Maryland's first execution by lethal injection
occurred on May 17, 1994, the condemned man being John F. Thanos,
convicted of the slaying of two individuals in 1990.
Thanos (c. 1951 – May 17,
1994) was convicted in 1992 of the murders of Billy
Winebrenner, Gregory Allen Taylor, and Melody Pistorio.
At his trial he
taunted the families of his victims, saying he wished he
could dig up their bodies and defile their corpses. "I
don't believe I could satisfy my thirst yet in this
matter unless I was to be able to dig these brats' bones
up out of their graves right now and beat them into
powder and urinate on them and then stir it into a murky
yellowish elixir and serve it up to those loved ones,"
Thanos said during his sentencing hearing for the murder
of Winebrenner and Pistorio.
Thanos waived his appeals and refused
to fight his death sentence after he was convicted and
sentenced to die. He was executed in 1994 by the state
of Maryland by lethal injection, aged 43, becoming the
first person to be executed in Maryland since 1976 when
the death penalty was reinstated. His last word was "Adios".
Plans For Resuming Executions
The New York Times
As Maryland prepares for its
first execution in 33 years, only one person
knows the precise day and time next week that
the condemned prisoner, John Frederick Thanos,
will die by lethal injection.
A law passed in 1922 forbids
advance public notice of executions in Maryland.
Only the Corrections Commissioner, Richard
Lanham, knows the date and time.
Under the death warrant, Mr.
Thanos can be executed any time from 12:01 A.M.
on Monday through midnight on May 22.
Other states routinely give
the exact day and time of an execution months in
In Maryland, official
witnesses, including selected journalists, will
be notified of the execution three hours
beforehand. They must agree not to divulge the
information to anyone.
Mr. Thanos, convicted of
murdering three teen-agers in a weeklong crime
spree in 1990, will not get the official word
until an hour before he is to die. But he should
get some inkling that his death is imminent when
prison officials inventory his belongings the
day before the execution.
Families of his victims and
the public will not know about the execution
until it is over.
"As far as I'm concerned, I
don't think it's fair that neither one of us
will be told when the execution will be taking
place, on what day that it will be taking place,
and we will not be allowed to be there," said
Lois Dennis, whose 18-year-old son, Gregory
Taylor Jr., was killed by Mr. Thanos.
Before the 1922 law was
adopted, Maryland executions were public
hangings that sometimes became frightful
spectacles. During one pre-World War I hanging,
spectators broke through a fence and plucked the
condemned man's hair and clothing as souvenirs.
"I'm not aware there has been
any litigation to test that, but my
understanding is that it would withstand
challenge, because there are strong governmental
reasons to allow for the secrecy," said Mary
Ellen Barbera, deputy chief of the Maryland
Attorney General's criminal appeals division.
Joe Riener, coordinator for
Let Live, a 650-member group that opposes the
death penalty, said secrecy was not a
significant concern. "The main thing is the
state is going about killing someone," Mr.
Riener said. "How they do it, when they do it,
is not as much of a concern as them doing it."
Mr. Thanos, 45, confessed to
killing Mr. Taylor and two Baltimore County teen-agers
but proved to be a hostile defendant, telling a
judge he wished he could kill two of his victims
again. He publicly berated his lawyers when they
brought up claims of childhood abuse by his
Mr. Thanos has refused to
file any appeals, renouncing petitions filed by
his mother and sister.
"I did it, I was sentenced, I
accept that," Mr. Thanos said in a hearing May 7
in which his family tried to prove he is
incompetent. A judge rejected the claim on
Tuesday, and his family dropped further appeals.
As of Thursday, Mr. Thanos
was in his cell in Maryland's Supermax, the
state's top-security prison.
Before the execution, he will
be moved into a windowless holding cell in the
death house. He will not receive a special last
meal, only the same fare served to other
John Frederick Thanos
In Maryland, USA, in May 1994, John Frederick Thanos, who murdered three
teenagers in 1990, was executed by lethal injection.
He may have got
away with life imprisonment but for his big mouth! At a hearing to
determine if he should get the death penalty Thanos stated that he still
had a desire to "Dig these brat's bones out of their graves right now,
beat them into powder and urinate on them and then stir it into a
mercury yellowish elixir and serve it up to their loved ones!"
The judge then
asked him for his preference, Death or Life imprisonment without the
possibilty of parole.
"Life in prison with the possibility of escape!"
The rest is history!
The first man put to death after the resumption of state executions was
John Frederick Thanos, 45, who fatally shot three Maryland teen-agers
during a week of crime in late summer 1990.
On May 17, 1994, he became the first man executed in Maryland by lethal
injection - the method used by more than 30 of the 38 states with death
Victims: Billy Winebrenner, Gregory Allen Taylor, and
Killer of MD. teens says he wants to defile corpses
The Washington Post
June 3, 1992
Convicted killer John F. Thanos said at his
sentencing hearing today that he would find pleasure in defiling the
remains of his two teenage victims to torment their grieving loved ones.
"Their cries bring laughter from the darkest caverns
of my soul," Thanos told Garrett County Circuit Court Judge Frederick A.
Thayer in a speech during the second day of his sentencing proceedings
for the murder of two Baltimore County youths.
"I don't believe I could satisfy my thirst yet in
this matter unless I was to be able to dig these brats' bones up out of
their graves right now and beat them into powder and urinate on them and
then stir it into a mercury yellowish elixir and serve it up to those
loved ones," Thanos said.
The defendant, wearing a navy blue skullcap decorated
with a Playboy bunny, threatened his two attorneys and their families.
He called Baltimore County Deputy State's Attorney Sue Schenning a "hysterical
woman" and said he had cast a spell of cancer on her female organs.
Thanos, 42, could be sentenced to die in Maryland's
gas chamber for murdering Billy Winebrenner, 16, and Melody Pistorio,
14, both of Baltimore County. Thanos shot them in the head during a
robbery at a convenience store in Middle River on Labor Day 1990.
Three members of the youths' families were visibly
shaken and crying after Thanos's 15-minute speech. He called them
cowards for not trying to kill him in revenge for murdering the
teenagers. The family members declined to comment.
Earlier in the day, two mental health experts
testified that Thanos suffers from a borderline personality disorder
characterized by poor self-identity, impulsive rages and
Thomas Goldman, a Washington psychiatrist, said the
disorder stemmed from a chaotic family life with an abusive father who
once punched Thanos in the groin and another time twisted his wrist so
tightly that he cracked a bone.
"The father was out of control, doing all kinds of
things that constitute psychic torture," Goldman said.
Lawrence Donner, a psychologist from Baltimore, said
Thanos's personality disorder prevented him from conforming his behavior
to the requirements of the law. "He is a very seriously disturbed
individual," Donner said.
Neil Blumberg, a psychiatrist and rebuttal witness
for the state, agreed that Thanos suffers from the personality disorder,
but said that he was not substantially impaired when he shot the two
teenagers in the head. Blumberg said Thanos's videotaped confession to
the slayings indicated that he did not impulsively kill the two youths,
but that the slayings were planned.
"He clearly is not psychotic," Blumberg said about
Thanos's statements on the videotape. "He clearly is rational."
The sentencing hearing is to continue on Wednesday.
Thanos was convicted of the two youths' murders by a
He already has been sentenced to death for the murder
of a third youth on the Eastern Shore on Aug. 31, 1990.
All three murders occurred after Thanos was
mistakenly released from the Eastern Correctional Institution in
Somerset County on April 5, 1990.
Thanos had served nearly four years of a seven-year
prison sentence for robbery.
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE:
MO: Shot robbery victims age
DISPOSITION: Condemned on
three counts; executed May 17, 1994.