LEONARDTOWN -- A sentencing hearing for John Frederick Thanos was set for tomorrow after he was convicted last night of the Aug. 31, 1990, robbery and murder of a young Eastern Shore welder.
After just one day of testimony, St. Mary's County Circuit Court Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz last night pronounced Thanos guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, armed robbery, a handgun violation and theft over $300.
The judge, who threw out a charge of kidnapping for lack of evidence, then set tomorrow's sentencing hearing.
Thanos, 42, who waived a jury trial, faces a possible death sentence for the murder of the welder, Gregory A. Taylor, 18, of Hebron.
Yesterday, B. Randall Coates, the State's Attorney for Worcester County, called eight witnesses to the stand, including the victim's mother.
The prosecutor also played a video-taped confession Thanos gave to state police after his arrest.
Through testimony and exhibits, the state proved that Thanos purchased a .22-caliber assault rifle Aug. 29, 1991, in Salisbury for $170, and that he sawed off the rifle's barrel and test-fired it before his encounter with Mr. Taylor.
One witness, Edward Mason, 20, of Laurel, Del., described a chilling encounter with Thanos, just before Thanos was arrested on the evening of Sept. 4, 1990, in Smyrna, Del.
Mr. Mason said he picked up Thanos on U.S. 13 -- just minutes, police said, after Thanos had ditched Mr. Taylor's car following a shootout with Maryland police.
After Thanos got in Mr. Mason's car, he pulled the assault rifle from a brown bag he was carrying and ordered Mr. Mason to drive north into Delaware.
Along the way, Thanos told Mr. Mason what happened to the last person -- Mr. Taylor -- who had given him a ride.
"He said a boy had picked him up hitchhiking and he wasn't cool," Mr. Mason testified. "He said the boy was crying and pleading for his life, and he [Thanos] couldn't stand crybabies."
Mr. Mason managed to escape from Thanos at a Wendy's restaurant in Smyrna, where Thanos tossed away the assault rifle and was arrested.
The video-taped confession shows a tired, yawning Thanos calmly describing the robbery and murder of Mr. Taylor after the young man had given him a ride.
"He was a constant nuisance," Thanos said of Taylor. "Whining. He didn't want to cooperate, so I got fed up and just shot him in the head."
Thanos is serving more than 100 years in prison for kidnapping and robbing a Salisbury cabdriver and for shooting a Salisbury convenience store clerk.
In January, he was convicted of the robbery and murders of two Middle River teen-agers during a Labor Day 1990 gas station holdup on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore County.
Thanos could get the death penalty in that case, when he is sentenced June 1 in Garrett County.