A Wicomico County jury deliberated just six minutes yesterday before convicting John F. Thanos of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with the abduction of a Salisbury cabdriver last August. Thanos is set to stand trial later on charges of murdering three Maryland teen-agers.
The entire trial on the Salisbury robbery and kidnapping charges took less than a day -- including jury selection, opening and closing arguments, presentation of evidence, jury deliberations
After the jury returned the guilty verdict, Wicomico Circuit Judge Alfred T. Truitt Jr.immediately sentenced Thanos, 42, of Joppa, to a total of 50 years in prison. He received 30 years on the kidnapping charge and 20 years, to be served consecutively, for armed robbery.
Thanos was accused of robbing Salisbury cabdriver Milton Marsey of $55 at gunpoint and locking him in the trunk of his cab Aug. 29. Thanos then drove the cab some distance and ditched it, leaving Mr. Marsey in the trunk. The cabbie was rescued after someone heard him bang on the trunk with a tire iron and called police.
Thanos was convicted in March of robbing and shooting a Salisbury convenience store clerk Sept. 2. He was sentenced at that time also to 50 years in prison. Yesterday's sentence will be served consecutively, for a total of 100 years for the two.
The two robberies were part of a weeklong crime spree that allegedly included the three murders. Thanos faces two separate trials on the murder charges later this fall or next year. He is accused of killing Gregory Allen Taylor, 18, of Hebron, Aug. 31 after the man gave Thanos a ride on the Eastern Shore. He is also accused of shooting and killing Melody Pistorio, 14, and Billy Winebrenner, 16, Sept. 3 at a Middle River convenience store.
Thanos went on the crime spree after being freed early from a seven-year prison sentence for robbery in April 1990 due to an error in calculating his release date. Since his arrest, he has attempted to escape and has survived two suicide attempts.
Davis R. Ruark, state's attorney for Wicomico County, said yesterday's trial was one of the fastest he has tried. Mr. Ruark said he presented only five witnesses, and that Thanos refused to testify and directed his attorney, W. Burton Anderson, not to present any defense witnesses. "So it moved very quickly," Mr. Ruark said.
Mr. Ruark said jury selection, which began at 9:45 a.m., was completed by 11 a.m., and he finished presenting his case about 2:15 p.m.
Jury foreman Merrill T. Adkins, 60, said that as the jury left the courtroom to begin deliberating, Thanos called out after them to "make it as quick as possible," and "don't drag your feet on it."
And Mr. Adkins said the jury tried to accommodate him.
"Everybody was pretty much in agreement when we went into the jury room that the guilty verdict was in line," Mr. Adkins said. He only had to poll the jury members once before reaching the verdict.