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A man accused of leaving his three young children unattended while he and his fiancée robbed an ABC store in York County was found guilty of all charges against him at the conclusion of his two-day bench trial in York-Poquoson Circuit Court.
Edward Gregory faced one count each of grand larceny, burglary, possession of burglary tools and wearing a mask in public, in addition to three counts of child neglect.
The first day of his trial, which took place Oct. 20, saw the prosecution call several witnesses against him including his co-defendant and former fiancée, Elizabeth Pruitt.
Day two of the trial began Thursday with the prosecution, led by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeremy Markle, calling one final witness against Gregory – the neighbor who found and reported Gregory and Pruitt’s three young children were alone and unattended in the couple’s home the morning after their parents were arrested at the scene of the ABC store robbery.
The neighbor, who described herself as a close friend of the couple, recalled being awoken in the early hours of April 14 by police at the door. She and her husband, who was later called to testify for the defense, were asked if they knew where Gregory and Pruitt’s children were and responded they had no knowledge of them being anywhere but presumably in their home asleep.
An uneasy feeling the next morning moved the neighbor to check inside Gregory and Pruitt’s trailer home, the door to which was unlocked. She discovered the children there, unharmed but uncertain where their parents were, and called 911.
The husband of the prosecution’s last witness was the first to take the stand for the defense. He tearfully described the close relationship he and his wife had as neighbors and friends of both Pruitt and Gregory, the latter of whom he praised as “a wonderful father.”
Gregory’s neighbor testified he thought he saw Gregory drive away from his home earlier in the night by himself. This statement was central to the defense’s version of events, which posited that Gregory left the home early in the evening to attend to a work-related matter and was called to the scene of the robbery later by Pruitt, unaware of what she planned to do there.
Pruitt took the stand next and repeated some of her testimony from day one, recalling she and Gregory had been high on cocaine, crack and prescription drugs when they had decided to rob the ABC store of liquor they could subsequently trade for more drugs.
Gregory then testified, denying any involvement in the crimes that took place that evening. He claimed he left his home as early as 7:20 p.m., at which time he was under the impression Pruitt and their three children were going to stay with a friend for the night.
When he next heard from Pruitt around 11:30 p.m., Gregory testified that she told him the girls were with her friend and asked him to meet her behind the Kroger grocery store near the ABC store. It was not until he arrived there that she told him she intended to break into and rob the liquor store, a plan with which Gregory said he vehemently disagreed.
Gregory also testified that two other men were at the scene with Pruitt, both of whom claimed she owed them money for drugs and that she was to repay them with stolen liquor. Gregory had a brief physical confrontation with them before being told he needed to calm down and encouraged to smoke some of a cigarette laced with spice, a type of synthetic marijuana, he said.
The drugs in the cigarette caused Gregory to fall asleep or pass out, according to his testimony. The next thing he remembers he was being shaken awake by Pruitt, who thrust a bag of stolen alcohol into his hands and told him to make a run for it. He climbed over a nearby fence, abandoning the bag in the process, and ran into a wooded area.
“I was hallucinating; I thought I was a deer,” Gregory said. “I just kept moving.”
A deputy with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office eventually apprehended Gregory and took him to jail. Gregory became contentious when presented with the results of a drug test from the jail indicating he had cocaine, alcohol, oxycodone and valium in his system – the latter two of which he was legally prescribed for pain management after a recent back surgery.
“I don’t remember a drug test being done,” Gregory said. “I dispute this record [of the test].”
Gregory went on to testify that he spoke briefly with Pruitt while awaiting their intake medical exams, at which time she told him she was going to pin everything on him rather than the man who actually robbed the store with her because “[Gregory] was seen and the other man wasn’t.”
During cross-examination, Markle presented Gregory with a video of his interview with an officer the morning after he was taken into custody. His account in the 15-minute video diverged significantly from the account provided to the court during testimony, a discrepancy Gregory could not explain.
Gregory was the final witness for the defense and after the conclusion of his testimony, both sides presented their closing arguments.
While both prosecution and defense agreed the ABC store had been robbed and Gregory had been at the scene, the defense argued there was insufficient proof it was Gregory and not a third man who had actually committed the crime.
“There was a host of items recovered [from the crime scene] suitable for [DNA] testing, but it wasn’t done,” said Romeo Lumaban, Gregory’s attorney. “We don’t know [that it was Gregory] because the investigation was incomplete.”
The defense also argued Gregory had been under the impression his children were with a family friend the entire time and therefore he was not responsible for leaving them unattended at home.
Judge Richard Rizk was unpersuaded by this argument and found Gregory guilty of all the charges against him.
“There is absolutely no doubt in the court’s mind that you are guilty on all counts,” Rizk said. “When you were given the opportunity [in custody] to tell the police where the girls were, you thought more about your own self-preservation than making sure they were out of harm’s way.”
Gregory and Pruitt are now awaiting sentencing on Feb. 25 and Dec. 17, respectively.