Thanos jury is being selected Thanos accused of murder in teens' deaths in 1990 robbery.

January 21, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Correspondent

OAKLAND -- Jury selection continued today in the first-degree murder trial of John Frederick Thanos, who is accused of killing two Baltimore County teen-agers during a Labor Day 1990 robbery of a gas station.

Garrett County Circuit Court Judge Frederick Thayer presided over the jury selection, which began yesterday.

The trial was moved to Oakland from Baltimore County Circuit Court because of pretrial publicity. Thanos' public defenders requested the change.

Thanos, 42, formerly of Hebron, faces the death penalty if convicted of the murders of the teen-agers.

He is accused of murdering 14-year-old Melody Pistorio and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Billy Winebrenner, a gas station clerk.

The teen-agers were found Sept. 3, 1990, at the Big Red gas station in the 9000 block of Pulaski Highway in Middle River. Each had been shot once in the head.

Miss Pistorio died that day; young Winebrenner died Sept. 9 at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he had been in critical condition since the shooting.

Thanos was arrested Sept. 4, 1990, after a shootout with Salisbury and Delaware police. He was accused of a weeklong crime spree that included kidnapping, robbery and murder.

Besides the murders of Miss Pistorio and the Winebrenner youth, Thanos also faces charges of kidnapping, robbery and murder in the death of Gregory A. Taylor, an 18-year-old Salisbury man.

And last July, in a separate case, Thanos was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with the abduction of a Salisbury cab driver Aug. 29, 1990.

In that case, a Wicomico Circuit Court judge sentenced Thanos to 50 years in prison. Milton Marsey, the cab driver, was robbed of $55 and locked in the trunk of his cab.

Public outrage over the Middle River murders case exploded shortly after Thanos' arrest when Bishop L. Robinson, state secretary for public safety and correctional services, announced that Thanos had mistakenly been released 543 days early from the prison, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery.

The mistake happened when so-called "good time" credits from a previous sentence Thanos served for a rape conviction were applied to the robbery sentence. State officials blamed John P. O'Donnell, a former correctional officer, for the mistake. Mr. O'Donnell has maintained that he was only adhering to state policy.

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