Killer in Danville murder-for-hire plot changes plea to guilty


Federal Building
The Federal Building in Burlington houses the U.S. District Courthouse. File photo by Bob LoCicero/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — A Colorado man who carried out the killing in a murder-for-hire plot in 2018 changed his plea on Friday, admitting to his role in the kidnapping and murder of a Danville man.

Jerry Banks, 35, appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Friday afternoon. Led into the courtroom in custody wearing handcuffs, he pleaded guilty to three counts for his role in the killing: murder-for-hire, conspiracy to kidnap and money laundering.

The plea deal, submitted by the Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office and Banks’ attorney, Mary Nerino, proposes a sentencing range from about 24 to 30 years, but the court can choose to set its own sentencing. Judge Geoffrey Crawford did not set a date for sentencing on Friday.

In court, Banks confirmed the plea deal and agreed to a set of facts described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van de Graaf and documented in the plea agreement. 

The agreement states that Banks was contacted by a Nevada man, Aron Lee Ethridge, about a scheme to murder 49-year-old Gregory Davis, and the two received $100,000 from Berk Eratay, also of Nevada. In separate court documents, prosecutors stated that Eratay told Ethridge that he was acting on behalf of Serhat Gumrukcu, of Los Angeles.

According to the plea deal, Ethridge gave Banks a location and photograph of Davis, who then traveled from Colorado to Vermont to watch Davis’ home. Banks reported back that Davis would have to be killed away from the Danville property, so Banks and Ethridge came up with a plan to impersonate law enforcement in order to kidnap Davis. On Jan. 6, 2018, Banks carried out the plan, abducting Davis and shooting him multiple times. Banks called Ethridge one day later to confirm the killing. 

Ethridge struck a plea deal of his own last year, pleading guilty for his role in the plot.

Prosecutors allege that the four-person scheme to kill Davis stemmed from an oil deal gone bad. According to a federal indictment from last year, Davis suspected he was being defrauded by Gumrukcu and eventually threatened legal action in December 2017. The following month, Davis was murdered.

In exchange for Banks’ guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to dismiss an indictment for racketeering. They also cited a letter stating that the Caledonia County State’s Attorney would not pursue state charges related to the killing.

Stay on top of all of Vermont’s criminal justice news. Sign up here to get a weekly email with all of VTDigger’s reporting on courts and crime.



Rate article