Thanos trial postponed until June 24 Accused murderer Thanos' lawyers seek, get more time to (( prepare case

March 12, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

The trial of John Frederick Thanos, charged with murder in the Labor Day slayings last year of two Middle River teen-agers, has been postponed until June 24.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Edward A. DeWaters Jr. postponed the trial at the request of Thanos' three public defenders, who said they need more time to prepare his defense.

Dressed in blue jeans, gray sweat shirt and white running shoes with no socks, Thanos, 41, calmly answered a number of the judge's questions, before he waived his right to a speedy trial and the postponement was granted.

Thanos' black hair was braided into long ponytails that hung at both sides of a gaunt, pale face.

Asked how far he went in school, Thanos replied, "a year of college." Asked if he can read and write, Thanos said, yes, "But I don't have my glasses."

DeWaters denied a request from Sue A. Schenning, a deputy state's attorney, that the trial date be set for April, because it appears likely that Thanos' attorneys will ask for a change of venue, further delaying the trial.

Those attorneys could then on June 24 ask for the change of venue, which is an automatic right in death penalty cases, she argued.

"We would not like to see this [change of venue] cause any further delay of the trial," Schenning said.

But, DeWaters said, "I don't want to put a gun to their heads" and force them to make the decision.

The public defenders appeared ready to make the decision yesterday, but wanted to do it at "an informal meeting" in the judge's chambers, rather than in open court.

James McCarthy, an assistant public defender from Anne Arundel County assigned to defend Thanos, said the defense wanted the informal meeting to discuss a mutually satisfactory new trial jurisdiction.

After the hearing yesterday, Burton Anderson, an assistant public defender in Worcester County, declined to comment on how soon the defense might seek the change of venue for an Aug. 31, 1990, slaying case there in which Thanos also has been charged.

The Baltimore County charges against Thanos stem from the Sept. 3 robbery of the Big Red gasoline station in the 9000 block of Pulaski Highway.

During the holdup, Melody Pistorio, 14, and her boyfriend, Billy Winebrenner, 16, were each shot once in the head. Pistorio died that day, and Winebrenner, who worked at the gas station, died several days later.

Thanos was arrested a day after the Baltimore County shootings and charged with numerous other crimes. Authorities said he had engaged in a crime spree that stretched from Salisbury to Baltimore.

In Worcester County, he is charged with kidnap, robbery and first-degree murder in connection with the abduction and murder of Gregory A. Taylor, an 18-year-old Salisbury man.

No trial date has been set for that case, Anderson said.

In Wicomico County, Thanos faces charges of attempted murder, armed robbery and robbery with a deadly weapon for the alleged shooting of a convenience store clerk. He also is accused of robbing a taxi cab driver, who escaped harm after being locked in the trunk of the cab.

In other matters yesterday, Judge Dana Levitz granted a prosecution request for samples of Thanos' hair, which it intends to compare with a strand of hair found on the alleged murder weapon.

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