State experts testify Thanos was in control Convicted murderer could get death penalty

March 21, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

LEONARDTOWN -- A death penalty hearing for John Frederick Thanos concluded yesterday with a state expert witness testifying that the convicted murderer knew it was wrong to rob and kill a young Eastern Shore man Aug. 31, 1990, and could have stopped himself.

While acknowledging that the 42-year-old man suffers from two mental illnesses, Dr. Neil Blumberg, a Timonium psychiatrist, said Thanos' actions the day of the murder demonstrate thought, awareness and control.

"His behavior throughout the time of this offense indicates he was very much in control," Dr. Blumberg said. "The offensive behavior is purposeful, it's deliberate, it's thought-out. It's anti-social, but it's not out of control."

After Dr. Blumberg's testimony, the state rested its case and St. Mary's County Circuit Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz called a recess until Monday, when Thanos is scheduled to deliver a speech on his own behalf, followed by closing arguments.

Judge Kaminetz must decide whether Thanos should die in Maryland's gas chamber for robbing and killing Gregory A. Taylor Jr., an 18-year-old welder from Hebron, or be sentenced to life in prison.

Yesterday, both Dr. Blumberg and another state expert, Lawrence Raifman, a Baltimore psychologist, rebutted earlier defense testimony that Thanos suffers from a mental illness that left him unable to stop himself from murdering young Taylor.

Neither Dr. Blumberg and nor Mr. Raifman was able to interview Thanos because he refused. Dr. Blumberg said he did not need the interview to conclude that Thanos suffered from a mental illness, but that mental illness did not harm Thanos' ability to control himself the day of the murder.

Mr. Raifman said he was not comfortable commenting on whether Thanos has a mental illness, but said Thanos was under control and rational when he killed Mr. Taylor.

"Far from being out of control, he was very much in control," Mr. Raifman said.

Dr. Blumberg said the videotaped confession Thanos gave to police showed his motivations for killing were based in reality -- he wanted money, a car and no witnesses left behind.

The doctor also said there was no evidence that Thanos was intoxicated at the time of the murder. And he noted that tests on Thanos revealed no brain damage.

According to the videotape confession, young Taylor picked up Thanos on U.S. 50 near Salisbury, was robbed at gunpoint, driven to a secluded location and shot three times in the head.

"He was a constant nuisance," Thanos said, in his confession, referring to Mr. Taylor. "He didn't want to cooperate, so I got fed up and just shot him in the head."

Thanos is already serving more than 100 years in prison for kidnapping a Salisbury cabdriver and for wounding a Salisbury convenience store clerk. In January, Thanos was convicted of robbing and killing two Middle River teen-agers, Billy Winebrenner, 16, and Melody Pistorio, 14. He also faces a possible death penalty for those murders.

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