Murder Charges against High School Dropout Shock FriendsTOM SHARP , Associated Press
Aug. 20, 1987 12:48 AM ET
ATHENS, GA. ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ The hatchet slayings of three women, just four months after two former University of Georgia professors were stabbed to death in their home, sent shock waves through this college town.
To friends and relatives of a 16-year-old high school dropout now accused of all five deaths, the charges are equally shocking.
''I just don't believe he did it,'' said Curtis Johnson, half-brother of Clinton Bankston Jr. ''He wouldn't even tote a knife, much less a hatchet.''
''He's the quiet type, you know, he keeps to himself,'' Johnson said.
Bankston, who had no prior criminal record, was arrested Sunday at his grandmother's house in a poor section of Athens, and officials said Tuesday they will try him as an adult.
Police Chief Everett Price has said police believe robbery was the motive in the slayings, noting that both murder scenes were in comfortable neighborhoods. He said police do not know how the victims were chosen, but they do not believe the killer knew the victims.
Police have refused to give out many details. Police Detective Jeff Ingram testified at a hearing Tuesday that property belonging to some of the victims was found in Bankston's possession and that Bankston had made statements about the crimes, but he gave no specifics.
On Saturday, police found the bodies of Ann Orr Morris, 63, her sister, Sally Nathanson, 59, and Mrs. Nathanson's daughter, Helen, 22, in or near the Nathanson home. They had been hacked to death with a hatchet, which police recovered.
Police said evidence from that investigation also led them to charge Bankston with the April 25 stabbing deaths of Glenn Sutton, the 82-year-old retired chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission, and his wife, Rachel, 72. Both of them had taught at the university.
The deaths of the women, whose family goes back five generations in the area and who were active in civic affairs, were discovered after Mrs. Morris' husband, also a retired university professor, reported her missing.
''Somehow they have hurt nothing but the gentle people,'' said a longtime friend of both families, who asked not to be identified. ''We're all shocked, horrified.''
A joint funeral was scheduled for the three women Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church of Athens.
Mrs. Morris was a goldsmith and silversmith, crafts she studied in New York and in Europe after graduating from the University of Georgia. Mrs. Nathanson had worked as a recreation director for the American Red Cross. Helen Nathanson was a psychology major at the University of Georgia.
Sutton served on the tariff commission from 1954 to 1972 and was appointed chairman by President Nixon in 1969. He later taught economics at the university, and his wife taught education.
Bankston dropped out of Clarke Central High School last year. Since then, he has spent most of his time riding his bicycle and watching television, friends and relatives said.
He apparently split his time between his grandmother's house of white- painted stone and his mother's apartment in a housing project of worn lawns, clotheslines and lawn chairs where young men cruise aimlessly and obscenities are painted on the sidewalk.
His parents had been separated for several years when his father, Clinton Bankston Sr., died in a fire in 1982.
''I don't believe he did it,'' said Roger Stanley, an older man who lives near the Bankston family. ''He's a nice young man. That's all I ever thought, he was a nice young fellow.''
''He was always nice to everyone,'' said family friend Donald Jones. ''I just can't believe it, period. You just have to see him to know he's not the type of person to do that.''