LAND O'LAKES — On the morning of Jan. 8, 1991, the body of a quiet 56-year-old bookkeeper was found inside his tidy office, his coffee pot still on, an orange and banana uneaten on his desk. He had been shot once in the head with a shotgun. His wallet and car were missing, but otherwise nothing appeared amiss.
Theories were investigated: Was he another victim of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who had been in the area at that time? Or maybe it was a hit, something to do with the money he shuffled around. A lover's quarrel? A run-in with the motorcycle gang that hung out near his office?
One by one, the theories grudgingly discounted, the case file passed from detective to detective. It has been 22 years since the strange murder, and authorities are no closer to finding the answer to this question:
Who killed Chappy Franklin Banks?
• • •
Why anyone would want to kill Banks is a mystery.
"He was a good guy," said his brother, Raymond Mansfield Banks, who lives in Maryland.
The brothers with upper-crust names were raised in West Virginia and, as adults, chose simple, straightforward signatures: Ray and Frank Banks. Ray Banks said his brother despised the name Chappy, which their mother picked because she once she met a little boy with the name of Chappy and he was the cutest thing she'd ever seen.
Ray Banks, now 69, said his brother was voted "hardest working" in high school. Soon after graduation, Frank Banks headed to New York, where he worked in accounting.
Frank Banks never married and had no children. His brother said he was extremely quiet and reserved, but he had a dry sense of humor and a few friends. Frank Banks believed in God and being a good Samaritan. He enjoyed the theater and old, classic movies. He loved Bette Davis and said he once met Judy Garland. In New York, he became close with an older married couple, Raymond and Ruth Troscianiec, and lived with them.
The trio bought a house together in Land O'Lakes in the early 1970s. Ray Banks said his brother told him they moved to get away from big city crime.
"They went to this town in Florida that was supposed to be a little sleepy town," Ray Banks said. "And crime caught up with them there."
Frank Banks was a man of routine and order. His clothes were organized by color. His VHS tapes alphabetized: A Farewell to Arms, The Purple Rose of Cairo. Even the contents of his briefcase were in place, documents, a deck of cards from Delta Air Lines. He was frugal, but spent money on a few things: His beloved Wedgwood Williamsburg china and his family, splurging on dinners and gifts when he visited them each Christmas.
Frank Banks went to Barbados once, his brother said. Detectives believe he also visited the Florida Keys in the year before his death. He sometimes went to Clearwater Beach on the weekends.
But, overall, Frank Banks, tall and thin with dark hair and glasses, appeared to live a simple life. He left for work at 7 a.m. each day. He ate lunch at his house every day. After work, he was home by 6 p.m. and, if he was late, he always called.
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• • •
Banks left for work on Jan. 7, 1991, at his usual time. Ray Banks said his brother stopped at an ATM and withdrew money before going to his office at Wisteria Plaza, 6735 Land O'Lakes Blvd. He liked to get there early so he could work in silence. Frank Banks worked for Same Day Express, a shipping company, in a room by himself. He was hired in 1988 to work in its Tampa office, but when that branch was closed, the Sarasota-based company allowed him to work alone in this place close to home. The office shared an entrance with other businesses renting space there.
The couple he lived with were out of the house that day and unsure of whether Banks came home for lunch. But when he didn't return from work that evening, they contacted authorities, who said he needed to be missing for 24 hours before they could act. The next morning other people who worked in the building heard Banks' phone constantly ringing. They went to investigate, opened the door and saw Banks' body.
"It's a very, very disturbing thing to talk about," said Banks' housemate Raymond Troscianiec. He is 87. His wife, Ruth, is 94. They still live in the same Land O'Lakes home. Troscianiec said they knew Banks for 22 years. His murder was difficult.
"We had laid it to rest," he said, "because we thought it was Aileen Wuornos."
• • •
Wuornos was a good suspect.
She killed seven men in Florida in 1989 and 1990 and was executed in 2002 for her crimes. Her usual method was to shoot her victims, dump the bodies and steal the car, removing any bumper stickers and wiping it down.
Frank Banks' beige 1983 Toyota Corolla was stolen, the bumper stickers removed, the car wiped of any usable fingerprints.
The car was found Jan. 11 ditched in Ocala, close to where Wuornos had a hotel room in the days around Banks' murder. Ray Banks said the driver's seat was moved as close to the pedals as it could go, which Wuornos, who was short, would have done.
And Wuornos spent time in Pasco. She killed a man in June 1990, Charles "Chuck" Carskaddon, a truck driver and part-time rodeo bull rider whose body was discovered in the woods a mile west of Interstate 75, just south of State Road 52. Wuornos was also seen at a Land O'Lakes bar on New Year's Eve, days before Frank Banks' murder, said Pasco sheriff's Detective Tim Marshall, who currently has the case.
Wuornos often pretended to be stranded alongside the road to lure her victims. Maybe, Banks' loved ones wondered, he picked her up on his way to work?
But, Marshall said, the time line didn't match up. There was evidence she sold items at a pawn shop in Daytona at noon on the day of Banks' murder. And Banks was killed with a shotgun. Wuornos killed all of her victims with a handgun.
"She was ruled out," Marshall said.
The execution angle fizzled. No enemies or scorned lovers were found. There was a rumor Banks dated a married woman, but she was not located, Marshall said.
Robbery also was discounted as a motive, Marshall said. Although Banks' wallet and car were taken, there were no signs of a forced entry or struggle. Everything was still in its place, chairs upright, stapler and two-hole puncher and coffee mug untouched. Ray Banks said his brother's gold jewelry, a ring and a necklace, were still on his body.
"Why Chappy?" he said.
He's thought of all kinds of theories: Maybe someone followed Banks from the ATM. Or maybe it was revenge: Banks honked his horn at a swerving truck weeks before his death and the enraged driver chased him. Maybe that person found him again.
Ray Banks is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his brother's killer. After all this time, he still hopes for answers.
"A random killing like that, with no motive," Ray Banks said. "It's hard."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.