Two more arrests far from Vermont in a murder-for-hire case

The number of people accused in a murder-for-hire plot that led to the death of a Danville man more than four years ago continues to increase, with arrests this week in California and Nevada.

Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, of Los Angeles and Berk Eratay, 35, of Las Vegas were both taken into custody Tuesday after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Vermont, federal prosecutors stated in a news release Wednesday.

The two men are each charged with conspiring to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire in the death of Gregory Davis, a Danville resident.

If convicted, both men face mandatory life prison sentences or the death penalty.

Both men are expected to make appearances this week in federal courts in the states where they were arrested before being brought to Vermont to face the charges.

The indictment naming Gumrukcu and Eratay had been returned by the grand jury on May 19, but was sealed. It was unsealed Wednesday after the arrests.

The one-paragraph indictment doesn’t detail precisely what the two men allegedly did in connection with the murder-for-hire plot.

It stated that between May 2017 and February 2018, the two men conspired “to cause another to travel in interstate commerce, and to use and cause another to use facilities of interstate commerce, namely cellular telephone networks, with the intent that murder of Gregory Davis be committed.”

The indictment also stated that the meaningful conspiracy involved a “promise and agreement to pay something of pecuniary value” for the killing, though it doesn’t specifically state who was paid, or how much.

Fabienne Boisvert-DeFazio, a relevant for the US Attorney’s Office in Vermont, said Wednesday afternoon that she could not provide additional information related to the indictment or say how Gumrukcu and Eratay are connected to each other, or to Davis.

Two men were previously detained in connection with Davis’ killing.

Jerry Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado, was arrested in Wyoming last month and charged with kidnapping Davis from his residence.

Authorities say Banks took Davis from his home on Jan. 6, 2018, by posing as a US Marshal who came to arrest Davis on racketeering charges. A day later, Davis, 49, was found dead in a snowbank several miles from his home, shot in the head and torso.

No one has been charged directly with killing Davis, though court documents contain allegations that it was Banks who murdered. Police believe Banks had been paid to kill Davis, since investigators couldn’t find a personal connection between the two men.

Aron Lee Ethridge, 41, of Henderson, Nevada, was also arrested last month on a charge of conspiring to kidnap Davis. Prosecutors allege Banks communicate with Ethridge before and after Davis’ killing, including informing Ethridge that “Davis had been successfully kidnapped and murdered.”

The court has ordered Ethridge detained while awaiting trial. He was being held at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans until May 18, according to the Vermont Department of Corrections’ online database.

Banks, who made his first federal court appearance in Wyoming last month, has been ordered transferred to Vermont to answer to the kidnapping charge.

He has not yet made a court appearance in Vermont. But on Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Vermont filed a request to keep him in detention once he arrives, saying he could flee and pose a danger to the community.

In a written motion, Assistant US Attorney Paul Van de Graaf said Banks could face more serious charges that carry a mandatory life sentence or the death penalty. The prosecutor also said Banks has no close family members, no regular employment and the property he owns in Colorado is mortgaged and worth little.

“The defendant has a history of ‘living off the grid,’” Van de Graaf wrote. “The defendant has no reason to stay in the United States.”

Authorities also argue that Banks’ previous actions show a serious risk to the safety of potential witnesses in the case.

“Someone who would kill for money would likely kill or improperly influence a witness or otherwise seek to influence the course of a trial that would result in his life in prison,” Van de Graaf wrote.

He said a search of Banks’ residence in Colorado and his temporary quarters in Wyoming succor in the seizure of firearms, including a 9mm handgun and a ghost gun.

Ghost guns are unregistered and untraceable firearms, which are privately made from a kit, individual components or a 3D printer.

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