THE TRUE STORY OF GEORGE EMIL BANKS
Dissertations of Madness
Not until Banks was in custody at Wilkes-Barre police headquarters did most of the officers that were on the scene feel the impact of what had occurred. I looked at him, handcuffed to a chair, former Chief Detective Jim Zardecki recalled, and I felt like a balloon that had suddenly been pricked. I started to quiver. My eyes watered. I thought, what really happened here? My God, what happened? Until then, wed been reacting. We hadnt time to think about it. We were more lucky than good. He could have blown anybody away.
Following his arrest, Banks told investigators that he wanted to die, and that if he had known for certain his children were dead, he would have stuck the rifle into his mouth and blown himself away. George avoided direct questions about the murders, although he did admit to them. He was uncertain as to how many he had actually committed. Most of the time police questioned him, he ranted about racism and discrimination rather than his crimes.
Shortly after 4:00 p.m., Banks was arraigned before District Magistrate Joseph Verespy and charged with five counts of criminal homicide, with other charges to be filed later in the week. Verespy ordered Banks be held without bail in the Luzerne County Prison to await a preliminary hearing scheduled for October 6, 1982. Banks remained calm and motionless during the entire proceeding.
After just a few days in the county lockup, Banks began threatening others and talking about suicide. During one altercation with a prison guard, Banks warned, Ive already killed seven people. One more body wont make a difference. Following the incident, a prison official placed Banks on a round-the-clock suicide watch. Not permitted to interact with other inmates or participate in any prison activities, Banks depression deepened.
Attired in a tan coat and dark trousers, Banks appeared before District Justice Robert Verespy for his preliminary hearing in early October. Banks, with tears streaming down his face, entered pleas of not guilty to 13 counts of aggravated murder; two counts of robbery; and one count each of the following: attempted murder, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and theft. Following the plea, Banks requested a jury trial to determine his ultimate fate.
On January 15, 1982, Dr. Anthony Turchetti examined Banks at the request of the defense and deemed him fit to stand trial. He (Banks) can understand the nature of criminal proceedings and can assist in his own defense, Turchetti's report stated. Following Banks' request for a change of venue, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on February 26, 1983 ordered that the jury for Banks trial to be selected from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, approximately 250 miles from Wilkes-Barre. Jury selection began on May 23, 1983, and was completed just four days later with five men, seven women and six alternates.