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Virginia man convicted of 2006 slaying of family is executed

This undated photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows convicted murderer Ricky Gray who is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening, Jan. 18, 2017, at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. Gray is scheduled to be put to death for the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and 4-year-old sister, Ruby, as well as their parents Bryan and Kathryn Harvey in 2006. (Virginia Department of Corrections via AP)

JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year's Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday.

Ricky Gray was pronounced dead at 9:42 p.m. following a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. The 39-year-old inmate was put to death with the sedative midazolam, followed by rocuronium bromide to halt breathing, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Gray showed no emotion as he was walked into the execution chamber wearing blue jeans and handcuffs. Asked if he had any final words, Gray responded, "Nope."

Gray was condemned to death in 2006 for the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and 4-year-old sister Ruby, and sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of their parents, Bryan and Kathryn Harvey.

The family was getting ready to host friends for a chili dinner when Gray and his nephew, Ray Dandridge, were looking for a home to rob when they spotted the open door. Court records show they tied up the family in the basement and Gray slashed their throats and bashed their heads with a hammer before setting their home on fire and fleeing with a computer, a wedding ring and a basket of cookies.

The well-known family's slaying rocked Virginia's capital city and was followed by the killing of another Richmond family less than a week later. Kathryn Harvey was co-owner of a popular Richmond toy store, the World of Mirth, and Bryan Harvey was a guitarist and singer for a rock duo, House of Freaks.

Gray also confessed to participating in the slaying of 21-year-old Ashley Baskerville, her mother Mary Baskerville-Tucker and stepfather Percyell Tucker days after the Harvey deaths, but wasn't tried in that case. Gray and Dandridge said Ashley Baskerville had served as a lookout for them during the Harvey slayings.

Dandridge pleaded guilty to the Tucker-Baskerville slayings and is serving a life sentence.

Elizabeth Peiffer, an attorney for Gray, said that while his death may provide a measure of retribution for some, it also took "from the world a man trying to make amends and make life better for others."

Prison officials closed a blue curtain at 8:54 p.m., shielding Gray from view. That is typically when officials insert the IV and place heart monitors before starting the injection. The curtain remained closed for more than 30 minutes before it was opened and the lethal injection began, which Pfeiffer said was significantly longer than usual and concerning.

Lisa Kinney, a Virginia Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said she could not explain why the curtain was closed that long.

The lethal injection began around 9:28 p.m. For several minutes, Gray's appeared to be breathing heavily and snored loudly several times. At 9:33 p.m. he stopped moving.

Gray was the first Virginia inmate executed since convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto received a lethal injection in October 2015. Just six inmates remain on Virginia's death row. No other execution dates have been set.

Virginia obtained the midazolam and potassium chloride from a compounding pharmacy whose identity is secret under a new state law.

Midazolam has come under fire after several problematic executions in other states, with critics arguing it causes inmates to suffer a painful death because it cannot reliably render them unconscious. Gray's attorneys had said the fact that the drug was obtained from a compounding pharmacy rather than a typical manufacturer magnifies the risk of problems.

But the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld the use of midazolam in 2015 and the high court earlier Wednesday rejected Gray's bid to stay the execution so he could challenge the planned use of the compounded version of the drug.

Gray's attorneys had unsuccessfully appealed to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to spare his life, saying Gray's actions arose from drug use aimed at numbing years of sexual abuse by his older brother when he was a child. Gray says he was high on PCP at the time of the Harvey slayings and doesn't remember much.

Several death penalty opponents and some relatives of Gray held a vigil outside the prison as he was executed, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

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