Body found handcuffed in snow after fake US marshal ‘arrested’ Vermont man, feds say

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A man’s body was discovered near the base of a snowbank, with his hands in handcuffs, one day after a fake U.S. marshal visited his Vermont home to “arrest” him, federal prosecutors said.

Gregory Davis, who was involved in a “business dispute” ahead of his death, was killed after being repeatedly shot in the head and torso, according to the Justice Department and court documents. His body was found partially covered by snow about 15 miles from his home in Danville.

Now the masked man accused of posing as a U.S. marshal, Jerry Banks, of Colorado, was charged on Oct. 4 with a murder-for-hire conspiracy and the kidnapping of Davis, resulting in his death in January 2018, prosecutors announced in a news release. A criminal complaint previously charged Banks with kidnapping in April.

The charges come after authorities said Banks, 35, made a misleading 911 call the day of the kidnapping, followed by “exhaustive investigation” involving state police and FBI agents, according to prosecutors.

Investigators said they learned Davis was disputing with Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, of Los Angeles, who is accused of arranging his killing by having a hitman — Banks — kidnap and kill Davis, according to investigators and prosecutors. Gumrukcu was arraigned Oct. 4 on a murder-for hire conspiracy charge in connection with the case.

Gumrukcu pleaded not guilty, The Associated Press reported.

Attorneys representing Banks and Gumrukcu declined requests for comment from McClatchy News on Oct. 5.

Origins of the case

On Jan. 6, 2018, Davis and his wife heard knocking at the door of their home, and Davis went to answer it, according to the wife’s interview with detectives, court documents state.

Davis told his wife that a man identifying himself as a U.S. marshal came to arrest him, according to court documents. As a result, Davis left with the man who claimed to have a warrant for his arrest related to racketeering and was supposedly taking him to Virginia.

His wife “saw the man and described him as having handcuffs, a rifle, and wearing a jacket and mask with an eye opening, both of which had a U.S. Marshals emblem,” an affidavit states. Meanwhile, Davis’ 12-year-old son later told police that the man drove a white car with red and blue emergency lights.

Ultimately, Davis never returned home because he was found dead the next day on Jan. 7, 2018, with bullet cartridge casings discovered at the crime scene, according to investigators.

On Jan. 10, 2018, investigators learned that Davis was never arrested by a U.S. marshal, and there were no warrants out for his arrest, the affidavit states. In reality, it was Banks carrying out his job as a hired hitman, according to the release.

Around the time Banks kidnapped Davis, it is believed that Banks made a 911 call to “facilitate” the “kidnapping and murder,” according to the affidavit.

Dispatchers received a call from a man claiming to have shot his wife and threatening to shoot himself before giving a vague address and hanging up, the affidavit states. This sent Vermont state police and FBI agents investigating and was later traced back to Banks.

At the time of Davis’ death, he was “involved in a series of investment ventures,” which his family depended on as financial support, and was trying to leave an oil deal with Gumrukcu, a biotech investor, and his brother, The Associated Press reported.

Additionally, Davis had threatened to inform the FBI about his dealings with Gumrukcu and the brother, according to The Associated Press.

Gumrukcu is accused of having Berk Eratay, 36, of Las Vegas, contact a man named Aron Ethridge “to find someone to kill Davis,” according to the release.

As a result, Ethridge found Banks and hired him to kill Davis as part of the conspiracy orchestrated by Gumrukcu, the release states. Ethridge was paid $100,000 by Eratay for doing so, prosecutors said.

Ethridge has previously pleaded guilty “to hiring Banks to murder Davis and conspiring to kidnap” him, the release states.

McClatchy News contacted Eratay and Ethridge’s attorneys for comment on Oct. 5 and was awaiting a response.

Gumrukcu and Eratay have been in custody since their arrest in May, according to the release. Gumrukcu and Eratay are both from Turkey and are friends who had previously worked together, VTDigger reported.

Eratay was charged, alongside Gumrukcu and Banks, in connection with the murder-for-fire conspiracy, in a superseding indictment, the document shows. A judge denied Eratay’s request to be released ahead of a trial, the release said.

“The charges in the superseding indictment carry a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment,” prosecutors said in the release.

Danville, Vermont, is about 180 miles north of Boston.

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