The members of the jury were home Friday night in time to hear their verdict on the late news. Theodore Gregory, a 29-year-old Middleburg horse trainer, was guilty of trying to kill his estranged wife, Monique, in August when he found her in bed with a man he considered one of his best friends.
After four days of lurid testimony, the nine men and three women on the Loudoun County Circuit Court jury had recommended a seven-year sentence for a count of second-degree attempted murder as well as a one-year sentence for use of a firearm in that attempt. But by acquitting Gregory of a more-serious felony and by dropping the attempted murder charge from first to second degree, the jury indicated it did not believe the shots fired by Gregory, which missed his wife but killed her lover, Howard LaBove, were premeditated.
Lawyers for the defense, including 79-year-old T. Brooke Howard who is legendary in Northern Virginia for his theatrical style, were not happy with the verdicts but said the sentencing could have been much worse. nThe prosecutor, Commonwealth attorney Thomas D. Horne, had asked for life imprisonment.
But the verdict last week in the trial that was as sensational as any of the old-timers who packed the Leesburg courtroom could remember, did not close the Middleburg love triangle drama.
Still to be accounted for is the death of LaBove, Monique's lover, her husband's business partner and friend and a man described by witnesses during the trial as a most charming character. In contrast to the pictures painted of both Gregory and his wife, LaBove seemed to sparkle. t
Murder charges against Gregory were dropped temporarily, Horne said, because Monique Gregory was his only witness to the crime. Under Virginia law spouses may not testify against each other if the crime is committed against a third party. Convicted of Gregory on felony charges clears the way for a divorce for the Gregorys who have been separated since May. Monique Gregory could not file for divorce earlier, Horne said, because she had no grounds against her husband while there is evidence she had committed adultery.
"The case will some day be tried. Rest assured of that," said Horne, who seemed to sag after the jury acquitted Gregory of breaking and entering with intent to commit murder while armed with a dangerous weapon, a charge that could have brought a 20-year prison sentence.
When the murder case is tried, all the sordid details of sex, violence and moral turpitude will be repeated for a new jury and an eager media. And when that occurs, LaBove, who played a suporting part in the just completed trial, will move to center stage.
Though he was described by witnesses as an accomplished womanizer, LaBove did not particularly look the part. His hair was thin, his features coarse. But the 6-foot-4, 220-pound horse dealer had a wry sense of humor and a winning way that apparently appealed to both men and women. Particularly women in Middleburg.
"The way the town of Middleburg is he dated [see LOUDOUN, B6, Col. 1] [LOUDOUN, From B1] tons of women," said Joe Fiore, a friend of the Gregorys and LaBove.
"He could charm the riding boots off any woman in Middleburg," said another friend.
But LaBove was not the aristocratic blueblood that is Middleburg's stereotype. He was a Jew from New Jersey galloping across the Protestant plains of horse country where money matters next to nothing when compared with lineage.
"He used to joke that he filled Middleburg's quota of Jews," said a friend who remembers LaBove joking that the only time one of the Du Pont family, who own an estate in Middleburg, ever talked to him was in a local restaurant when the ketchup needed to be passed.
LaBove, who regularly regaled the nighttime crowd in Mddleburg's gathering spots with stories, was a radical contrast to Theodore Gregory, who was described during the trial as extremely quiet and withdrawn. While LaBove would be at the center of every crowd, Gregory was always on the fringe.
"When Ted lost Mo [Monique] to H [Howard], he lost not only his wife but his whole circle of friends. His whole world took a tumble," said a friend who was part of a social circle in Middleburg that was as small and exclusive as any.
During the trial there was much dispute over when Monique began her relationship with LaBove. Monique testified she did not begin sleeping with LaBove until July, two months after her husband moved out. The prosecution, however, produced a witness who claimed to have seen Monique leaving LaBove's cottage in early morning during the last weeks in April.
What was not disputed is that on the niht of Aug. 20, Gregory followed LaBove and Monique from a dinner party in Middleburg to LaBove's cottage a few miles outside town. He parked his pickup truck 100 yards away, removed a .45-caliber pistol from his glove compartment and sneaked up to a cottage window where defense attorneys said he heard "the unmistakable sounds of lovemaking."
Gregory entered the house through the front door, pushed open the bedroom door with his foot and said, according to Monique's testimony, "I'm going to kill you, bitch."
The bullets did not hit Monique but LaBove. Despite three shots into his chest LaBove managed to pin Gregory against a couch long enough for Monique to flee naked across a farm field to a nearby tenant house.
"I tried to warn Howard [LaBove]," testified friend Fiore, who had discovered guns in Gregory's glove compartment weeks before the shooting. "I said you better stay away from that girl because you're going to ge killed."