Thanos preaches to his jury Murderer accuses prosecution of being evil and hate-filled.

January 29, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Correspondent

OAKLAND MBB — OAKLAND -- Speaking on his own behalf, John Frederick Thanos today stood before his sentencing jury and preached to them about love, hate, evil, Jesus and Lucifer.

In a 35-minute rambling discourse, in which a bespectacled Thanos read from notes and frequently gestured, Thanos called Sue A. Schenning, the prosecutor, an evil and "cunning, calculating woman."

He accused the prosecutor of violating the law by reading parts of a pre-sentence report to the jury. He said the state's case was all about "hate."

Thanos, who faces the death penalty or life in prison for the robberies and murders of two Middle River teen-agers on Labor Day 1990, didn't ask for forgiveness. He said he merely wanted the jurors' "attention" and to "lift the shroud" of evil the prosecution has used to blind them.

Thanos, 42, who grew up in Dundalk but spent most of his life in prison, was convicted Friday of robbing and killing Billy Winebrenner, 16, a gas station clerk, and his girlfriend, Melody Pistorio, 14, at the Big Red gasoline station in the 9000 block of Pulaski Highway.

The sentencing hearing, which began yesterday, continued today and may finish tomorrow, according to Garrett County Circuit Judge Fred A. Thayer.

In court today, Thanos wanted to know why the trial was moved to the state's westernmost corner in Oakland, which he called "a peaceful hamlet with the lowest crime rate in Maryland."

He wanted to know why his past convictions for rape and armed robbery are being brought up and used against him.

"I paid the utmost penalty for my crimes," he said. "I thought I paid my penalty, but here I'm even being persecuted again. Stigmatized, slanderized. My family also.

"I can't justify anything I ever did, specifically these murders," Thanos said. "I can't justify it."

The only thing that came close to an explanation was a story about him being in a car accident a month before the murders, in which he said his jaw was broken and his head "caved in."

"Over that next month, my mental condition deteriorated," Thanos said. Before the accident, he said, "I wouldn't so much as jaywalk, because I was a happy man."

His attorneys declined to confirm the story of the car accident and Thanos' supposed injuries.

Complaining again about the evil spirit of the prosecution, Thanos demanded to know why pictures of his victims and shell casings from his .22-caliber semiautomatic, sawed-off rifle were introduced as evidence.

"I wonder, was all that necessary?" Thanos asked. "In light of the fact that I gave a detailed, 45-minute confession. Detailed."

He suggested that the prosecution is committing an "atrocity" against the victims' families by dragging the case out.

But he also called for his victims' families to "stop making a public display of their grief," which he called "the work of the devil."

"Jesus said, 'Don't reward evil with evil,' " Thanos said. "It's a vicious cycle. The only thing that ever cast out evil was love, according to what the son of God said, and he did it all the time."

Saying that he has "hearing like a dog," he said he continually has heard someone in the courtroom whispering "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

"If that ideology were true," he said, "wouldn't we all be blind and toothless?"

In testimony yesterday, a social worker said Thanos' father, who died in 1982, frequently beat his only son, humiliated him and terrorized him.

Cecelia "Cessie" Alfonso, a certified social worker from Jersey City, N.J., testified for the defense to illustrate Thanos' family history.

Young Thanos, said Ms. Alfonso, would cower in the dark, terrified, as his father went about the darkened house, wearing glasses and suddenly shining a flashlight on his face.

"When [Freddie] was approximately 4 years old," Ms. Alfonso told the jury, "he was kicked in the scrotum by his father, causing swelling and bleeding and bed-wetting."

Ms. Alfonso, who was accepted as an expert witness by Circuit Judge Fred A. Thayer, gathered an extensive family history of Freddie, as he was known as a child, by interviewing Thanos' mother, aunt and two sisters. She said she spent 21 1/2 hours interviewing the family.

She also reviewed records of treatment Thanos received at Spring Grove Hospital in the 1960s. Her study covered him only until age 15. Her testimony was the first brick in a tower of lTC evidence defense attorney James McCarthy said would be presented to explain how Thanos became the "sick guy" who cold-bloodedly killed the two teen-agers.

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