Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Case of Delma Banks: Part I

In a recent post, Hank Skinner Watch, I gave a quick rundown of the Texas death row inmates the Supreme Court had ruled against as they further delayed a decision on Hank Skinner. In all but one case, I found either insufficient information to pass even a preliminary judgment, or I concluded that the evidence of innocence was insufficient to pass the person through my coarse review filter.

The one exception was Delma Banks. With respect to that inmate, I wrote:

"Uh oh! That one doesn't look good. Not good at all. It has all the makings of a wrongful conviction, at least at first glance. I'll have to get back to you on that one."

 There is a lot of information out there, most of it written in support of a new trial for Banks. I have spent a dozen hours or so trying to make sense of it all. It's got me so befuddled, I've struggled trying to figure how to present it here in a fair, clear-cut manner. In this post, I'll describe the case as argued by the state. It's a compelling story of Delma Bank's guilt.

On Friday evening, 11 April 1980, 16-year-old Richard Whitehead (the soon to be victim) and a 14-year-old female friend, Patricia Hicks, encountered 21-year-old Banks at a bowling alley, and agreed to give him a ride home. Departing in Whitehead’s distinctive green Mustang (with a primer hood), the trio ended up drinking Coors beer together in a secluded park near Nash, Texas. Nash is a small town four miles west of the border town of Texarkana, where Banks lived with his parents.

Around 11:00 PM, the trio left the park and drove Patricia Hicks' home. Whitehead and Banks left Hick's house in the victim's Mustang. They briefly visited another of the Whitehead’s friends, Patricia Bungardt, shortly before midnight. That friend too witnessed Whitehead and Hicks traveling  in Whitehead's distinctive green Mustang.

A few hours later, at about 4:00 AM on Saturday, 12 April, Mike Fisher heard two gunshots coming from the part of the park where Whitehead and Banks had been drinking beer. On Monday, 14 April, at 10 AM, Whitehead's body was found in that portion of the park. He had been shot three times; his Mustang was missing; empty cans of Coors beer were strewn about.

Returning to the early hours of Saturday morning, Banks traveled approximately 175 miles west to Dallas, Texas. He arrived by 8:30 AM, about four and one-half hours after the gunshots had been heard. When Banks arrived in Dallas, he was driving a distinctive, multi-colored Mustang. There he stopped and asked a couple for directions. That couple, Charles Cook and his soon to be wife, Rita, were waiting for a bus that would transport Rita to her place of work. 

Charles Cook talked Banks into giving Rita a ride to work, and the three departed in the Mustang. After dropping Rita off at work, Cook and Banks continued to ride around together for much of the day.  They visited Cook's sister who also noticed the distinctive green Mustang (with primer hood). Banks stayed the next two nights with Cook and his family at Cook’s grandparents’ house in Dallas.

That Saturday, while riding around Dallas in the Mustang, Cook noticed blood on one leg of Banks’ trousers. When asked about the blood, Banks said he had shot a “white boy”. That evening, Banks told Cook that he had “decided to kill the white boy for the hell of it and take his car and come to Dallas”.

Cook noticed that Banks had a pistol. On Sunday evening, Cook took the pistol away from Banks and hid it. It was later identified as a .25 caliber Galesi handgun.

On Sunday, Banks made a collect call from Cook's house to his mother in Texarkana. Banks’ mother urged him to turn himself in. Later that weekend, Banks shared this information with Cook’s neighbor, Bennie Lee Jones.
After spending Saturday and Sunday night with Cook, Banks was given bus fair by Rita. On Monday, 14 April, Banks' boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Texarkana.

Early on Tuesday morning, 15 April, Cook abandoned the multi-colored Mustang in West Dallas. It was never recovered. Shortly thereafter, Cook sold the .25 caliber Galesi pistol, along with some jumper cables and tools from the Mustang, to his previously mentioned neighbor, Bennie Lee Jones.

Later that month, Banks telephoned Cook twice in an attempt to recover his .25 caliber Galesi pistol. On 23 April, Banks returned to Dallas. He traveled with two acquaintances, Robert Farr and Marcus Jefferson. Farr was Banks’ girlfriend’s brother-in-law. Marcus Jefferson was Banks’ girlfriend’s brother. Unknown to Banks, he was followed by law-enforcement personnel.

Upon arriving in Dallas, Banks drove around, looking for Cook’s house. Upon locating it, Banks went to the door of the house while Robert Farr and Marcus Jefferson waited in the vehicle. Banks asked Cook for his gun. Banks returned to the vehicle, and they departed. In the vehicle, Banks told Farr and Jefferson that Cook didn’t have his gun because he had given it to someone else. Cook, instead, gave Banks a .22 caliber pistol.

Departing from Cook’s house, Banks, still traveling with Robert Farr and Marcus Jefferson, apparently got lost trying to find the way back to the highway. The still-trailing law-enforcement personnel, after observing several traffic violations, initiated a traffic stop of Banks’ vehicle. A .22 caliber pistol was recovered from the vehicle. Banks was arrested, Farr and Jefferson were released.

On 24 April, the day after Banks had attempted to retrieve his pistol from Cook, law-enforcement personnel visited Cook and asked for Banks’ pistol. They were taken to neighbor Jones’ house. There, Bennie Lee Jones returned the .25 caliber Galesi pistol to Cook, who provided it to the police. This pistol was later determined to be the weapon that fired the bullets that killed 16-year-old Richard Whitehead.

In summary, Banks was the last person seen with Whitehead. Whitehead was killed where he and Banks had been drinking earlier. Banks drove to Dallas in Whitehead's Mustang. The murder weapon, a .25 caliber Galesi pistol, ended up in Dallas at the same time and place as Banks. Banks attempted to recover the gun, and identified the gun as "his" to his two companions.

So there you go. Case closed. 


Make sure to read the follow-up post: The Case of Delma Banks: Part II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no one ever brought up the fact that before Delma ever got into the car with Richard, that Richard had had a fight with a group of white boys.He was suppose to have gotten into it over the girl he was on a date with. Also a couple of the guys in the group parents were from a rich affuent family in Texarkana. I know personally that Det. Willie Houff before he ever followed Delma to Dallas. Had come to try to give Vetrano Jefferson a gun to shoot Delma.When Vetrano, though He was still mad at Delma, turned, Houff down, Houff proceeded to Pay Robert Farr to set Delma up.Houff I believe planted the weapon because he was a crooked cop who was very into the drug scene of Texarkana.Delma bought beer for them to drink because he was old enough to do so. However i know personally that he purchased weed from richard and some of his friends. He was cool with Richard. He had no need or reason to kill him for a ragedy car.No one parks a non working car in a black neighborhood on the side of the road and 30 years later it still has'nt shown up.nO ONE STEALS A NON WORKING CAR.The police or somebody should have seen it. I also have personal knowledge that banks helped Richard fight some white boys who had been following him around that night.This whole case is tainted with lies and police looking the other way.The cops set him up. With a new trial they have no evidence thats why they keep running him in circles. Richard did not deserve to be murdered, no one does,however, Delma Banks didnt do top it all off they convicted a young black man convicted of killing a white person to death using an all white jury with no one of his age group/ peers. Get real,, where is the justice, that was 1980.

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