Slain man once said he acted as informant

September 16, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Martinsburg man who was found shot to death in his pickup truck Tuesday morning told a magistrate two months ago that he was providing information to police, the magistrate said.

During his arraignment in July on a charge of violating sex offender registration requirements, Bart Gilbert Bannar Jr., 60, of 801 Virginia Ave., Apt. 1, told Magistrate Kristy Greer that he was helping police on other cases, Greer said Wednesday.

Martinsburg Police Department Detective Sgt. George Swartwood said he could not confirm whether Bannar was a police informant.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss that," he said.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said she also could not confirm that Bannar had worked for police.

However, she did say that "he was not an informant at the time of the shooting. That night he was not working for us."


Swartwood said he believed an autopsy was performed on Bannar's body Wednesday morning, but he did not have the results by mid-afternoon. A spokeswoman in the state medical examiner's office in South Charleston, W.Va., said autopsy results must be released by local law enforcement officials.

Bannar had apparent gunshot wounds to his chest and arm, police said.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Swartwood said police recanvassed the area where Bannar was found and talked again to people in the neighborhood.

Officers responded to Cumberland Valley Place at 3:46 a.m. Tuesday for a call of possible gunshots having been fired. When officers arrived they found a tan Toyota pickup truck with the engine running, police said.

Bannar was slumped over in the driver's seat and appeared to have been shot multiple times, police said.

Cumberland Valley Place is a narrow alley-like street that parallels Winchester Avenue. Bannar's truck was found behind houses in the 400 block of Winchester Avenue, police said.

No arrests in the shooting had been made by Wednesday night.

According to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records, Bannar had faced several misdemeanor and felony charges since 2003, including three drug-related offenses.

On June 22, Bannar met with a confidential police informant at the intersection of Buxton Street and Virginia Avenue in Martinsburg. Bannar and the informant went to West Virginia Avenue, where Bannar walked into a home. He walked out a short time later and gave a piece of crack cocaine to the informant in exchange for cash, records allege.

Bannar was charged with a felony count of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possession of less than 15 grams of a crack cocaine.

Swartwood investigated that case. Those charges had been forwarded to Circuit Court.

Bannar was charged with a third drug offense - possession of less than 15 grams of a controlled substance - on Aug. 30, 2003. That case was handled by West Virginia State Police.

In December 2003 and January 2004 Bannar was arrested by officers with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department on charges of leaving the scene of an accident, two counts of obtaining money or goods by false pretenses and traffic offenses.

The charge of violation of sex offender registration requirements was handled by West Virginia State Police Trooper H.D. Heil. According to a criminal complaint Heil filed, Bannar was required to register as a sex offender for life.

Bannar had registered with police in September 2003, when he gave an address of St. Andrews Drive in Martinsburg. When Bannar was arrested in June on the drug charges, troopers noticed that his address had changed to Virginia Avenue, records state.

Heil met with Bannar on July 13, when Bannar said he was not sure who to contact about the required address change and that he had been in jail, records state.

Bannar was required to register as a sex offender because he had been convicted of lewd/lascivious conduct with a child younger than 16. Court records did not further indicate the nature of that conviction or where it occurred.

Greer arraigned Bannar on July 21 and he was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. At that time Bannar filled out paperwork requesting a public defender and listed no job, no assets and no dependents. He said he received $824 a month in disability benefits.

Officers with the Martinsburg Police Department and Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force are investigating the shooting.

Anyone with information may call the Martinsburg Police Department at 304-264-2100.

The Herald-Mail Articles