, a forklift operator at a tobacco warehouse, lived. She often accompanied her mother to services at Fifth Baptist Church, where she was attending a prison ministry group for young people and striving to make a new start, said Queen Harris, a pastor who leads the group.

Police have said that the Baskerville house was ransacked and that Percyell Tucker's 1993 Chevrolet Blazer was stolen. But it is unknown whether they were victims of a robbery gone awry or the killers feared being turned in.

Acting on a tip relayed through Virginia authorities, Philadelphia police arrested Gray and Dandridge early Jan. 7, hours after the bodies of Baskerville and her parents had been found. The men had arrived at the home of Dandridge's father the afternoon before. They were arrested there without incident.

Even with the suspects in custody, much of Richmond remains exhausted and on edge. Officials attending vigils have said they hope the slayings are a tipping point that encourages more people to contact police with information.

In the wake of the slayings, some bloggers have resurrected a personal ad that Dandridge submitted in May to the Web site when he was an inmate at the James River Correctional Center. In the ad, he described himself as a poet who liked to dance, read and play chess. He said he was looking for a soul mate who wanted a "real man."

"I'm an open minded and very romantic and understanding person," he wrote. "I believe in treating others as I want to be treated and respected in life."

Dandridge and his uncle are being held without bail. The prosecutor is expected to seek the death penalty.

Staff writers Jamie Stockwell and Jerry Markon and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.