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Pa. inmate indicted in slaying of Martinsburg man

Eric L. Johnson is charged with murder in death of Bart Gilbert Bannar Jr.

February 23, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A man currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania was indicted Thursday on a charge of murder in the 2004 slaying of a Martinsburg man who had worked as a confidential police informant, according to the Berkeley County prosecutor’s office.

Eric L. Johnson, aka “Butter,” 36, was indicted on one count of murder, according to the indictment released by Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely’s office.

Johnson is currently incarcerated in federal prison in Bradford, Pa., on drug charges, Games-Neely said.

Bart Gilbert Bannar Jr., 60, was found in the driver’s seat of a Toyota truck on Cumberland Valley Place, a small alley off West John Street, on Sept. 14, 2004.

Bannar had gunshot wounds to his chest and arms, and the truck’s engine was running, police said.

Police believe Bannar was shot because information he provided to police about a prior drug deal helped put someone close to Johnson in prison, Games-Neely said.

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Bannar, who lived in an apartment at 801 Virginia Ave., was not working as an informant the night he was shot, Games-Neely said.

Authorities received a break in the case because people who were familiar with what happened the night Bannar was shot have since changed their lifestyle for the better and decided to give a complete account of what happened.

“Sometimes, people change,” Games-Neely said. “They wanted to get this off their conscience.”

She credited Martinsburg Police Department Detective George Swartwood for being “tenacious” in his investigation of the case over the last seven years.

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

Johnson’s expected release date from Federal Correctional Institution-McKean is Sept. 15, 2018, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

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