To get sentenced to death row in the United States, someone usually must commit some particularly disturbing crimes. But even among the almost 2,600 condemned inmates in this country on death row (as of July 2019), there is a subset of horrifying criminals who have gone way beyond what is considered typical criminal behavior.
Charles Manson, Richard ("The Night Stalker") Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacy Jr. are all well known to most Americans. However, there are many horrifying death row inmates who, after the initial local attention paid to their crimes died down, remain unknown to most Americans. Here are some creepy death row inhabitants that are currently well under the radar.
George Emil Banks, Who Murdered His Girlfriends And Children To 'Save' Them
In 1982, George Emil Banks was an ex-convict and Pennsylvania prison guard. Because of erratic and violent behavior, he was placed on leave and subjected to a mental health evaluation. A few weeks later, after an evening at a party, Banks used an assault rifle to kill eight people in his own home, including three women who were the mothers of his children, and five children - four of them his. Outside, he shot two neighbors, killing one. He then went to another girlfriend's trailer and killed her, his son by her, his girlfriend's mother, and his girlfriend's nephew. He shot his girlfriend's brothers, but they survived. After a standoff, Banks surrendered.
He was charged with 13 murders. In explanation, he told the police he did not want his children, who were biracial, to be victimized in a race war. Banks incoherently testified at his own trial and claimed that the police killed his victims during the spree - he had only wounded them. This despite the fact that he shot at least some of his children in the head at point-blank range.
Banks was convicted guilty but ultimately declared not mentally competent for execution. However, despite his age, Banks is still considered dangerous enough to be housed in Pennsylvania's death penalty unit.
Joseph Edward Duncan III, A Child Killer Who Videotaped His Crimes
Joseph Duncan is a convicted murderer and sex offender. In Coeur D'Alene in May 2005, he saw an 8-year-old girl playing in her family's yard as he was driving and decided to attack. He stormed the remote house and bludgeoned the mother, Brenda, her boyfriend, and her 13-year-old son, Slade, to death. He kidnapped her young children (Dylan, 9, and Shasta, 8) who were the true object of his home invasion.
Duncan drove the children to Montana. There, he repeatedly molested both victims, filming himself on a camcorder and eventually killing Dylan. He was arrested weeks later - in July - when he and Shasta were spotted in a Coeur D'Alene restaurant. During his trial, the court offered therapy and counseling for jurors after witnessing behavior and video footage that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Duncan pleaded guilty to everything. They sentenced him to death after approximately three hours of deliberation. He is currently housed in the federal death row facility in Terre Haute, IN.
Scott Panetti, A Possibly Deranged Killer Who Tried To Subpoena Christ And The Pope
On September 8, 1992, Scott Panetti shaved his head, donned military garb, and drove to his in-laws' South Texas home where his estranged wife lived with their baby daughter. He broke into the house and shot his father and mother-in-law to death. He took his wife and baby hostage, but he ultimately released them.
Panetti's wife had left him over abuse that occurred throughout their marriage as well as other strange behavior. Panetti had an extensive history of psychiatric hospitalization and was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Some of his behaviors include burying his furniture because he thought the devil was in it and nailing the shades in paranoia, believing that his neighbors wanted to film him.
In the courtroom where he was prosecuted, he dressed in flamboyant purple cowboy. Offering long, rambling incoherent legal arguments, he attempted to subpoena everyone from Anne Bancroft to the Pope. Ultimately, he was sentenced to death on September 22, 1995.
Needless to say, litigation over Panetti's competence to represent himself and his eligibility to be executed have pinballed throughout the court system. He came very close to execution in 2014 but received a stay. He currently remains on death row.
Blanche Moore, The Black Widow
Blanche Taylor Moore married her first husband in 1952. In 1973, her husband died, supposedly of a heart attack. In 1985, she began dating another man, Reverend Dwight Moore, and married him in 1989. He became very ill after eating something his wife prepared soon after their honeymoon and quickly had to be hospitalized with symptoms that baffled his doctors. When they got the results of a toxicology screen, they found the minister to have 100 times the expected level of arsenic in his system. Before and during her marriage to Dwight Moore, Blanche was also dating a co-worker who became repeatedly ill and was finally killed, seemingly from Guillain-Barre syndrome. He was later found to have high levels of arsenic in his body.
After Dwight's hospitalization, North Carolina state police investigated Blanche Moore and exhumed many bodies connected to her. The bodies of her father and mother-in-law were found to have high but not fatal levels of arsenic. The bodies of her first husband and boyfriend had clearly been killed through poisoning. She was charged with two murders and the poisoning of Dwight Moore.
She was convicted and received the death penalty in 1990 but granted a stay of execution. She has claimed her innocence throughout her prosecution and incarceration. As of 2019, this black widow is the oldest female on North Carolina's death row.