The suspended Baltimore Police officer convicted of killing his 15-year-old stepson was sentenced to 42 years in prison Friday.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Stacy McCormack’s decision came almost four months after Eric Glenn Banks Jr., 35, submitted an Alford plea in October to second-degree murder and to disarming a law enforcement officer. An Alford plea concedes that prosecutors had enough evidence to secure a conviction had the case gone to trial and carries the same weight in sentencing as a guilty plea.
Dasan “DJ” Jones, a magnet student at Glen Burnie High School and talented violinist, died as his parents’ eight-year marriage was falling apart. Just hours before police found the teenager’s body on July 6, 2021, Banks and his then-wife Latrice Banks had attended a protective order hearing in Glen Burnie District Court that afternoon. Prosecutors believe Eric Banks killed his stepson within an hour of returning home from the hearing.
Jones never appeared when his mother was supposed to pick him up. She called police, who soon found her son’s body in a crawl space at his stepfather’s Curtis Bay town house.
Banks received a maximum penalty of 40 years for the second-degree murder charge and an additional two years for disarming a police officer. McCormack described the legal saga as “emotionally charged like no other.”
Crystal Boyd, Jones’ aunt, who flew in from Arizona for Friday’s hearing, said the day of the murder was not the first time Latrice Banks had attempted to seek protection from her then-husband.
“I feel like maybe if the protective orders had happened, we wouldn’t be here,” Boyd told The Capital after the hearing. “We wouldn’t be worried about a 40-year sentence. [Banks] would have his life and my nephew would have his life. We’re grateful that the judge went over [the sentencing guidelines], but I’m still hurt that we’re here.”
When police arrived at his house, Eric Banks first told officers the boy had left the property before later consenting to a household search. There, in a loft area, police found Jones’ body and immediately handcuffed the stepfather. Banks, who served three tours in Afghanistan before becoming a police officer in Baltimore City, wrestled with the officer who detained him, attempting to take his handgun and saying the officer was “gonna have to end this.” He was also heard on body-camera footage saying, “just choke me.”
Between the October plea and Friday’s sentencing, Banks was the subject of a “complete mental health evaluation,” as his attorney Warren Brown described it, which delayed a sentencing hearing scheduled for December.
Banks’ responses from that examination were heavily scrutinized by Assistant State’s Attorney Kelly Poma, who contrasted them with previous statements the defendant made in October and immediately after his July 2021 arrest to show a “common theme” of “lying, lying, lying.”
For instance, during the examination, Banks claimed he and Jones had spoken several times about suicide in the months leading up to the teenager’s death. In October, he told authorities that he had seen Jones crushing pills and told his stepson he would take them, too.
Poma not only took issue with the idea that Jones would trust and confide in Banks more than his mother — she said the two had decided not to text each other “anything important” out of fear that Banks would take his stepson’s phone and respond as the teenager — but also played clips from Banks’ initial interview with police in which he said several times that the two did not have a suicide pact.
In October, Banks also said that he first found Jones hanging from a bedsheet in his laundry room, which prosecutors said was the first time that possibility was mentioned. In this scenario, Banks then carried Jones to a bathtub full of water, placed him inside and connected him to a nebulizer used by one of Jones’ younger brothers. Once again, interview footage with police refuted that story. Poma also said it did not make sense for a concerned parent interested in keeping their suicidal child alive to hook them up to an electrical device near water.
Poma acknowledged Banks’ excuse for withholding that story at the time of his arrest, the claim that he was protecting his integrity by hiding the idea his son had hanged himself. The prosecutor pointed out, however, that Banks “had no problem” signaling to police the possibility Jones had purposefully drowned or overdosed.
An autopsy later found Jones had died of asphyxia and his death was ruled a homicide.
“At the end of the day,” Poma told McCormack, “nothing this defendant has told your honor is truthful.”
Brown asked the judge to consider Banks’ military and community service as testaments to his client’s character, asking that she refer to the sentencing guidelines for someone with no prior criminal history. According to Brown, the guidelines in Banks’ case would typically yield a 10-to-18-year prison sentence.
While Brown repeatedly said the truth behind Jones’ death may never be known, he appeared to make excuses for his client’s erratic behavior, saying that “we train people to kill” when they enlist in the military.
“When they really need us, are we there?” the defense attorney asked at one point. Referring to his client, Brown said, “he certainly needs us right now.”
Banks apologized to his family “on both sides of the room” for the situation and for his behavior that day, saying he only ever knew how to be a serviceman or a family man. Reminiscing, he told the court he remembered when Jones first called him Dad. They were visiting family in Arizona and Banks told the boy he didn’t feel he deserved the title.
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“That day, Dad should have reacted differently,” Banks said of the day Jones died. “Dad should have maintained his poise and been different.”
“I think about this day every day,” he said later in his unscripted address to McCormack. “I think about the way it reflected on my family and my community. I’ve always been one to bring people together. I’m the person that wants to uplift people. This situation is not who I am.”
The prosecution’s argument for a maximum sentence was capped off by a memorial video prepared by Glen Burnie High School. In it, Jones performed a concerto on the violin, to glowing praise from the audience. One of the many family members present Friday also clapped in the gallery.
Latrice Banks’ family sat in the first three benches behind the prosecutor’s table. They wore commemorative T-shirts or sweatshirts for Jones that had “#JusticeforDasan” inscribed on the back. They cried, groaned, comforted, and consoled one another throughout the hearing.
McCormack, who later said she had never seen a live representation of a victim in one of her cases, had to step away from the courtroom.
“He was a beautiful soul,” the judge said, “and I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
The Anne Arundel County Domestic Violence Hotline, available through the YWCA, can be reached at (410) 222-6800.