Two men charged in Vermont murder-for-hire case to go on trial in September

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The two men from facing federal charges connected to a murder-for-hire plot that led to the 2018 abduction and killing of a Vermont man will go on trial in September, a federal judge said Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford set Sept. 23 as the start date for the trial of Serhat Gumrukcu, of Los Angeles, and Berk Eratay, of Las Vegas. They pleaded not guilty in 2022 to a charge of wire fraud as part of an alleged international murder-for-hire conspiracy. The two men were previously charged with arranging to have a third defendant, Jerry Banks, kidnap and kill Gregory Davis, 49, of Danville, Vermont.

Banks, who prosecutors say abducted and killed Davis, changed his plea to guilty last year.

Prosecutors say Banks was part of a plot that began when Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI to report he’d been involved in a fraudulent oil deal with Gumrukcu. On Jan. 6 2018, a masked man knocked on the door of Davis’ Danville home. Davis’ wife described the man as having handcuffs and a rifle, and wearing a jacket that had a U.S. Marshals emblem.

The man told Davis he had an arrest warrant for racketeering for him from Virginia. They went away together. Davis’ handcuffed body was found by the side of a snowy Vermont back road.

Within hours of the discovery of Davis’ body, investigators began to focus on the oil deal as a potential reason for his kidnapping and death.

A fourth person, Aren Lee Ethridge, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing.

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