Court was told in 1964 that Thanos was a threat

March 26, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Lyndon B. Johnson was president the first time a state official predicted that convicted killer John Frederick Thanos could be a menace to society, according to a previously sealed report released to The Sun this week.

A psychiatrist concluded in April 1964 that Thanos "could be dangerous to others," according to the report.

The 19-page presentence report was unsealed and released by St. Mary's County Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz, after The Sun filed suit to gain access to the document.

The judge, who on Monday sentenced Thanos to death for killing an Eastern Shore teen-ager Aug. 31, 1990, agreed that because the report was introduced as evidence at the sentencing hearing, it is a public document.

But before he released the report, Judge Kaminetz cut out roughly 10 pages of information he said was too sensitive or might embarrass or damage people who had provided information to the state.

Thanos, 42, was kicked out of school at age 12 and sent to juvenile facilities, where he repeatedly escaped. In May 1964, when he was 15, he was sentenced to two years in an adult prison for stealing a car, an incarceration the judge said was "inappropriate."

An April 1964 examination of Thanos by Dr. Arthur M. Rinehart, a psychiatrist, described Thanos as "a highly disturbed youth" with "marked paranoid traits" who, the psychiatrist concluded, "could be dangerous to other people."

Dr. Rinehart suggested that Thanos undergo psychotherapy, intensive treatment Thanos never got. His attorneys quoted that part of the presentence report during his death penalty hearing.

What they didn't quote was that Dr. Rinehart, in that early report, "conceded that he [Dr. Rinehart] was unsure that the defendant could be effectively treated by presently known means of therapy."

Sodomized in prison at age 15, Thanos was a difficult inmate. He set his blanket on fire, started a fire on the prison tier, broke his cell window and had numerous fights with inmates.

A psychologist testified that Thanos acted-out to get segregation time because he was intensely fearful of other inmates.

Released from prison in March 1966 -- one day before his 17th birthday -- Thanos spent a full year without being arrested, but in 1967 he got 18 months in prison for stealing a car and assaulting a police officer in Harford County.

In 1969 Thanos was arrested for raping a woman at a Rosedale trailer park. He got 21 years for that crime and served nearly 18 years of that sentence, mostly because of numerous infractions behind bars.

The list of prison infractions -- there were more than 50 -- takes 5 1/2 pages of the 19-page report.

They ranged from gravely serious -- stabbing an inmate 12 times with a homemade knife in 1983 -- to relatively minor offenses, such as having a radio.

Most of his infractions were for possession of homemade liquor and for using or possessing drugs.

The report described various instances of Thanos' threatening guards and inmates, including one in 1985, one year before he was released from the rape sentence.

"When I get out," Thanos told a correctional officer, "I'll only have one thing on my mind. I'm going to leave a trail of corpses behind me, starting with you prison guards and the state police."

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