Her testimony disappeared when Ricky Jovan Gray and Ray Joseph Dandridge killed her.
But if the words of her friend are true, Ashley Baskerville was with Gray in Culpeper on Dec. 18, 2005 - the night Reva resident Sherri Warner died.
Warner, a 37-year-old mother of three, was found shot and hanged by an electrical cord in her burning basement along U.S. 29 near Reva. Baskerville, according to court documents, was in the house at the time of Warner's death.
It took authorities one year before charging Gray with the crime. He will appear this afternoon in Culpeper County Circuit Court for a motions hearing. His trial is set for Oct. 29-Nov. 5.
Gray, 29, faces charges of capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possessing a firearm after being a convicted felon, abduction and attempted arson related to Warner's death.
New information filed in a 17-page court document Aug. 29 shows that Gray may not have acted alone.
Investigators from the Culpeper County Sheriff's Office interviewed inmate Timothy Thomas at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw on two occasions. Thomas, in jail on unrelated charges, told them that Baskerville said she was with Gray in Culpeper when "he forced his way into a house and killed a lady and that she saw the body hanged in the basement with an electrical cord."
The commonwealth wants to use Baskerville's testimony as stated to Thomas.
It has filed a new motion requesting to admit her testimony in court on the grounds that Gray forfeited his rights (to object to hearsay) by murdering Baskerville and her family in Richmond, three weeks after Warner's death.
Judge John R. Cullen will consider the commonwealth's motion and others filed by defense counsel today at 2:30 p.m. Gray's Richmond-based attorney, Ted Bruns, would not comment.
Gray and Baskerville's relationship
Baskerville, 21, was Gray's girlfriend at the time of her death and dated Dandridge, his nephew, before that. Reportedly, she was also with them when they murdered the Harvey family on New Year's Day last year in South Richmond.
Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their two daughters were bound and killed in their basement, which had been set afire.
Five days later, Richmond police found Baskerville and her mother, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, murdered in their South Richmond home - bound and suffocated with duct tape.
Ashley Baskerville had cooperated in what she apparently thought would be the robbery of her mother and stepfather.
Gray is awaiting execution on death row for the Harvey murders.
He never went to trial for Baskerville's death but admitted to killing her, and evidence was presented confirming it during Dandridge's trial. According to court documents, Gray told to a detective that he murdered Baskerville and her family.
Dandridge pleaded guilty to three counts of capital murder for the deaths of the Tucker-Baskerville family as part of an agreement that he would serve life in prison without parole.
In the new motion, the commonwealth argues that Baskerville's statements to Thomas contained information unknown to the general public and inculpated her as an accessory to Warner's murder.
According to the court documents, Baskerville told Thomas that Gray had a gun during the incident. She said that she and Gray followed a woman home from a gas station or store in Culpeper.
Gray knocked on Warner's door and asked to use the phone, indicating he had car trouble. He then forced his way into the house while calling for Baskerville to enter.
Baskerville told Thomas that they "ransacked the house." She told him details that the house had a front fence and a dog, which the commonwealth argues were elements unknown to the public.
Thomas told investigators that Baskerville said she heard a female scream from the basement and Gray took her there to show her the dead woman.
"Baskerville also indicated to Thomas her fear of Gray and that he stated to her on several occasions that he would kill her if she ever left him," the document reads.
After Warner's murder, Baskerville contacted Thomas via telephone and told him about it. During their conversation, Thomas heard Gray ask Baskerville whom she was talking to and that "she should not be talking to anyone."
Justification for testimony use
The commonwealth states that Gray would benefit from murdering Baskerville if her statements could not be used against him.
Common law doctrines allow her statements to be admitted "where the defendant's own misconduct rendered the declarant unavailable as a witness at trial," the motion reads. "She (Baskerville) is an unavailable witness because Gray and Dandridge killed her."
The commonwealth cites several cases and an opinion by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia supporting its case for admitting Baskerville's statements.
As far as credibility is concerned, the commonwealth says "the fact that Dandridge and Gray killed Baskerville gives equitable credence to the reliability of her statements to Thomas."
"The logical inference is that they benefited from murdering Baskerville, at least in part, because she knew intimate details about their killing sprees and could have testified later against them," the motion states.
It continues that, while Baskerville and Thomas were friends, Thomas had no involvement with the criminal investigation of Gray and Dandridge. And Baskerville had not been questioned by police when she spoke to Thomas.
"A reasonable inference exists that when she made the statements, she suffered from the pangs of guilt of participating in a horrible crime spree with Gray and Dandridge and had no motive to fabricate," it continues.
Not only did her statements place her at the crime scene, the document reads, but they also confirmed the pattern Gray and Dandridge followed in committing many of their homicides:
asking for directions or claiming and inoperable car to gain access to a house, commit murder and set the victims on fire.
"The facts and circumstances of the Harvey murders exactly mirror the murder of Sherri Warner," the motion reads.
"The statements show that Baskerville is speaking of first-hand knowledge because she described in detail the factual scenario involving Sheryl Warner's death. Equity exists to balance the hardships among parties. Ricky Gray should not reap a windfall for killing Ashley Baskerville."
Liz Mitchell can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or email@example.com.
Today's court hearing
In Culpeper County Circuit Court today, Judge John R. Cullen will decide whether to admit testimony that could implicate Ricky Jovan Gray in the murder of Reva resident Sherri Warner. The commonwealth has obtained statements from Timothy Thomas, a friend of Ashley Baskerville. Before Gray killed his girlfriend Baskerville, Thomas says she confessed her role - along with Gray - in stalking and killing Warner Dec. 18, 2005. Today's hearing takes place at 2:30 p.m. Gray's trial is set for Oct. 29-Nov. 5.