Court Battle over Thanos execution begins Death penalty favored by most at vigil for victims JOHN THANOS--THE STRUGGLE OVER THE DEATH PENALTY

About 100 people last night stood just outside the gasoline station where John F. Thanos murdered Baltimore County teen-agers Billy Winebrenner and Melody Pistorio and cheered speakers who called for the killer's execution.

"If he's executed, no one else will have to go through what I've gone through," Donna Dillon, Melody's mother, told the crowd gathered at the old Big Red gasoline station in the 9000 block of Pulaski Highway in Middle River.


"We have been silent too long," county police Detective Sam Bowerman told the crowd. "Law enforcement officers have been silent too long. We must have the death penalty. We must."

Most in the crowd at the hourlong vigil were students at Kenwood High School, which Billy, 16, and Melody, 14, had attended.


John F. Thanos confessed to killing the two teen-agers during a Labor Day 1990 robbery of the gasoline station and convenience store where Billy worked.

The Big Red gasoline station is out of business now. The owner of an adjacent bowling center has bought the property. Last night, he opened the gates for the vigil.

One of last night's speakers was Betty Romano, whose daughter, Dawn Marie Garvin, was raped and killed by another death row inmate, Steven Oken. Mrs. Romano criticized the judicial system and the seemingly endless appeals that it allows death row prisoners at taxpayers' expense.

"We need new laws protecting crime victims and punishing criminals to the greatest extent," Mrs. Romano said.

"Life without parole should mean life without parole. Death should mean death."

"Our loved ones were denied appeals," she said. "They were given death sentences, and their families have gotten sentences of life without parole. Our hearts have been broken and our dreams shattered."

"For three years, I've had total misery," said Ed Pistorio, Melody's father. "Thanos is going to get off easy if he's executed. I'm not. . . . It's got to stop."

Carl Winebrenner, Billy's father, suggested that Baltimore forget about getting a new football team and spend the money earmarked for a new stadium for more police protection. "I like football, but what good is it if we don't live to see a game?" he asked.


"Turn around," he told the crowd. "Hug your loved one, tell them you love them, because you may never get the chance again."