The elderly gentleman with sandy-gray hair and the bearing of a patrician seemed uncomfortable and out of place in shackles alongside his fellow prisoners awaiting arraignment in Washington, D.C.’s Superior Court. Lawrence Gray, a 77-year-old retired academic with good posture and a previously clean record, had been arrested a day earlier on a fugitive warrant from the state of Rhode Island, and now appeared tired and rumpled after 24 hours in the roach-infested underground jail known as Central Lockup.
At this hour, in better times, he might be finishing lunch at Washington’ s Metropolitan Club, where he is a member, or preparing to accompany his longtime paramour, the late Jacqueline Quillen, to a black-tie dinner with La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, one of the most exclusive wine societies in the world, where businessmen, bankers, lawyers, and their spouses gather to speak French, sing songs, and drink the world’s finest burgundies.
As the marshals shuffled him before the judge, Gray tried to be as inconspicuous as possible in this unfamiliar environment, a world removed from the lavish society wedding in Newport five years earlier where, the prosecutors allege, he stole a magnificent, bespoke Verdura brooch of platinum, diamonds, and blue sapphires from the bedroom of his friends and gracious hosts, George Herrick, a retired U.S. diplomat and former C.I.A. officer, and his wife, Nannette.
Under normal circumstances, the theft of a piece of jewelry valued at $45,000 would not necessarily become public knowledge in Newport, where wealthy victims who value privacy over precious stones often neglect to inform authorities about such incidents, thus avoiding prying policemen and pesky reporters. Better to forgo embarrassment, swallow your losses, and replace the household staff, the thinking goes, than risk a whiff of scandal.
The case of Lawrence Gray is different. The felony he is charged with is not easily reconciled with his respectable résumé: a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, and a career as a tenured professor of political science at John Cabot University, a tiny but tony American liberal-arts college in Rome. There’s also his four-year stint as executive director of the U.S. State Department’s prestigious Fulbright program in Rome, and some evidence, not on this résumé, that he may have worked for the C.I.A. there, reporting on Italy’s Communist Party and its European affiliates, one of his academic specialties. (A C.I.A. spokesman declined to offer any “guidance” on our inquiries about Gray, but three former officers privately acknowledged that he had a past affiliation with the spy agency.)
This does not the fit the profile of your average jewel thief, unless, that is, Gray had been living multiple lives, which now seems at least a possibility. Unbeknownst to the court, this was not the first time the professor has been suspected of theft. In fact, a group led by the sons and heirs of Jacqueline Quillen have been pursuing Gray for the past year, and are primarily responsible for his reversal of fortune. Some of them were watching Gray’s arraignment on an Internet feed with great satisfaction. (Gray pleaded not guilty.)
With almost no support and much discouragement from law enforcement, their investigative efforts provided key information that led to Gray’s arrest by Newport police. They have also found new leads on a series of other heists in fashionable places. The scenes of these unsolved crimes include one of Manhattan’s most coveted addresses, a diplomatic residence in Washington, a Roman villa belonging to a former U.S. ambassador, the Fifth Avenue home of a wealthy publisher, a retreat in the Hamptons, and a historic farm in the horse country of Virginia where a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was sired.
These unsolved crimes, resulting in losses in the millions, share one thing in common: Lawrence Gray happened to be present, or just offstage, when each of them occurred.
Though Gray is believed to be a person of interest in several investigations, he has not been convicted or charged with stealing anything other than the Newport brooch. He may turn out to be the innocent pensioner he professes to be, one who simply has an unfortunate knack for being in numerous different places when valuable art and jewelry have gone missing.
Or, as his adversaries believe and court papers from ongoing litigation suggest, he could be a clever perpetrator in the theft of important art and irreplaceable jewelry over the past eight years, often right under the noses of the wealthy victims who invited him in through the front door.
Unspecified Adventures Abroad
Dr. Lawrence Gray moved in exclusive circles, always as a guest. Until last year he had been above suspicion as the longtime, ever present plus-one on the arm of his partner, Jacqueline Quillen, a much admired and accomplished heiress of two blueblood families, and a hostess of note in Washington and New York.
Quillen, who died in October 2020, was recruited to establish and operate the wine department for Christie’s North America, and later advised the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the U.S. Congress on the restoration of Montpelier, the 18th-century estate of James Madison. Active in civic affairs, she also found time to roam the world, climb the Matterhorn, and raise three boys.
It was Jackie Quillen who introduced Larry Gray to her wealthy friends in the old-money East Coast aristocracy. She brought him into the best homes and got him a seat at the finest tables, where he was generally received as an acceptable appendage. Fluent in Italian, French, and Spanish, the professor shared Quillen’s tastes for wine, art, and travel, and presented himself as a cultured intellectual capable of expounding on any subject while revealing next to nothing about his past or background, aside from occasional hints about unspecified adventures abroad that he couldn’t talk about.
“He could be charming,” says one member of that circle, “if it served his purpose.” Gray was not well liked by Quillen’s closest friends or her family, but according to this person, he “was tolerated because he made her happy.” Most people didn’t think of him at all.
This fall, at crowded memorial services in East Hampton and Washington, delayed a year by the pandemic, the many friends of Jackie Quillen paid tribute to her effervescent charm, her self-deprecating sense of humor, her appetite for life, and a trusting nature that led her to see the best in everyone, perhaps to a fault.
The professor shared Quillen’s tastes for wine, art, and travel, and presented himself as a cultured intellectual capable of expounding on any subject while revealing next to nothing about his past.
No mention was made of Larry Gray, her consort of more than 15 years, although by then most attendees had at least heard sad whispers of Quillen’s final months. Ailing and believing that the professor had been stealing from her, she ended the relationship on a bitter note. From her deathbed she also began piecing together the clues that she hoped would expose Dr. Gray to be a cad, a liar, and a crook, a task that has since fallen to her sons.
The history of their relationship can be found in an obscure civil case buried in the coronavirus-created backlog in the lowest tranche of the justice system in the nation’s capital. The lawsuit was filed in January 2021 by the “Jacqueline L. Quillen Living Trust” and accuses Lawrence Gray of illegally occupying, or squatting, in her Georgetown home, which now belongs to the estate.
He has remained there, protected by a District of Columbia moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, which expired on January 1. All efforts by the Quillen sons to remove him have failed, although Gray’s lawyer has told the Quillens that he plans to vacate by the end of this month (a promise he has made before).
The lawsuit, which further accuses Gray of simultaneously looting valuable contents including art, jewelry, clothing, furnishings, and other personal effects valued well in excess of $100,000, is only the beginning. What started as an effort to remove Dr. Gray from the Georgetown property has since escalated into an all-out quest by the Quillen sons to see him incarcerated in an orange jumpsuit, thus fulfilling their mother’s dying wish.
Gray, in his response, called the suit an “irrational vendetta” against an elderly retired professor because he dared to defy their effort to evict him during the pandemic, and described the charges as “scandalous and immaterial accusations designed to impugn the moral character of the Defendant and cast him in a derogatory and cruel light.” He declined our request for an interview.
Larry Gray was born and raised in Alden, Kansas, a rural farming community populated by 148 souls, according to the latest census. His mother, Edith Lawson Gray, was the local postmaster; his father, William Lawrence Gray, was an engineer who worked for Boeing in Wichita and farmed part-time with Larry’s grandfather. Both of Gray’s parents were college graduates, a rarity in Alden, and they encouraged their son to explore the world, which Gray began doing immediately upon his graduation from high school, traveling to Mexico to live with a family and study Spanish.
He spent two years at Baker University, a small Methodist college in Baldwin City, Kansas, and completed his undergraduate degree at Tulane University, in New Orleans, majoring in economics and Latin American studies. He continued to spend summers and semesters abroad in Colombia, Chile, and Mexico City, mostly traveling with student groups helping out with public-works projects. It brought him into contact with political leftists and young American activists.
Gray has said that he became enamored with Students for a Democratic Society, perhaps the most radical of the campus-activist groups, and began attending meetings and demonstrations while at Tulane. Gray has also told people he flirted with the idea of joining the Weather Underground, and that he knew some of its leaders who were killed in a March 1970 explosion in the basement of a Greenwich Village town house in New York. (In his 2016 book, Bad Moon Rising: How the Weather Underground Beat the FBI and Lost the Revolution, Arthur Eckstein cites Gray as a source and identifies him as “a co-founder of SDS at Tulane, later at SDS Washington, and then on the outskirts of Weatherman.” Professor Eckstein declined to talk to us about Gray.)
In any event, Gray’s alleged radical activities did not preclude his gaining acceptance to Johns Hopkins’s prestigious and highly selective School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he studied and worked at its center in Bologna, Italy, beginning in 1969. The Bologna outpost had been founded at the height of the Cold War in 1955 with seed money from the C.I.A., which likely had an interest in establishing a listening post there. Today the school remains a prime recruiting ground for the agency.
What started as an effort to remove Dr. Gray from the Georgetown property has since escalated into an all-out quest by the Quillen sons to see him incarcerated in an orange jumpsuit, thus fulfilling their mother’s dying wish.
When Gray went there, it was known as “Red Bologna” because it was the center of Communist and radical activity not just in Italy but in all of Western Europe, the only municipality with duly elected Communist leadership. Every radical group on the continent, including the violent Baader-Meinhof gang and the Red Brigades, was said to have people there.
It was at SAIS Bologna and later in Rome while working on his Ph.D. that Larry Gray began developing and cultivating deep and long-standing contacts within the Communist Party of Italy, eventually at the highest levels. It was also a time when he met and was briefly married to Carmen Licari, a radical leftist and writer who later became a professor at the University of Bologna. (A second marriage to a woman in Rome also ended in divorce but produced three children.)
One of the few people who knew Gray during this period and is willing to talk about him on the record is John Berger, a distinguished foreign-policy expert who was Gray’s roommate at SAIS Bologna. Berger says when he first met him, Gray claimed to have just arrived from France, where “he had been on the barricades in Paris bringing down the de Gaulle government. He liked to give the impression that he was connected to anything or anybody that was trendy or important. He liked to speak in generalities and make vague references to things, so it’s hard to say whether he was actually connected. He never really offered up specifics.”
Berger says Gray was an operator with a talent for insinuating himself into social groups. “Larry knew a lot of people, and is very, very charming, and can operate at a lot of different levels, and moved in many different circles. He knew a lot about the Communists in Italy.” Berger says he was not surprised to learn Gray may have worked for the C.I.A., but guessed it was probably not at a very high level. He also says he wasn’t surprised to learn that Gray might be a thief, which, along with lying and cheating, is part of a spy’s tool kit.
The next period of Gray’s career is sketchy. He bounced back and forth between Bologna and Rome while working on his doctorate, which was awarded in 1977. He received several grants from the Ford Foundation, which at the time was known to accept money from the C.I.A. and funnel it to causes the agency deemed worthwhile in the name of anti-Communism.
Gray organized and briefly ran a small study-abroad program for Louisiana Tech University, which gave him entrée to other established programs at Temple, Loyola, and St. Mary’s while crisscrossing Italy giving lectures. He also wrote newspaper articles, co-authored a book with a professor from SAIS, and collaborated on a TV show for the Italian Communist Party before finally ending up at John Cabot University, in 1989. It was the same year that Frederick “Freck” Vreeland joined the faculty as a vice president.
Vreeland, who is a son of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland and still a bon vivant at age 94, had served as the political officer at most of the major U.S. Embassies in Europe. He also had a 35-year career as a clandestine C.I.A. officer. Larry Gray became one of his protégés, and was until Vreeland left to become U.S. ambassador to Morocco. They remained good friends for a quarter-century but had a falling out due to suspicions by Vreeland and his second wife that Gray was untrustworthy and may have stolen some valuable jewelry from them.
It was during Gray’s long tenure at John Cabot University that he met Jackie Quillen at a dinner in Washington while he was on a sabbatical in 2004. They soon began what started out as a long-distance romance, with Quillen making regular visits to Italy, and Gray spending his vacations and summers with Quillen at her home in East Hampton. When not together, they lived separate lives.
The relationship began to change in 2015, when Gray retired from his teaching position in Rome and moved back to the States to live with Quillen at her spacious, finely appointed, unpretentious home on R Street NW in Georgetown. They signed a cohabitation agreement stipulating that, while they each had their own possessions, the house belonged to Quillen. In the event of her death, Gray would be entitled to live out his days there.
Both parties had the right to terminate the agreement at any time, which Quillen did in June of 2020, when, her health worsening, she finally became convinced Gray was a thief. The Quillen lawsuit alleges that Quillen informed her doctor that she feared Gray might even be trying to harm her (though there is no evidence he did).
Quillen had suspected for years that Gray was stealing from her and possibly from others in her social circle, and confided as much to a few of her closet friends, but she could not bring herself to share her suspicions with her sons or the authorities. She felt she lacked hard evidence but also admitted that she had become dependent on Gray’s companionship and did not want the relationship to end.
In a tortured confessional written in late 2017 that was discovered on her computer after her death and included in an exhibit to the Quillen brothers’ complaint, addressed to “dear reader,” Quillen wrote that she couldn’t imagine life without Larry Gray. “My sons would be horrified if they knew what I was dealing with and not acting on it. I wonder if I am enjoying watching this—how it all turns out—I almost feel like an uninvolved person. There’s really no one who I can tell this to so I am staying in the theatre watching hypnotized as the drama unfolds, not angry, just a rye [sic] smile and patient, even passive and bemused.”
By August of 2020, with her health in rapid decline, she had changed her mind. Quillen was having trouble breathing and was hospitalized in Washington, where her doctors told her she was dying of congestive heart failure. Quillen decided she wanted to spend what time she had left at her home in East Hampton. “There was no ambiguity about the relationship by then,” according to her son Bart Quillen. He says his mother told Gray, “I don’t want to be with you. I am dying, and I want to go to Long Island to be with my family.”
Little by little, over the three months before her death, in October, the Quillen brothers allege, their mother shared her worst fears. She told them she thought it likely that Gray was the one who stole more half a million dollars’ worth of fine art from the massive duplex penthouse at River House in Manhattan belonging to her mother, Betty Evans, the widow of Thomas Mellon Evans.
Gray has also told people he flirted with the idea of joining the Weather Underground, and that he knew some of its leaders who were killed in a March 1970 explosion in the basement of a Greenwich Village town house.
The theft, which the police and insurance investigators determined was an inside job, occurred shortly after Evans’s death but before the lavish furnishings had been removed. According to court records in the Quillens’ civil suit, “Gray was the only non-family member” with access to the apartment aside from a long-serving maid and a caretaker.
According to the civil complaint, Quillen also told her sons that she believed Gray may have been the person responsible for what has been reported to be a million-dollar theft of half a dozen small, 16th-century figurines taken from the Fifth Avenue apartment of her friend Alexis Gregory, a co-founder of Vendome Press. The figurines, reported to be of gold and ivory, were swiped during a small private concert attended by about two dozen people including Larry Gray. Quillen told her sons that Gray took a “noticeably long” bathroom break and did not return until the performance was almost over. She had also been told that Gray was the only guest spotted in a hallway near the room where the figurines were stolen. The New York Police Department’s Major Crimes division declined to comment or make any reports available, as the case is still open.
Familiar Family Heirlooms
It is Parker Quillen, 57, the oldest brother and the executor of his mother’s trust, who has been spearheading the family’s pursuit of Dr. Gray. A managing director of a big Wall Street firm, Parker specializes in short-selling. He’s a tough customer, expert at kicking the tires, reading fine print, questioning arguments, crunching numbers, and disrupting the status quo. A colleague calls him “a bulldog who would have made an excellent federal agent.”
His two younger brothers, twins Barton and Whitney, are also in finance and equally committed to the case. Bart, who was closest to Jackie, served as his mother’s gatekeeper and confidant during her final days. Whit, who had the closest relationship with Larry Gray, functioned as the negotiator and go-between.
The Quillen sons never liked Gray. They saw him as a freeloader who took advantage of their mother’s wealth and generosity to enjoy a life of comfort and leisure, a view widely shared by Quillen’s closest friends. But the possibility that he might be a criminal never dawned on them until recently.
When his mother died, Parker Quillen’s legal duty as her trustee was to sell the Georgetown house, distribute the assets, and dissolve the trust. At the time he was less interested in what he feared might become a protracted legal battle with Gray over an allegation by Jackie that some fine jewelry had disappeared from her closet and been replaced with the costume variety, an incident reported to D.C. police.
Getting Gray out of the Georgetown house did not seem a monumental challenge given that he had already signed an agreement to vacate the Georgetown property by the end of the year and pledged not to become a squatter. But according to e-mails and court documents, Gray soon began coming up with reasons why this would “not be possible,” claiming that his plans to return to Italy had been stymied by pandemic protocols, and that he was so busy dealing with the loss of Quillen and the subsequent disruption to his life that he had not been able to arrange new accommodations.
What the Quillen brothers soon discovered, though, according to the lawsuit, was that while Gray was dragging out the negotiations, at one point rejecting an offer of $40,000 to leave, he was allegedly simultaneously and surreptitiously peddling their mother’s personal possessions out the back door to Georgetown merchants. It was the loose string they decided to pull, and it led to their initiation into the world of Washington antiques dealers, Georgetown consignment stores, and New York auction houses.
The first items turned up at Ella Rue, a small women’s boutique and consignment shop at Wisconsin Avenue and P Street that specializes in selling lightly worn designer clothing, usually offered up by estates or wealthy clients looking to free up closet space. The owners, Krista and Alexa Johnson, say Larry Gray began coming in almost on a daily basis around the time of Quillen’s death, usually bearing tote bags of designer clothes he said had belonged to his recently deceased wife, Jackie. “He was like a puddle of tears,” Krista said, going on about the devastating affect her death was having on him.
Purely by chance, a friend of Quillen’s named Colleen Harkins happened to bump into Gray while browsing at Ella Rue and overheard him saying that the presence of his late wife’ s personal effects brought on “waves of sadness,” and he “needed to move them out so he could move on with his life.”
Harkins walked over and joined the conversation, saying something to the effect of “Larry, is that you?,” reminding him that they had dined with Quillen at the Sulgrave Club, a private women’s salon in a Beaux-Arts mansion on Dupont Circle. Gray, she said, seemed rattled and claimed she was mistaken. “I would certainly remember meeting someone like you,” he said, hoping to turn on the charm.
“I wonder if I am enjoying watching this—how it all turns out—I almost feel like an uninvolved person…. I am staying in the theatre watching hypnotized as the drama unfolds.”
Harkins says she persisted until Gray nervously excused himself and left the store. When he was gone, she told the owner that Gray and Quillen were never married and cautioned Krista to be careful doing business with Gray. “I don’t trust him,” she said, warning of the possibility that the items Gray was offering might not be his to sell.
The closets full of clothes, all from top designers, were valued by Ella Rue at $24,595. (In his response to these allegations in the civil suit, Gray claims he purchased the items in question at a church charity event and offered them to Quillen as a gift, which she declined.)
The Johnson sisters would soon develop their own doubts about Gray, and eventually obtained a police order barring him from the store. They also encouraged the Quillens to check an antiques store in the neighborhood called L’Enfant Galerie, where they believed the professor had also done business.
The first thing Bart Quillen saw when he logged on to the L’Enfant Web site was a familiar family heirloom: a set of seven Steuben crystal martini glasses from the 1920s that had belonged to his maternal grandfather, Alfred Lee Loomis, and which in turn had been given to their mother on her 40th birthday. Parker Quillen notified L’Enfant that the glasses had been stolen from the family, and asked that all the items sold or consigned by Larry Gray be taken off the floor and put on hold. The owner, Peter Colasante, complied.
When Parker and Bart Quillen traveled to Washington to inspect L’Enfant, they said it was like walking into their mother’s house. “Our whole family heritage was for sale right in front of our eyes,” Bart recalled. There was china, Italian glassware, landscapes, seascapes, rare prints, etchings, and the silk Persian rug that had once lived under their mother’s dining-room table, all familiar, and all of it sold or consigned by Larry Gray.
In a sworn affidavit filed in support of the Quillens’ civil suit, Colasante states that Lawrence Gray began bringing him items the first week of October 2020, just days after Jackie Quillen had died. Most of what L’Enfant acquired was selected during a series of “exclusive showings” Gray provided him at the Georgetown house, promising that L’Enfant could buy anything he liked at “pre-auction bargain prices.” Parker Quillen says, “It was like Larry was holding a yard sale.” (Gray, in his response to the Quillen’s civil suit, maintained, “Everything I sold to L’Enfant belonged to me,” aside from a few things owned by Quillen from which Gray deducted “payment of R street expenses.”)
Colasante, the antiques dealer, also turned out to be a disgruntled customer, alleging Gray was “swindling” him and that certain items he agreed to purchase were missing or replaced with items of inferior quality when his truck came to pick them up. “Mr. Gray’s utter dishonesty in his dealings with me began to give me concern that he was a career criminal and that the property he was selling me was not, in fact, his. Eventually I decided that continuing to do business with him was not worth the risk.”
With all of this evidence in hand, Parker Quillen returned to the Metropolitan Police Department convinced that the U.S. Attorney, which functions as the local prosecutor in D.C., would have to acknowledge that a crime had been committed. Once again, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to act, according to repeated e-mails and calls, saying it was a civil matter. Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, like all big U.S. cities, is burdened by a pandemic-related crime wave. Among those arraigned the day Larry Gray appeared in Superior Court were defendants charged with armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
The brothers decided, Parker said, that “if the police won’t do their jobs, we will do it for them.”
“Admiring the Woodwork”
One thing had stuck in the minds of Parker and Whit Quillen. They both remembered that a representative of Doyle auction house had joined Whit and Larry Gray during an early videotaped walk-through of their mother’s Georgetown property to determine what belonged to whom. They were surprised that Gray and the Doyle representative appeared to be friends, raising the possibility that the two men had done business before.
On that hunch Parker decided to contact a friend at Doyle to see if Gray had ever consigned items there for sale. The Doyle executive said the firm kept those records but could not release them to a third party without a court order. After conferring with their lawyers, and the court, the Quillens decided to use their powers of discovery in the civil case against Gray to subpoena the information.
A few weeks later, the Quillens learned that over the years Lawrence Gray had consigned 25 items to the auction house that sold for a total of more than $91,100, of which he collected $79,500. The documents Doyle sent them included the date, lot numbers, and a description of the items but no pictures.
While Gray was dragging out the negotiations, he was allegedly simultaneously and surreptitiously peddling their mother’s personal possessions out the back door to Georgetown merchants.
Bronwyn Quillen, Parker’s wife, had once worked for Christie’s, and remembered that you could sometimes find catalogues from previous auctions online. Using the dates of the Doyle auctions in which Gray had consigned goods, she located the corresponding catalogues, and then painstakingly matched the information obtained from the subpoenas with pictures from the catalogues. She then created a master composite, which was e-mailed to suspected victims and friends of the family to see if any of the items belonged to them.
The first person to respond was Nannette Herrick, who with her husband, George, had hosted the Newport wedding where her bespoke Verdura brooch had disappeared from her nightstand. She had never expected to see the brooch again, but there it was in the catalogue of Doyle’s “Important Jewelry” auction, in October 2016, five months after the wedding. “That’s it,” Herrick told the Quillens. “It’s one of a kind, not another one like it.” Herrick reported it stolen to law enforcement, according to court documents.
“I never thought of Larry as someone who would do that,” Nanette Herrick said. “I never liked him and never trusted him, but I never suspected him of stealing my jewelry. I never believed anyone invited to stay under my roof would ever steal from me. I’m convinced now that he did it. I know he did it. The proof is overwhelming. I simply can’t ignore it.” The Herricks suspect Gray took an estimated $125,000 worth of jewelry and watches from them during two stays at their home in 2016, but the brooch is the only item that has turned up so far that can be directly traced to him, according to the complaint.
The Quillens have also been contacted by Frederick “Freck” Vreeland and his third wife, Sandra, who reported that three items on the Doyle list had disappeared from their home in Rome after Gray visited in July of 2016, while Jackie was in Washington: a gold-and-silver diamond pendant brooch, a pair of pendant earrings, and a jeweled compact case, all designed by Mario Buccellati. Vreeland has filed a sworn affidavit with the carabinieri in Rome accusing his former friend, colleague, and protégé of the theft.
Sandra Vreeland says Gray had admired the pieces that evening, knew where they were kept, and knew the couple was leaving for their home in Marrakech the following morning. In the carabinieri report, Vreeland said Gray called later to tell them he’d left a notebook behind and wanted to stop by at some point and pick it up. The housekeeper let him in but did not follow him upstairs. The jewelry wasn’t seen again until it turned up on the block at Doyle. Gray made $20,796 from the sale.
Add to the list of items consigned by Professor Gray to Doyle was a circa 1820 gold pocket watch made in Liverpool that had been in the family of David Blake for generations until its 2017 disappearance from his Buckland Farm home in Virginia’s hunt country. When a Prince William County detective interviewed Larry Gray about the watch, which Blake had reported stolen, Gray explained he’d gotten it as a gift from Jackie, and the detective told Blake there was no evidence to contradict him. “I know he did it and you know he did it,” Blake said the detective told him, “but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Gray is on the radar of the police in East Hampton, New York, in connection with the theft of jewelry valued at $52,000 during a 2019 Thanksgiving-weekend party that he and Jackie Quillen attended. A person matching his description was reportedly seen by a catering employee in the private quarters, “admiring the woodwork.” Gray had also been in attendance during the March 2020 theft of 10 pieces of valuable jewelry from the wife of the former Belgian ambassador in Washington, as well as nearly $1,000 cash from a desk drawer. A D.C. police report speculated that the perpetrator struck during a wine dinner in honor of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, hosted at their private Washington residence. The cash was meant to pay the catering staff.
It’s possible we will never know what happened to the artwork that disappeared from the River House, the million-dollar figurines that vanished during the private concert on Fifth Avenue, and the jewelry and cash from the Belgian Embassy. The cases are old, and located in different jurisdictions where authorities know little if anything about the other unsolved crimes. Only the Quillens have been in the unique position to see the whole picture. With the exception of Newport police, there is little indication authorities are actively pursuing the cases.
As in any good mystery, there are always more questions than answers. How could a self-styled campus radical reportedly end up working with the C.I.A.? When did this alleged crime spree begin and why? Did he become desperate after Jackie Quillen ended the relationship or had his thievery gone on in Rome, undetected or covered up? Money would seem the obvious motive, perhaps combined with what one observer called “intellectual arrogance”—the need and the thrill to demonstrate he was smarter than the wealthy, privileged people who surrounded him.
Right now, the only person who knows the whole truth is holed up in Washington, D.C., awaiting his trial date in Rhode Island. According to court records there, he is free on his own “personal recognizance,” having posted a $10,000 bond. Based on responses in the civil lawsuit filed by the Quillen trust, the professor’s likely defense is to claim that the items sold were, indeed, his, given to him by Jackie Quillen or gifts to her that he had taken back and sold to keep up the R Street house. In a show of chutzpah, the defense may also suggest that Jackie Quillen was the actual thief.
As John Berger, Gray’s old roommate in Bologna, says, “In some ways he is like your classic con man. His grift was to be kind of a mover and shaker in radical politics near the power centers. He was a chameleon who could change his colors and attitudes to use people for his own reasons. He had practiced all his life to be able to move into a room, be charming, and be informed, and be a wine expert. Larry had come a long way from Kansas.”
Steve Kroft started out as a local TV reporter before joining CBS News. He became a correspondent for 60 Minutes in 1989, and retired from the program in 2019
Howard L. Rosenberg is a former producer for 60 Minutes. He is also the author of Atomic Soldiers: American Victims of Nuclear Experiments