Killer casts a shadow of violence

Today, a Md. parole official will decide whether to send a convicted murderer back to prison

March 14, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Lawrence Banks could have his parole revoked today for not reporting that he had moved and for allegedly slapping a woman.

But those infractions aren't really why law enforcement officials want Banks behind bars. They want him locked up because his girlfriend's daughter and granddaughter were shot to death in December in Laurel.

Banks has not been charged in those killings, but Elizabeth Bartholomew, a spokeswoman with the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, said Prince George's County police questioned Banks and wanted him held on possible parole violations while their homicide investigation continues.

Cpl. Diane Richardson, a Prince George's police spokeswoman, said yesterday that Banks "has not been eliminated" as a suspect in the Laurel killings and that she could not comment further on the investigation.

The parole commissioner who hears Banks' case today cannot consider the double slaying and can keep Banks in prison only if he determines that Banks violated the terms of his parole. If the violations are not substantiated, Banks could be free by nightfall.

Authorities would much prefer that the 53-year-old remain in a prison cell, where he already has spent nearly half his life. A City College graduate and former Marine, Banks has a frightening 30-year history during which the people closest to him keep turning up dead or severely injured.

He was convicted of throwing a baby daughter through a glass door in 1975. He was convicted of killing a friend and then his own son on a single day in 1991. His first wife's body was found in a closet in East Baltimore, although no one was charged in her death.

A Baltimore prosecutor found his brutality so alarming that she obtained a gun permit, according to a letter she wrote to city police about Banks.

The assault on his infant occurred a few days after Christmas 1975. Banks was at his mother's home near Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore, arguing with his wife, Vivian Banks, when, according to police reports, he drunkenly warned the women he was "going to do something to this baby you'll both regret."

A moment later the women heard the sound of glass breaking and a crash. They rushed to the hallway at the front of the house, where they found Banks' 7-month-old daughter lying bloody on the floor and the glass door shattered. Vivian Banks ran to Hopkins with the injured baby, who survived but needed nearly two dozen stitches on her head, police reports say.

Banks was charged with assault with intent to disfigure. Charging documents in that case say that Vivian Banks "was afraid her husband, Lawrence Banks, would kill her or her children."

It was while he was on bail awaiting trial in that case that police found the body of his wife in a closet of an East Baltimore apartment she had been renting.

Because the body had been decomposing for several weeks, the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death, but court documents in several criminal proceedings against Banks show that detectives believed he had killed her. Less than a year earlier, he had been charged with assault with intent to murder Vivian Banks.

The charging documents in that case say that police watched Banks hold an 8-inch steak knife to her throat and drag her into an East Baltimore house. The officers persuaded Banks to drop the knife and arrested him, the documents say. Although Vivian Banks told police that he threatened to kill her, she later requested that the charge against her husband be dropped. It was.

In October 1976, Banks was convicted of the assault on his daughter. In a pre-sentencing report, an investigator concluded he "is a dangerous and hostile individual who has callous disregard for other people. He has a high potential for violent acting out of anger and hostility. He is very impulsive and he is hypersensitive to the point of bordering on being paranoid."

He was sentenced to 15 years.

In December 1988, at age 35, Banks was released from prison and returned to Baltimore. He soon moved in with a girlfriend, Janet Toliver, and their baby daughter, court documents say.

About that time, he also fathered a son with another woman, Sharon Elliott, the documents say. By then, his two children with Vivian Banks were in their teens.

Drink, drive, die

If anyone had harbored the view that prison had softened Banks, the events of Nov. 19, 1991, would prove otherwise.

He and two friends spent hours together drinking and driving before finding themselves on a roadside in Pasadena in the early morning hours. There, Banks pulled out a gun and shot one of his companions to death. Banks and the other companion, Charles Pannell, drove off, leaving Michael Chisholm's body on the side of the road.

Pannell later told a court, "I feared for my life, too."

Hours later and about 20 miles to the north in Baltimore, Banks shot his 17-year old son, Lawrence Jr., in the head, as the boy cowered in a kitchen corner in the foster home where he was living on Northern Parkway.

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