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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

While police never identified a motive for the Chisholm killing, they determined that Banks killed his son because Lawrence Jr. and his sister had reported being severely beaten by Banks on several occasions. The girl - whom Banks had thrown through glass as a baby - also said her father had raped her while he was drunk.

Banks learned that Baltimore child abuse detectives were building a case against him and, at a custody hearing Nov. 12, 1991, he heard in detail about his children's allegations. Seven days later, Banks shot his son to death.

The girl told detectives that she feared her father had meant to kill her as well, police reports say. She said he had come looking for her at school and "had threatened her occasionally with meeting the same fate as her mother," according to a police report.

For the death of Lawrence Jr., Banks entered an Alford plea, a no-contest plea in which the defendant does not admit guilt but admits there is enough evidence for a conviction.

Months later in Anne Arundel County, he pleaded guilty to killing Chisholm. Prosecutors in both jurisdictions say they pushed for plea deals over trials because of problems with witnesses and evidence.

Each deal resulted in a 20-year prison term - to be served at the same time.

Baltimore prosecutors were "perplexed and devastated" to learn of the second plea through newspaper articles at the time, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office. She said city prosecutors had believed the Arundel case would go to trial.

Anne Arundel County prosecutors say that nothing in their files shows any agreement with Baltimore City. And, in fact, Baltimore Circuit Judge John N. Prevas, who presided over the Lawrence Jr. murder case, noted in court records that Banks' term for that killing could be served concurrently with any other sentences.

As it was, Banks collected enough "good-time credits" in prison to be released under mandatory supervision in October 2002. It was as he was being released that Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney Sharon A.H. May, who prosecuted Banks for the Lawrence Jr. murder, wrote letters requesting emergency gun permits for herself and for a local woman who had custody of one of his children.

May, now a defense attorney, would not comment.

Banks returned briefly to Baltimore. He changed his name to Malik Samartaney, remarried and moved to Laurel. But a familiar pattern soon emerged.

Court records show Banks' new wife, Patricia Samartaney, secured three protective orders against him in 2003 and 2004. Those orders could have resulted in parole violations, but Bartholomew, the parole spokeswoman, said agents did not know about them at the time because they don't routinely check civil court records.

The violence seemed to escalate. In May 2004, Patricia Samartaney filed assault charges against Banks in Anne Arundel County District Court.

In court documents, Patricia Samartaney alleged that Banks threatened to kill her, tried to suffocate her with a pillow and choked her with a vacuum cleaner hose. "I must kill you," she quoted Banks telling her. Then he put a knife to her throat and said he would dump her body in the Patuxent River, she said in the court documents.

He was arrested for assault and spent much of 2004 and 2005 in jail. But a jury found him not guilty in April 2005, and he was released.

If the official records suggest a brutish nature, some who know Banks - acquaintances as well as investigators - say that he also had the capacity to ingratiate. Some describe him as a master manipulator who could behave quite normally.

A pre-sentencing investigator in 1976 noted, "He is not at all the person that he presents himself to be. He lies smoothly and talks smoothly. He is quite skilled at misrepresenting himself."

Banks told the same investigator that he liked to travel and to read, particularly Reader's Digest. He said his goal was to get "the best things out of life that I could afford."

He admitted to a quick temper but insisted, "I have a pretty good personality."

"I don't like violence," he added.

Lots of letters

Banks was a prolific letter-writer while in prison, court files show. He routinely ridiculed the evidence against him and begged judges to release him. He called one search warrant "so false and misleading that ... I felt my intelligence being assaulted."

When he wasn't in prison, Banks regularly held jobs, Bartholomew, the parole spokeswoman, said. Court reports show he worked as a salesman, a carwash employee and a home improvement contractor.

A Prince George's County attorney, Erik D. Frye, got to know Banks after Banks was injured in a 2003 car accident while delivering office furniture. Frye litigated the worker's compensation claim for three years.

"I thought he was a character," Frye said in a recent interview. "He was an absolute gentleman to my staff."

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