Suspect in 2018 Vermont murder for hire due to change plea

July 18, 2022 GMT

One of the suspected middlemen in the 2018 kidnapping and death of a Vermont man as part of a murder-for-hire case stemming from a financial dispute is due in court for a change of plea hearing, federal court records show.

The records say Aron Lee Ethridge, 42, of Henderson, Nevada, is scheduled to appear in court in Burlington Friday.

Ethridge pleaded not guilty in April to a kidnapping charge in connection with the January 2018 abduction of Gregory Davis, of Danville, who was found shot to death the day after his kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Jerry Banks kidnapped and then killed Davis, but Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado, has only been charged with kidnapping. Banks allegedly called Ethridge the day after the kidnapping to inform him that Davis had been successfully kidnapped and killed. Banks has also pleaded not guilty and is being held pending trial.

The court records provide no detail about the change of plea, which was first reported by the Caledonian Record. Ethridge’s defense attorney, Mark Kaplan, declined comment Monday.

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Prosecutors allege that Ethridge served as a middleman between Banks, Berk Eratay, 35, of Las Vegas, and Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, of Los Angeles, who were arrested in May on charges of conspiring to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of the murder-for-hire that resulted in the death of Davis.

Eratay and Gumrukcu are both in custody pending their transfer to Vermont, where they will answer the charges after they arrive.

Prosecutors say Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI with information that Gumrukcu, the co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotechnology company, was defrauding Davis in a multimillion-dollar oil deal that Gumrukcu and his brother had entered into with Davis in 2015.

Court documents say Ethridge told the FBI that Eratay approached him more than a year before Davis’ death, asking if he could arrange a murder. Ethridge later approached Banks and arranged for the killing of Davis.

Eratay paid Ethridge more than $110,000, some of which was paid to Banks. After Davis’ death, Eratay allegedly provided Ethridge with an additional payment in bitcoin.