Ricky Jovan Gray was convicted last week of murdering the Harvey family on New Year’s Day 2006.
I work at the Doubletree Hotel at Richmond International Airport, where earlier that day was the final performance of Bryan Harvey with his band, nRg Krisis, for the New Year’s Eve bash there.
I came into work that day to hear that “someone killed that guy in the band” from one of my co-workers. I had slept all of New Year’s Day, after working a long shift on December 31st. I was shocked as I read that a man I had watched play all night, to the cheers and festivity of the entire crowd, was dead.
The next few days were a big commotion for the hotel staff. Investigators came to interview employees at random, and they were pulled aside discreetly throughout the day. According to them, the investigators asked “Did you notice anyone suspicious?” Universally, the answer was “No.” “Did anyone seem like they had a problem with the band?” Once again, the answer was “No.” It didn’t make sense. How could such a seemingly respectable family face such a brutal demise?
The crime against Harvey’s family was so brutal that some law enforcement and medical personnel left the scene weeping after witnessing the fashion that Bryan, his wife and two small daughters had been murdered. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Aug. 25, even Gray’s Pastor, Joe Ellison Jr., said he “threw up” after receiving a confession from Gray while meeting him in prison.
What is more horrifying is that Gray had no connection to the Harvey family. According to court proceedings, he had only entered the family’s home because the door was open; he stole a computer, a wedding ring and some cookies. The summary of his actions? The lives of a decent family, in exchange for probably a thousand dollars worth of goods, chosen at random.
Gray was not insane, nor was anything compelling him to do what he did. I doubt that the “bad childhood” that is attributed to Gray is enough to slash four restrained people to death and attempt to burn down a house.
The death sentence is an extreme measure. It is the ultimate punishment in our society for the greatest crimes one can commit. No matter what angle one frames it, Gray committed a horrible crime, an act of ultimate selfishness. His offenses were an assault on the people of Richmond, and had he not had been caught after his second horrific act, it might have continued endlessly.
I did not know Bryan Harvey for anything more than his music. Yet, that next day, I too felt the sting of loss that many in the city felt that fateful day. Richmond suffered great pain in the wake of Gray’s actions, and the recommendation of the death penalty by a jury of peers in this instance is more than appropriate.