Thanos' death 'too easy,' his victims' families say

May 17, 1994|By Jim Haner and Peter Hermann | Jim Haner and Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writers

Lois Dennis remembers a laughing little boy with long brown hair. Her son, Greg Taylor, was the family joker. The 10-year-old daredevil who tore up the back yard of her Salisbury home on his minibike. The pugnacious kid who grew to be a young man with big plans for the future.

"He was 18 when John Thanos shot him," she said. "I don't have any grandchildren now because of him. I don't have birthdays or weekends together. That's what John Thanos took from me."

Denied permission to witness Thanos' execution, Mrs. Dennis staked a lonely vigil in front of her television last night in her home on the Eastern Shore, awaiting word of his death for killing her son on a hot August night four years ago.

In Baltimore, the families of two other teen-agers who crossed paths with the convicted robber and rapist in his four-day murder spree in 1990 gathered over coffee and cookies to remember their children and balm their rage.

Melody Pistorio, 14, and Billy Winebrenner, 16, were sweethearts who had met in the theater and arts program at Kenwood High School in Essex. Melody was keeping Billy company at his job at the Big Red gas station on Pulaski Highway on September 3, 1990 -- Labor Day.

Thanos pulled up in a stolen car and shot them both in the head.

Ed Pistorio, 39, recalled last night that he had to have his daughter's glasses repaired for her funeral because the bullet that killed her blew them in half.

"It is too easy," he said of Thanos' death. "It's like going off into slumber land. With the gas chamber, you're struggling and choking for three minutes before you die. In other countries, he would be sliced, diced and laid out on a table."

The sentiment was strongly shared by all of the parents.

Mrs. Dennis, 38, spent the evening furiously scrubbing her house in an attempt to hold back the images of her son's final minutes after he picked up Thanos hitchhiking somewhere along Route 50 on Aug. 31, 1990.

Greg had worked all day at a welding shop in Willards, and was on his way to Ocean City to see his girlfriend -- who had often chided him for picking up strangers in his car.

"He rode with Thanos a long time before Thanos put that gun to his head," Mrs. Dennis said. "He went through a lot more agony than John Thanos did tonight. Thanos just got a shot and went to sleep. My son bled to death and got dumped in the woods.

"It's hard tonight not to think about it -- very hard."

Like the parents of the other victims, she was incensed that her requests to be present during the execution of her son's killer were denied by the state and that she was not consulted by the authorities who decided Thanos' fate.

Richard A. Lanham Sr., Maryland commissioner of correction, had ruled that family members would not be permitted at the execution because their presence might delay the healing process, a spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer said.

"It was my son he killed," Mrs. Dennis said of Thanos. "If I don't have a right to be part of it, who does?"

An hour later, word came to her on the Eastern Shore in a phone call from a prosecutor that Thanos was finally gone -- pronounced dead shortly after 1 in the morning. And the anger that has seen her through countless sleepless nights and days of confusion since 1990 deserted her.

At 1:15 a.m., she wept.

"It's a little bit hard right now to accept the fact that it's finally over," she said. "But I'm not feeling too good. We're sitting down here in no man's land watching TV, trying to digest it all. But it won't digest."

Pattie Matney, Thanos' mother, refused to take phone calls at her Joppa home.

"You won't be getting any comment from this house tonight," a family spokeswoman said. "There's nothing left to say."

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