State prison officials are investigating why John Frederick Thanos, who is accused of two murders and faces charges in a third slaying, was released from an Eastern Shore prison last April after serving less than four years of a seven-year robbery sentence.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, campaigning in Frederick yesterday, said, "There is a thorough investigation going on . . . about how he got out."
Schaefer refused to provide details of the inquiry, except to say that its results may not be available for several days. But, he continued, what he has learned so far about Thanos' release could lead to new restrictions affecting the early release of state prisoners.
"There may be some changes that'll have to be made," Schaefer said. "I got to leave it at that."
Thanos, 41, is charged with two murders, two robberies and several other offenses on both shores of Chesapeake Bay during a spree that began Aug. 29 and ended Sept. 4 in a gunfight with police. He also was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a third victim, but those charges were to be upgraded to murder after the teen-ager died last week.
Maryland Division of Correction spokesmen said confidentiality rules prevent them from saying exactly how Thanos earned enough "diminution credits" to win his mandatory release from the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County last April.
Still, questions remain as to whether Thanos was released earlier than he should have been. A computation by The Evening Sun shows that even if Thanos earned the maximum amount of credits possible for good conduct, work, education or special projects, he still may not have accumulated enough credits to be released in April.
Thanos left ECI after serving almost four years of a seven-year sentence for robbing a 7-Eleven store in Harford County. The robbery sentence began May 19, 1986.
An earlier rape conviction kept Thanos in prison from 1969 until his release in 1986, shortly before the robbery.
Generally, a prisoner receives five days a month toward good conduct. As an incentive, these credits are calculated when the inmate enters the prison and can be reduced by misbehavior. The inmate also may earn an additional 10 days a month in credits through vocational programs, education and other designated means.
Thanos, however, apparently had some difficulties in prison that could have reduced his good-conduct credits.
An ECI correctional officer filed several complaints with police against Thanos, according to court records. Thanos pleaded guilty in February to harassing Officer Roslyn Lofton and was fined $50.
In her complaint, Lofton said Thanos "served 60 days segregation time for threatening me" and was referred to the mental health unit for his behavior. On April 5, the day Thanos was to be released from ECI, Lofton filed a complaint accusing Thanos of threatening her.
After his arrest, Thanos was released on his own recognizance and ordered to stay away from Lofton. On May 24, the case was indefinitely postponed on a motion from the Somerset County state's attorney, with the condition that Thanos report to a probation officer in Harford County, where he lived with his mother.
Thanos, who is being held at the Worcester County Detention Center, is charged with murdering Gregory A. Taylor, 18, who lived in the Eastern Shore town of Hebron. Taylor picked up Thanos while he was hitchhiking on U.S. 50, police allege.
Baltimore County police charged Thanos in the Labor Day robbery of a Middle River gas station that ended with the shooting of 14-year-old Melody Nicole Pistorio and her 16-year-old boyfriend, William W. Winebrenner. The girl died that day; the boy died Sept. 9.
In an unrelated case, Anne Arundel County police have charged a man who was released from ECI in June with the murder of a Crofton woman who disappeared Sunday.
The suspect, Steven Gregory Anderson, served five years and one month of a 6 1/2 -year sentence, said Susan Kaskie, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Anderson, who earned enough credits to win his early release, had been placed under maximum supervision by a parole and probation agent.