Ricky Gray's execution date set

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 1:50 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2016 at 6:07 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The man behind a horrific crime that left a family dead inside their burning home learned his fate Monday. A Richmond judge decided Ricky Gray will be put to death in less than two months for his role in the 2006 New Year's Day quadruple murders of the Harvey family in Richmond.

NBC 12 has uncovered Gray is now fighting his execution by calling it a violation of his constitutional rights. He's speaking out through letters written from his prison cell.

The death row inmate is questioning the process, saying he needs a "pain-free execution".

Richmond won't soon forget the tragic deaths of a family found dead in their home - a 9-year-old and 4-year-old among the victims.

"Just the saddest thing you could ever think of," Cynthia Erdahl told NBC 12 in a previous interview.

Flash forward 11 years later, in the same month of the crime. The killer, Ricky Gray, is now set to be put to death.

Monday, a judge set Jan. 18 as the date, and Gray will now have to make a decision: die by electrocution or lethal injection.

"When that choice was first given under VA law, the thought was lethal injection was less barbaric," said NBC 12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin.

But Gray himself has questions. In letters written to the prison system, he's asking for details into the chemicals that make up the lethal injection. He even calls Virginia's execution process a violation of his constitutional rights.

"It's hard to fault Ricky Gray for raising these questions…for trying to delay his execution," Benjamin added.

Benjamin says it wont work, unless the Governor or Court steps in. The move comes after Gray unsuccessfully tried to appeal his fate.

"Ricky Gray has explored every single possible legal appeal or remedy available to him, but it eventually stops. There are some who would be so horrified at what they had done, they may choose to end their life, but Ricky Gray is fighting to preserve his," Benjamin said.

It comes as those who knew the victims still work to come to terms with the deaths.

"These people were just loved by tons of people. You couldn't find more creative, more generous, more kind people than the Harvey family, and they were loved," said James Talley in a former interview.

In his letters, Gray calls the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment. It's a claim many prisoners have made. Their concerns have even made it to the Supreme Court, but were shot down.

In December 2015, Gray petitioned to have his death penalty case reviewed by all 15 federal appeals court judges in Richmond. His appeal made it to the U.S. Supreme Court this year, but was rejected twice.

Gray's sentence was specifically for the murders of Stella and Ruby Harvey, daughters of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey, who were also killed with the help of Ray Dandridge. A week later, Percyell Tucker, his wife Mary and their daughter, Ashley Baskerville, who was an accomplice in the Harveys' murder, were also killed. Dandridge is serving a life sentence.

Alfredo R. Prieto was the last inmate put to death in Virginia, on Oct. 1, 2015.

According to the most recent reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a death row inmate waits an average of 137 months between sentencing and execution. Since 1977, Virginia has had 110 executions. 79 of those were done by lethal injection, 31 by electrocution. Under state law, the inmate must request electrocution, and can do so up until 15 days before the execution date.

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