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Day one of the trial against a York County man accused of stealing from an ABC store while his young children were left unattended for several hours concluded with the tearful testimony of Gregory’s girlfriend and co-defendant Elizabeth Pruitt.
Pruitt took the stand against Gregory as part of a plea deal that saw several charges against her dropped. She is currently awaiting sentencing on one count each of grand larceny, possession of burglary tools and child neglect.
During her testimony Pruitt gave a comprehensive account of the timeline of events that occurred in the early morning hours of April 14. She painted a picture of a night that spun out of control, testifying she and Gregory were high on cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs when they made the decision to break into the ABC store.
“He suggested we rob the ABC store, and I went along,” Pruitt said. “We were under the influence of quite a number of substances. I’m pretty sure we were planning on trading [the stolen liquor] for some crack.”
While almost all of the testimony from previous witnesses centered around convicting Gregory of the four charges he faces that directly relate to the break-in – one count of breaking-and-entering, one count of grand larceny, one count of wearing a mask in public and one count of possession of burglary tools – Pruitt was the first to address the three charges of child neglect that Gregory faces, one for each child they allegedly left unattended in their home that night.
“We just thought we were going to come right back,” Pruitt said, her voice shaking as she became visibly emotional for the first time in her testimony. “We weren’t using our best judgment.”
Pruitt’s testimony came after six other witnesses, including deputies with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, employees at the ABC store and a forensic expert, took the stand for the prosecution.
The first witness called by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeremy Markle was Richard Harris, a former deputy with the sheriff’s office and the first person to arrive on the scene after receiving a report of an alarm being triggered at the ABC store in the Village Square at Kiln Creek Shopping Center.
Harris testified he immediately noticed the back door of the store was slightly ajar and showed signs of having been pried open with a crowbar. He then noticed movement in a nearby bush, and when he called out for whomever was in the bush to come out, Pruitt came forward with her hands up while the man he identified as Gregory leapt up and began to run away.
While Harris’ and the other deputies’ testimonies centered mostly around setting the scene of the crime, the prosecution also called an expert witness to help definitively tie Gregory to the evidence investigators collected.
Don Michael Cunnius, an employee with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, was responsible for collecting and analyzing the DNA present on the two masks found at the scene. While both masks yielded DNA from more than one person, Cunnius testified Gregory could not be eliminated as a possible major contributor of the DNA found on one of them.
The prosecution will continue to call witnesses, including Gregory and Pruitt’s neighbors at the time of the incident, when the trial reconvenes at a date to be set Oct. 27.
The defense is also expected to call several witnesses to make the case Gregory was later called to the scene of the crime by Pruitt in an attempt to “help Elizabeth with a situation she got herself into,” according to Gregory’s attorney Romeo Lumaban.
The remainder of the trial is expected to take no longer than a day.