LEONARDTOWN D — LEONARDTOWN -- Cecelia "Cessie" Alfonso, a social worker and expert witness, was describing an incident in which young John Frederick Thanos was ordered by his father, John Thanos Sr., to cut the head off of his sister's pet duck.
"What duck are they talking about?" an exasperated Thanos, 42, asked two sheriff's deputies guarding him in St. Mary's County Circuit Court yesterday.
Thanos was convicted Monday night of robbing and killing Eastern Shore welder Gregory A. Taylor. Yesterday, Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz began hearing testimony to decide whether Thanos gets the death penalty, or life in prison, for the murder of Mr. Taylor, 18, of Hebron.
Throughout the beginning stages of his death penalty hearing here, Thanos has expressed distaste for his attorneys' attempts to dig up the ugliness of his childhood and youth.
At one point yesterday, as Ms. Alfonso was being crossed-examined by B. Randall Coates, the state's attorney for Worcester County, Thanos interjected, "Hey Coates! Try to shorten it, because I'm going to knock this out on my allocution."
Another time, Ms. Alfonso made reference to Thanos' "dysfunctional family" and Thanos began singing the theme to TV's "The Simpsons."
He frequently was visibly upset over family stories Ms. Alfonso gleaned from hours of interviews with his mother, Patricia Thanos, his two sisters and his aunt.
The stories painted a picture of a sadistic, incestuous father, John Thanos Sr., who frequently terrorized and beat young Freddie, as Thanos was known as a child.
There was a story about Thanos being punched in the scrotum by his father; another about Freddie being thrown against the sink by his father, causing two black eyes; and a story of the elder Thanos driving his family out in the country to get rid of his daughter, Connie's, pet dog.
Connie "was sitting in the back seat crying," Ms. Alfonso testified. "Her father laughed, and so did Freddie. . . . These were the values that were being taught."
Ms. Alfonso also testified that Thanos' youngest sister, Diane, was fathered by his uncle, Peter Thanos, his father's brother.
"This is like 'As the World Turns,' " Thanos muttered in apparent disgust with Ms. Alfonso's testimony.
"John Thanos was born and raised in a family that was extremely dysfunctional," testified Ms. Alfonso. "What he saw, he learned. What he saw was sadistic, cruel, inconsistent parenting. And all that contributed to his socialization."
The defense is trying to prove that Thanos is a "sick" because of his terrible childhood and a youth and early manhood spent dTC mostly behind the walls of Maryland prisons.
James McCarthy, one of three public defenders representing Thanos, has repeatedly referred to the fact that Thanos, as a slight, 120-pound, 15-year-old car thief, was sent to an adult prison in Hagerstown, where he was sodomized.
Yesterday, Gordon Kamka, the former head of the Maryland prison system, testified for Thanos that officials who placed him at age 15 in an adult facility made a mistake.
Thanos already is serving more than 100 years in prison for robbing a Salisbury cabdriver and for wounding a convenience store clerk in Salisbury. In January, a Garrett County Circuit Court jury convicted Thanos of murdering two Middle River teen-agers during a Labor Day 1990 holdup at a gas station on Pulaski Highway. Thanos could get the death penalty for those murders when he is sentenced June 1 in Garrett County.