Death Row Inmates

George Banks Pennsylvania Death Row

george banks 2021

George Banks was sentenced to death by the State of Pennsylvania for thirteen murders committed during a mass shooting. According to court documents George Banks would open fire at his home killing eight people including five children. George Banks would leave his home and shoot and kill a man who was working across the street. George Banks would travel to another location where he would shoot and kill four more people including his girlfriend and their child. Banks would shoot and kill two more people in the home bringing the total to thirteen. George Banks would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

George Banks 2021 Information

Parole Number: 6946F
Age: 79
Date of Birth: 06/22/1942
Race/Ethnicity: BLACK
Height: 5′ 10″
Gender: MALE
Citizenship: USA
Complexion: LIGHT
Current Location: PHOENIX

Permanent Location: PHOENIX
Committing County: LUZERNE

George Banks More News

The first call was chilling enough: Two lay shot on a Wilkes-Barre street.

But as Robert Gillespie headed to the scene where George Emil Banks began his massacre 35 years ago this week, the scope of the situation began to mount as the bodies piled up. Gillespie was on Interstate 81 when the next call from a detective informed him of a second crime scene, in Jenkins Township.

Four shot dead.

When Gillespie arrived in Wilkes-Barre, he learned that not only were the two there shot outside a home on Schoolhouse Lane — one fatally — but eight more bullet-riddled bodies were inside.

Four were children. The two youngest were 1.

Decades later, Gillespie can still see them.

“You never forget seeing a child that has been brutally murdered,” said Gillespie, the former Luzerne County district attorney who prosecuted Banks.

Thirty-five years later, Gillespie and Al Flora Jr., one of the attorneys Gillespie battled in the courtroom over Banks’ culpability and competency, reflected on the details and aftermath of the murderous rampage Banks wreaked on the Wyoming Valley on Sept. 25, 1982.

Banks gunned down five of his own children and eight other people on Schoolhouse Lane and in a Jenkins Township trailer park in the largest killing spree by a single mass murderer in Pennsylvania history. Most victims were shot at close range.

After a highly publicized trial that lasted just under two weeks, a jury from Allegheny County found Banks guilty of 13 counts of first-degree murder on June 22, 1983. The next day, the panel returned 12 death sentences and one life sentence for the murders.

For the prosecution, the outcome was bittersweet.

“We had done nothing but work toward it for a year and there was some pride, but no pleasure, in hearing the jury actually assert he should be put to death,” Gillespie said. “But if there was ever anyone who deserved the death penalty, in my opinion, it was George Banks.”

Yet Banks, inmate No. AY6066, was never executed. Now 75, he remains on death row at Graterford, a maximum-security prison in Montgomery County.

He is a distant shadow of his former self.

First violent crime: 1961

It wasn’t long after Banks was discharged from the Army that he committed his first serious violent crime, the shooting of an unarmed tavern-keeper during a robbery in 1961. He was sentenced to six to 15 years in prison, then was hit with additional time when he briefly escaped in 1964.

Despite the escape attempt, Banks was granted parole in 1969, and his sentence was commuted by Gov. Milton Shapp in 1974.

After prison, Banks was hired by the state, first by the Department of Environmental Resources, then as a guard at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill in Harrisburg.

Weeks before the murder spree, Banks was suspended from prison-guard duty after he locked himself in a guard tower with a shotgun and threatened to kill himself. Fellow guards also had complained Banks had been talking about committing a mass killing.

He was placed on involuntary sick leave and was supposed to see a psychologist on Sept. 29, 1982, but four days earlier he embarked on the unprovoked killing spree that defense attorneys have long argued was a product of paranoid delusion.

The night before the killings, Banks was at a birthday party in Wilkes-Barre where he drank beer, played darts and fawned over a woman’s T-shirt that read “Kill Them All and Let God Sort It Out.”

Banks and the woman switched shirts, and he donned it underneath military-style fatigues the next morning when he methodically began walking through his home firing an AR-15 rifle.

When the rampage ended hours later, Banks had killed 13 people at two homes — seven children, his three live-in girlfriends, an ex-girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend’s mother, and a bystander in the street. Five of the seven children were his own; he has fathered at least seven.

Banks holed up at 24 Monroe St. in Wilkes-Barre, where swarms of police tried to convince him he should give himself up because his five children were alive and in need of blood. A phony radio broadcast was played to support the ruse. Banks finally surrendered after a four-hour standoff.

‘A delusion’

Flora last met with Banks in 2010.

That year, after numerous rounds of appeals, Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello ruled Banks was too mentally ill to be executed, describing the inmate’s mindset as a “tossed salad of ideas and beliefs.”

Augello wrote that Banks is not competent to be executed “because he has a fixed, false belief, a delusion, that his sentence has been vacated by God, the governor and (former President) George W. Bush. He believes he is in prison illegally, and he should be going home. He should be out there ministering to the people, but there is a conspiracy against him.”

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling in 2012.

At trial, Banks’ bizarre behavior was a constant obstacle, Flora recalled. He refused to cooperate with Flora and fellow defense attorneys Basil Russin and Joseph Sklarosky Sr., who had hoped to have him declared not guilty by reason of insanity.

Banks took the stand in his own defense, then delivered a rambling account of the shootings. During that account, he showed jurors the gory photographs of his victims that his attorneys labored to keep out of trial. Banks, who is bi-racial, then claimed he had only wounded the victims and said racist police officers had fired the fatal shots to frame him.

Prosecutors argued Banks’ motive was based on his fear of losing control over his extended family.

The trial attracted such a throng of attention from relatives, onlookers and national media that presiding Judge Patrick J. Toole instituted a lottery for courtroom seating.

Gillespie said Toole was clear on courtroom decorum: There would be no emotional outbursts from relatives of Banks or his victims.

And while not an outpouring of emotion, Gillespie acknowledged he had to hide tears from the jury at one strenuous point during the proceedings, when a child victim’s young brother testified about reporting the murders to 911 using a phone covered with blood and brain matter.

“No child should ever have to see that and tell a whole bunch of strangers what had happened,” Gillespie said.

Locked in isolation

Flora, who long has fought to have Banks declared incompetent, said the case is now considered closed, and Banks is destined to die in prison.

“Being locked in a cell 24 hours a day and being in isolation will have a profound effect on someone,” Flora said. “George has significantly deteriorated. He is severely mentally ill … and there is likely no treatment for him.”

Gillespie, now in private practice in Hazleton, said he never thought of George Banks as a victim, but as a misogynist who hid behind claims of a racial divide. But, Gillespie conceded, he was smart.

“I thought that George Banks was a very intelligent person,” Gillespie said, noting that during one of his first encounters with Banks, the mass murderer draped himself in a blanket so a psychiatrist couldn’t discern reactions to his analysis.

But Banks’ hatred also defined him, Gillespie said.

“He hated women, ” Gillespie said. “He cared for his sons, but he had no feelings at all towards his daughters or stepdaughters. He was, quite frankly, a cold-blooded killer.”

author avatar

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button