Meet Ronald A. Gray. He’s the one in the Jacob Marley rig in this quaint old photo. He’s in his fifties now; his crimes not only predated the Internet (not entirely, as we had Lexis/Nexis and Arpanet at the unit a few years earlier, but to a first approximation), but he’s been on death row longer than the any of the people he killed lived. (There were at least four, for which he was convicted). Those of his rape victims that he did not murder (at least five for which he was convicted) have lived with the consequences. In the worst case this has been death, living, for longer than her carefree if dimly-recalled period of life before she met this brute.
Another measure of how long ago all this happened is this: the only uniform items in the picture that are still worn by the US Army are the paratroopers’ maroon berets, the black necktie, and some of the shiny doodads. If we didn’t know the picture was shot on 6 Apr 88 (by Marcus Castro of the Fayetteville, NC, Observer; nice job, the way the moving subject’s in focus and the foreground and background distractions aren’t), we’d be able to date it to the 80s by the Class A green uniform, the light-green shirt, and the MP’s Hitler mustache and lightweight summer BDU. (Or is it a late square-pocket ERDL? Too lazy to pull examples out of the Old War Wardrobe).
In the picture, Gray is wearing the uniform of a cook in the 82nd Airborne Division, a Specialist, 4th Grade, none of which he was at the moment the picture was snapped, for he had just been sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, forfeitures and reduction to E-1, as well as life sentences (for the rapes that happened under military jurisdiction) and death (for the murders). Civilian courts also sentenced him to eight life terms, five concurrent and three consecutive, for seven other crimes, including two more murders. (“Who gets jurisdiction” when a soldier commits crimes on and off post, and against civilian and military victims, can get complicated, but they work it out).
Although he contested the court-martial, Gray admitted his guilt in civil court with that same self-satisfied smirk you see in the picture. And then he sat back and let lawyers champion him. Which some lawyers, true to their species’s belly-sliding, sidewinding, no-shoulders, smooth-but-cool-to-the-touch nature, did do.
His current lawyers are the hybristophiles — which is a person with a dysfunctional and antisocial love of criminals, if the word is new to you — of the Death Penalty Information Center. Despite its focus-grouped euphemistic name, it is really a Death Penalty Opposition Center. (Any penalty, really; its activists tend also to oppose life sentences, and often, any sentences, for serial killers and other predators and pathogens). It is a nest of very strange humans who walk erect on their hind legs, and ride high on the benefits of a civilized lifestyle, but believe that criminal enemies of that civilization have the absolute right to walk free. And victims have the right to die, or get raped and assaulted, and shut up about it.
Some of them (perhaps, all of them) take a ghoulish and voyeuristic delight in the suffering of the direct and indirect victims of murderers and rapists, like Our Boy here. Let us pause for a moment and insert something that is missing from most of the articles about Gray: his victims and their sufferings. From an appeal to the Court of Military Appeals (.pdf):
In January 1987, appellant was identified and arrested for the rape of a woman in the vicinity of Fairlane Acres, a trailer park near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The next day the body of Ms. Kimberly Ann Ruggles was found near that area on Fort Bragg. “She had received multiple stab wounds” and had “suffered bruises on her eyebrow, bruises on her nose, and a laceration on her lip.” She had been raped and anally sodomized. Evidence in her vehicle and in his possession implicated appellant.
OK, but that’s just one case (well, two cases, but only one murder).
Later the same month, the body of Private (PVT) Laura Lee Vickery-Clay was found. “She had been shot four times (while she was alive), in the neck, forehead, chest, and back of the head. Also, she had suffered blunt force trauma to the right cheek, the left side of her face, around her left eye, her left breast, abdomen, and both legs and arms.” PVT Vickery-Clay “had been raped and anally sodomized.” Evidence on her car and the murder weapon implicated appellant.
OK, two brutal murders, one violent rape…. and counting…
Subsequent media coverage of appellant’s arrest for these crimes produced another victim (PVT Nameth), who recognized his face from photographs of appellant on television and in the newspaper. She reported that appellant had “raped her, and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and side”; she “suffered a laceration of the trachea and a collapsed or punctured lung.” 37 MJ at 736.
Here’s a little more on Ruggles, whose grieving father, and three children who are older now than she was at her death, still wait for justice.
She was working as a taxi-cab driver near Fort Bragg, N.C., where Gray was stationed, and her last fare was a passenger named “Ron.” The cab was found abandoned nearby.
A medical examiner said she had been raped and stabbed, and bled to death.
Gray left her, naked and bleeding and full of his DNA. She was moonlighting to help support her kids.
Gray was convicted of all these murders and rapes, and a number of lesser included crimes. In addition, there were his state rapes (convicted) and murders (he pled guilty to those).
Against this, we have anti-death-penalty, and pro-Gray pshrink David Armitage testifying (.pdf) that Gray’s crimes should be excused because he had it tough as a child:
Well, he had early in life a fair–fairly substantial socioeconomic depravation [sic], multiple male figures in the home, multiple physical moves, living in substandard–proverty [sic] conditions, circumstances where the electric lights were turned out by the company because bills were not paid, projectal[sic] living, things of this nature – multiple school changes.
Sure, that turns everybody into serial killers.
He had a stepparent at one time who was extremely abusive to his mother and abusive to himself, using belts on him to the point of inflicting injury, drawing blood.
OK, that’s a little less common than just being poor, but what other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune drove Gray to this?
He felt the need to protect his mother from–from this abuse. Lived in a–in a part of Miami that certainly was–was not where you and I would want to live by any means.
So he protects his mama by raping and killing a bunch of other women. If that makes sense to you, You Just Might be a Shrink. (And you probably need to be locked in a room with no doorkob on your side of the door and a nice neoprene wall treatment).
Shorter Armitage (all these quotes are from his testimony in this appeal .pdf), he’s depraved on account of he’s deprived. How does Armitage explain all those people who grew up poor and got a whuppin’ for childhood discipline, like, we dunno, maybe two-thirds of the Greatest Generation of World War II? How does he explain everybody who grew up in a bad neighborhood and goes on to work himself out of poverty and do his best to raise a family? He doesn’t, not until they murder somebody. In fact, Armitage admired the kid:
Curiously enough, in all of this, however, he didn’t succumb to some behaviors that many people in those environments succumb to. He didn’t become a drug abuser; he didn’t become an alcoholic. As far as we know, didn’t become a petty thief…
Sure, he became a serial rapist, sodomizer, and murderer, but he did it sober, and didn’t shoplift between homicides! What a guy! (Except the appeal makes clear that Gray was also a burglar and a thief, other charges on which he was convicted). All in all he was convicted of some forty to fifty felonies, 22 in state court.
It’s easy to have contempt for psychiatrists, as the profession is irresistible to something-wrongniks whose real motive is self-diagnosis. Likewise, the practice of law attracts some unattractive people, Hollywood’s version of law firms notwithstanding. Some are avaricious, some are lustful for power, and some… well, some are attracted to criminals. Others just want to see the world burn, just as much as a Ronald Gray does. One reason Gray still has a positive carbon footprint at Death Sentence Plus ≈29 Years is that some of these particular unattractive people from time to time get elevated to the bench. And they’re always a soft touch for a sob story about a poor misunnerstood serial rapist and killer who has helped the nation by providing lifetime employment for therapists for raped women, and who took a direct hand in reducing overpopulation — by butchering the young and fertile.
But Gray’s case got in front of, from his point of view, the wrong judge this week. And the stay, long ago imposed by one of those judges who believes that nothing should hurt the hair on the (
probably definitely bald now) head of an aging serial killer, has been lifted.
Gray is now on track to an execution date for the first time in a long time. The Fayetteville Observer:
Earlier this week, Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled the stay was no longer in effect and denied Gray’s request to further block the military from moving forward with the death sentence.
His crimes were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and near Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park off Santa Fe Drive.
Gray killed cab driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident and soldier’s wife Tammy Wilson and raped several other women.
According to a notice filed by an assistant U.S. attorney on behalf of Col. Dawn Hilton, commandant of the disciplinary barracks, officials intend to set a new date and time for Gray’s execution no earlier than 30 days from the date of their notice, which was filed on Nov. 21.
And the Observer article was accompanied by the Leavenworth mugshot you see here, showing that our speculation was correct… Gray now is bald.