At first nothing seemed amiss when the retired professor showed up at the high-end consignment shop in Georgetown, bringing with him clothing that the shop owner says he described as belonging to his wife, a wine expert who had recently died of heart failure.
Lawrence E. Gray even took along Jacqueline Quillen’s obituary, which included details such as her attendance at Radcliffe and fondness for hosting dinner parties. But, as Krista Johnson, the owner of Ella Rue, said she later noticed, there was no mention of the professor or their purported marriage.
Now, questions about the true nature of Gray and Quillen’s relationship – whether he stole tens of thousands of dollars in jewels and other valuables from the late socialite – are at the core of a lawsuit roiling wealthy circles from D.C. to the Hamptons and Newport, R.I.
“It’s dark,” Johnson said in a telephone interview. “It’s like a really bad Netflix series.”
The lawsuit – filed in D.C. Superior Court by one of Quillen’s sons, Parker – alleges that Gray stole art, jewelry and other finery from Jacqueline Quillen. The trove included what the lawsuit lists as a $17,000 diamond ring, a $10,000 Patek Philippe watch and $4,700 diamond earrings.
Quillen, whose grandfather was a legendary Wall Street tycoon, was 77 when she died in October 2020. While she and Gray, 78, were never married to each other, they were romantically involved for more than a decade and lived together in a Georgetown house she owned.
Although a judge ordered the sections stricken from the lawsuit for being irrelevant, Parker Quillen’s attorneys also asserted that Gray and Jacqueline Quillen were guests on nine occasions in the homes of her mother and friends when valuable jewels and art as well as cash vanished.
“Wherever Defendant Lawrence ‘Larry’ Gray goes, the discovery of theft often follows,” Quillen’s attorneys wrote in their original complaint.
Gray, who taught political science at John Cabot University in Rome before retiring in 2011, declined to comment when he answered the door for a reporter at Quillen’s R Street NW home, where her son’s lawsuit claims he still lives despite her family’s objections.
“It’s not the right time,” he said.
Gray’s attorney, Jonathan Windle, also declined to comment. In a court filing, Windle described Parker Quillen’s lawsuit as “hyperbolic fiction,” akin to “To Catch a Thief,” the 1955 thriller starring Cary Grant as a jewel-pilfering grifter.
Parker Quillen’s complaint, Windle wrote, “candidly admits that at each alleged crime were several (often many) persons other than Gray who had direct, and in some cases, unfettered access to the allegedly stolen property.”
“With nothing more than his imagination, his personal disdain for Gray, and perhaps a love for Alfred Hitchcock movies,” Windle wrote, Parker Quillen “points his accusing finger” at the professor “as the mastermind behind these thefts.”
In his own counter-complaint, Gray accused Parker Quillen of taking a $160,000 engagement ring that Gray had once intended to give Jacqueline.
Parker Quillen, who has denied the allegation through his attorneys, declined to speak on the record about the lawsuit, which he filed a year ago in his role as trustee of the Jacqueline Quillen Living Trust.
His complaint alleges that Gray stole from Quillen before and as her health deteriorated. Parker Quillen’s lawsuit also alleges that after Quillen died, Gray sold dozens of her paintings and other valuables to a Georgetown antique dealer, and sought to auction and consign her jewelry and clothing.
The lawsuit also asserts that Parker Quillen “discovered only recently” that his mother kept “a written record” of her “suspicions” that Gray was stealing her jewels as early as four years before her death. But she did not report him to police for fear he would blame “her maid or one of Ms. Quillen’s friends,” according to a legal memorandum that Parker Quillen’s attorneys filed, seeking to amend the complaint and add his mother’s writings.
In October, a Rhode Island judge, acting on a request from prosecutors, issued a warrant for Gray’s arrest on a charge that he stole a diamond and sapphire brooch valued at $32,000. The brooch belonged to Nannette Herrick, at whose Newport home Gray and Jacqueline Quillen stayed while attending a wedding in 2016.
Police allege that Gray had consigned the brooch to Doyle Auctions, which sold it in 2016 for $22,500, according to a Newport police report. Gray received $19,871, a police affidavit states. The brooch was among “approximately 25 jewelry and art items Gray consigned” to Doyle from 2015 to 2020, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also states that Gray’s signature on a Doyle consignment agreement “matches” his handwriting in the wedding guest book. “Thank you ever so much for the wonderful time,” the entry read. “Looking forward to a repeat with more stories.”
Gray pleaded not guilty. A judge released him on his own recognizance and allowed him to return to Washington. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Feb. 2.
Kevin Hagan, Gray’s attorney in Rhode Island, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Doyle also declined to comment.
Herrick, in a brief telephone call, said that Gray “must be stopped.”
“The story is about the Cary Grant who wasn’t – who was just a creep,” she said, declining to elaborate.
A deepening relationship
Jacqueline Quillen and Gray met in D.C. in 2004, when he was on a sabbatical at Georgetown University, according to an account of their relationship in Gray’s counter-complaint. At the time, Gray had tenure at John Cabot University, and he traveled back and forth between Rome and Washington as his relationship with Quillen deepened.
Quillen came from a family steeped in Ivy League schools and finance. After amassing a fortune on Wall Street, her grandfather, Alfred Lee Loomis, devoted himself to science, starting a laboratory that helped develop radar technology, an advance cited as a key to the Allied victory in World War II. His associates included Albert Einstein, who described Loomis’s lab as a “palace of science.”
Quillen was born in Washington and attended the prestigious Madeira School in McLean, Va., according to her obituary. A divorcée with three sons, she owned a wine and cheese business in New Orleans before Christie’s Auction House hired her to start a wine department in North America. In the 1980s, the National Trust for Historic Preservation retained her as a consultant on the restoration of James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia.
With Gray, she attended dinner parties and classical music concerts, vacationed at her family’s East Hampton retreat and traveled extensively.
“Whenever we traveled together, we would start off in the morning reading the papers and conversing and exchanging ideas, which was interesting and wonderful,” said Rupert Sparks, 76, a retired dealer in classic cars who lives in Texas and has known Gray for two decades. “They were both very intelligent, and inquisitive. They enjoyed being in each other’s company.”
Still, there were apparent signs that their relationship was souring as early as 2016, when, according to the complaint, Quillen “suspected Gray was stealing from her.” Three typed pages of writing attributed to Jacqueline Quillen are included as an exhibit with Parker Quillen’s amended complaint.
“I can’t imagine life without him,” she is said to have written, apparently referring to Gray. “It’s so rich when it’s good. I would be very sad to not have him as my companion for cooking, making dinner, watching the news, traveling.”
Jacqueline Quillen also purportedly wrote that Gray had “no moral compass.” The lawsuit claims she described opening her safe where she kept her jewelry and finding “12 items missing,” a cache worth $72,000. “The only person who knew the numbers to open my safe besides me was Larry,” she wrote, according to the lawsuit.
“The stealing has been going on a long time,” she wrote, her son’s lawsuit claims.
Gray’s attorney, in a court filing, contended that the writing is an “unsigned computer produced document” that does not identify the author.
In June 2020, after her health had started to deteriorate, Quillen told Gray she was ending their relationship when she became convinced that he had stolen her $9,500 diamond, sapphire and ruby brooch and three sets of earrings worth $5,750, according to Parker Quillen’s lawsuit.
Jacqueline Quillen had left the jewelry in a bathroom drawer and gone out. Gray, according to the complaint, “was the only person in the home that day – and the only person who could have stolen the items.”
Still, she agreed to allow Gray to stay in her home for another six months, until Jan. 1, 2021, even though a cohabitation agreement they had signed allowed her to give him “two weeks’ notice before he would have to move out,” according to the lawsuit.
Quillen died Oct. 1, 2020, after which Gray continued to live in the house, despite what her son’s lawsuit describes as the family’s requests that he leave.
“He is squatting,” the lawsuit claims.
Windle, Gray’s attorney, has contended in court filings that the professor and Jacqueline Quillen had a $2,500-a-month lease agreement and that he continued to write rent checks after her death. Parker Quillen is using “defamatory allegations” to unlawfully evict his client “in the midst of a national pandemic,” the attorney wrote.
On nine occasions from 2013 to 2020, according to Parker Quillen’s lawsuit, his mother and Gray were guests in homes where art, jewelry or cash disappeared.
Herrick’s home was one example the lawsuit cites. Another was a 2019 cocktail party the couple attended at the East Hampton, N.Y., home of Richard Tutino, a managing director at the investment firm Lazard Asset Management.
The next morning, Tutino said in a telephone interview, he and his wife discovered that $50,000 of heirloom jewelry was missing from her bathroom. When the couple questioned the 60 or so guests, they learned that “an older guy, in his 70s” was seen upstairs, near their bedroom, Tutino said. The man “said he was admiring the woodwork.”
Tutino acknowledged that he and his wife have no evidence that Gray stole the jewels. “It’s all supposition,” he said. “It’s totally frustrating.”
Windle, in a court filing countering Parker Quillen’s complaint, dismissed the sections about the alleged thefts as “immaterial and scandalous.”
In June, D.C. Superior Court Judge Heidi Pasichow, responding to Windle’s objections, ordered references to other alleged thefts stricken from Parker Quillen’s complaint. The judge ruled that those incidents, while “creating an aura of suspiciousness,” did not directly relate to the lawsuit’s focus – the allegations that Gray stole from Jacqueline Quillen.
Four months later, after Herrick contacted police in Newport, the warrant was issued for Gray’s arrest.
After Jacqueline Quillen’s death, when he went to the Ella Rue consignment shop in Georgetown, Gray said he needed “to be a minimalist and get rid of everything,” Johnson, the shop’s owner, recalled. She said Gray told her, “I need to move on.”
Over time, as he lingered at the shop and collected consignment checks, Johnson said his behavior began to strike her as odd. Her wariness grew when she looked up Quillen’s obituary, which she had never read, and saw “there was no mention of him.”
At one point, a close friend of Jacqueline Quillen’s spotted Gray at the store and greeted him, Johnson said. “He pretended not to know who she was. She’s like, ‘That was weird,’ ” Johnson said. The woman called Quillen’s sons, Johnson said. The Quillens then got in touch with Ella Rue. In March 2021, Johnson obtained from the D.C. police a barring notice prohibiting Gray from entering her store.
“Suspected theft” was the reason cited on the notice.
Gray’s attorney, in a court filing responding to Parker Quillen’s complaint, denied the lawsuit’s claims that his client had sold Jacqueline Quillen’s belongings to Ella Rue and L’Enfant Gallery, a Georgetown antiques shop.
Store owner Peter Colasante said in an interview that Gray brought bags of glassware into his shop soon after Quillen died. He also said Gray invited him to what he “claimed was his home” on R Street, creating the impression that he and Jacqueline Quillen “were married and he was the survivor.”
In a declaration attached to Quillen’s amended complaint, Colasante said he paid Gray about $25,000 for dozens of pieces, including paintings, etchings, statuettes, Persian rugs, glassware, Tiffany plates and a Hamilton watch.
Colasante, in the interview, said he first heard from the Quillen family after he posted on his shop’s website photos of a dozen or so Steuben martini glasses he had purchased from Gray. Parker Quillen, he said, told him the 1920s-era glasses had once belonged to Loomis, his great-grandfather.
The dealer said he provided Quillen with a list of the items he had purchased from Gray, most of which are now being stored until the resolution of the lawsuit.
Parker Quillen, Colasante recalled, asked only to buy back his great-grandfather’s martini glasses, saying he couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else owning them.