Dundalk man guilty of murdering wife's lover

April 22, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore County jury decided Wednesday night that a Dundalk man acted with premeditation when he emptied his gun into his wife's lover last Aug. 21.

After deliberating about seven hours, the jury found John David Dennis guilty of first-degree murder, use of a handgun in a felony and burglary. Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl ordered him jailed pending sentencing.

The victim, Mark John Bantz, 31, was found dead at his home in the 8000 block of Edgewater Ave. on the Back River near Essex. He had been shot nine times in the head, chest and back.

Dennis, 37, of the 3100 block of Baybriar Road, admitted to the killing -- but the defense said it was manslaughter, not murder.

The defendant sobbed when he testified Tuesday that he didn't remember anything after he phoned his wife, Robin, that evening, thinking she was returning to him, then drove to the home and saw Mr. Bantz passionately embracing her.

In a call with a 911 operator, Dennis gave his name, admitted to the shooting, then said, "I'm ready to go to jail."

But instead of waiting for police, Dennis testified, he drove toward Pennsylvania, stopping at Prettyboy Dam in northern Baltimore County, where he considered suicide before throwing away his gun. He surrendered the next afternoon.

Mrs. Dennis was pistol-whipped by her husband that night, said Assistant State's Attorney A. Dean Stocksdale. Although she can be heard screaming on the 911 tape, she refused to talk to authorities and invoked spousal immunity to avoid testifying against her husband, with whom she reconciled after the killing.

In his closing argument, defense attorney David P. Henninger said: "It's his state of mind that make the difference in this case. The facts are clearly, clearly manslaughter . . . not cold-blooded murder.

"This man [Mr. Bantz] had been having sex with his wife . . . one of the classic examples of what causes pure rage."

Mr. Henninger said Mr. Bantz used cocaine in front of Dennis' son and made Mrs. Dennis into a cocaine addict while they lived together.

But Mr. Stocksdale said the crime was premeditated, noting a letter to Mrs. Dennis threatening Mr. Bantz and a threatening call to the victim's mother a week before the shooting.

He said Dennis' account required some passage of time -- to see the couple embracing, to return to his car, to find and load his .22-caliber handgun and to kick in the door.

"He is lying to you," the prosecutor said. He then walked over to Mrs. Dennis where she sat in the front row alternately crying and swearing. "One other person could tell you what happened," he said. "You didn't hear from her because it's a lie . . . a completely bogus story."

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