Slain teen's parents sue state on Thanos release $15 million suit alleges negligence

January 04, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr.

An article yesterday incorrectly reported the home county of murder victim Gregory Allen Taylor Jr. Mr. Taylor was a resident of Hebron in Wicomico County.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The parents of an 18-year-old Somerset County man allegedly shot to death by rapist and robber John F. Thanos filed a $15 million suit against the state yesterday, charging that the Division of Correction was negligent in releasing him from prison 18 months early.

Lois Ann Dennis of Hebron and her former husband, Gregory A. Taylor Sr. of Bloxon, Va., filed suit in Baltimore Circuit Court over ZTC the death of their son, Gregory Allen Taylor Jr., who was kidnapped, robbed and shot three times in the head in August 1990.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Thanos' release "has been one horrible mistake after another" for the family, said Michael A. Pulver, a lawyer for Gregory Taylor's parents. "The reason he was out of prison in the first place was some stupid clerical error -- and as a result, one of the most important things in her [Ms. Dennis'] life was taken from her.

"If this makes the public or the people running our correctional system stand up and take notice . . . then something good will come out of this awfully, awfully pointless death," Mr. Pulver said.

Thanos has been charged with killing the Taylor youth and two other teen-agers, Melody N. Pistorio, 14, and Billy Winebrenner, 16, both of Middle River, and is awaiting trial. Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty.

On Oct. 22, 1991, Melody Pistorio's mother, Donna Dillon, filed a $1 million negligence suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court against the state and the prison records supervisor who signed the convict's release papers.

The Taylor lawsuit alleges that the Division of Correction's calculation of Thanos' release date was "negligent, careless, improper and erroneous," and that prior to the slayings, agency officials knew the release was incorrect but did not act to re-arrest Thanos.

Thanos was released from the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County on April 5, 1990, while serving a seven-year sentence for robbery. Under a new policy, the ECI records supervisor, John P. O'Donnell, calculated Thanos' release date by counting so-called "good time" credits from an earlier 21-year rape sentence against the robbery term. That resulted in his release nearly 18 months early.

Stuart M. Nathan, principal counsel for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said he had not seen the suit and could not comment.

Nearly five months after Thanos' release from ECI, Mr. Taylor picked him up hitchhiking, according to police reports. Thanos allegedly kidnapped the teen-ager, holding him hostage with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle he had purchased earlier at a Salisbury sporting goods store.

"Throughout this torment, Taylor was crying and pleading for his life," the suit alleges. "Despite Taylor's pleas to spare his life, Thanos reported to the investigating police that he became annoyed with Taylor and decided to execute him.

"Although Taylor continued to plead for his life, he knew of his impending doom and suffered excruciating mental anguish and pain during the entire period of time that he was in Thanos' captivity," the suit states.

Thanos was driving Mr. Taylor's car when he was spotted by police Sept. 3, 1991, in Salisbury and chased into Delaware. He was arrested in Smyrna, Del., after two gunbattles with police. The next day, he led police to the body of Mr. Taylor in a remote, wooded area three miles from Berlin, Worcester County.

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