May 17, 1994
John Frederick Thanos is executed for the murders of three teenagers

At the time of the murders, Thanos had been in and out of prison for violent crimes — namely rape and robbery. He also had a habit of carrying a leather doctor’s bag holding a sawed-off .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle as he traveled around Maryland.

On August 31, 1990, 18-year-old Gregory Taylor gave Thanos a ride. Thanos eventually ordered the teen to a remote area, initially with the intent to tie Taylor to a tree to allow Thanos to steal his vehicle. When Taylor became uncooperative, resisting being restrained, Thanos amended his plans and shot Taylor in the head three times.

Thanos’ next victims were killed four days after Taylor’s murder on September 3. Billy Winebrenner (16) was working at a gas station and was kept company by his 14-year-old girlfriend Melody Pistorio. According to Thanos, he had previously bartered a watch with Winebrenner for $20 and some gas under the agreement Thanos could later buy the watch back for $60. When he visited the gas station to retrieve the watch, Winebrenner did not have it with him. Thanos responded by telling Winebrenner to fill his bag with cash from the register then shot both teens in the head multiple times.

Thanos was arrested the next day following a shoot-out with police.

Medical experts called by Thanos’ public defender testified he showed signs of having borderline personality disorder, which the experts believed was fostered by the years of childhood abuse Thanos suffered at the hands of his father. While the prosecution acknowledged the diagnosis a rebuttal witness testified Thanos was rational at the time of the murders and was therefore criminally responsible for the killings.

Thanos was a disturbance in court to the point the judge threatened to gag the defendant. Thanos taunted the victims’ families during trial, stating “Their [the victims’] cries bring laughter from the darkest cavern of my soul.” During a 15-minute speech, he spoke of the victims: “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.” Additionally Thanos claimed to have cast a “spell of cancer” on State Attorney Sue Schenning’s reproductive organs.

Thanos was found guilty in 1993 and sentenced to death. He refused any appeals and was executed the following year, becoming the first person executed in the state of Maryland in 33 years. When asked if he had a final statement Thanos replied simply with “Adios,” though as the lethal drugs entered his blood stream he said “Here it comes now” before he died at the age of 45.

Small, Glenn. “Thanos: Never Far from Trouble.” The Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. May 22, 1994 (image source)
Small, Glenn. “Unrepentant Thanos put to death.” The Sun. May 17, 1994
Small, Glenn. “Thanos: violent, venomous — and ‘damaged’.” The Sun. October 31, 1993
“Thanos vows he’d murder again in courtroom speech.” The Star-Democrat [Easton, Maryland]. June 3, 1992

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