John Frederick Thanos, who is accused of killing two Baltimore County teen-agers after having been mistakenly released from prison, today was in serious condition at the University of Maryland Medical Center after he tried to strangle himself in his jail cell by tying his hair braids around his neck.
"He is on a life-support system and his condition is being closely monitored by his doctors," said Jill Bloom, a hospital spokeswoman.
Bloom said physicians could determine later today if Thanos should be removed from the system.
"We are keeping the state corrections people updated on his medical situation," she said.
Correctional officers found Thanos, 41, unconscious in his cell at 11:50 a.m. yesterday at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, or Supermax, in Baltimore, said Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Maryland Division of Correction.
"[Thanos] was found on his bed with braids wrapped around his throat," Sipes said. Also found were three suicide notes, but Sipes would not disclose the contents.
The braids, about 20 inches long, were tied so tightly that correctional officers had to cut them loose, Sipes said.
The suicide attempt, Thanos' third since October, is being investigated, Sipes said.
He said armed correctional officers are guarding Thanos at the hospital.
Thanos is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Melody Pistorio, 14, and her boyfriend, Billy Winebrenner, 16, during the Sept. 3 holdup of the Big Red Mini Mart on Pulaski Highway in Middle River. He is scheduled to be tried on those charges June 24.
Thanos also is accused of killing Gregory A. Taylor, 18, of Hebron, who had given him a ride to the Eastern Shore. Thanos has been charged with kidnapping, robbery and first-degree murder in Taylor's death.
In March, Thanos, a convicted rapist and robber, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for armed robbery and assault with intent to murder in the Sept. 2 shooting of a Salisbury convenience store clerk. He was imprisoned in the Worcester County jail, from which he attempted to escape by scaling two fences topped with razor wire before guards nabbed him.
Thanos was sent to Supermax March 8 in connection with the Baltimore County charges, Sipes said. The prison houses about 280 of Maryland's most dangerous inmates, who spend about 23 hours a day in their cells.
Last year, an investigation by state correctional officials determined that Thanos had been released prematurely from a state prison on the Eastern Shore in April 1990 because of an error in computing his good-behavior credits.