death penalty news—-TEXAS

Apr. 12


Different paths to a tragic finish—-Teens with contrasting backgrounds
had brief relationship with fatal ending

Cinco Ranch High School student Spenser Vogt lived in a comfortable gated
neighborhood in Katy, drove a nice sports car, worked at a Wal-Mart and
had just been accepted into college.

Lee Carl Banks III lived with his mother in a poorly kept south Houston
apartment complex after being expelled from Yates High School. He had no
car and no job, and was wanted in a Harris County courtroom to explain why
he had botched his probation.

The 2 19-year-old men likely never would have met except for the fact that
both were drawn to a gay chat room, police said.

When their paths crossed online it led to tragic results, with Vogt shot
to death and Banks jailed on a capital murder charge, possibly facing the
death penalty.

Police say they may never know exactly why the pair's 2nd face-to-face
meeting on March 27 turned violent, but said Banks eventually confessed to
shooting Vogt so he could steal the victim's 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse and
other items.

Banks denied robbing or intentionally harming Vogt when interviewed by the
Houston Chronicle at the Harris County Jail last week. He said he fled to
another state in Vogt's car because he was scared.

"I'm very sorry for what I did I know what I did was wrong," Banks said
from inside the jail, where he is being held without bond.

But Banks refused to say what he was apologizing for, even as he denied
robbing and killing Vogt.

He also said they were just friends.

Interviews and public records suggest Banks, a former Yates High School
drum major and one-time aspiring journalist, had problems controlling his

One Yates High School instructor said she was so badly frightened when
Banks lunged at her in 2007 that she considered quitting her job. Banks
later sent an e-mail to fellow students threatening the teacher's life.

Court records also show Banks was arrested last year on allegations of
assaulting a former boyfriend and damaging his apartment.

"Lee kind of painted himself as everything going downhill, beginning with
the Yates deal and the break-up with the boyfriend," said Fort Bend County
sheriff's Detective Jeff Martin.

Banks' bleak future diverged markedly from Vogt's, whose death came the
day after he had received an acceptance letter from the University of
Texas-San Antonio.

Pair met online

Both Vogt and Banks were openly gay and both were young when their fathers
died. Vogt embraced his homosexuality, describing himself on his MySpace
page as "gay and proud" and posting provocative self-portraits.

Banks also was fond of posting self-portraits on his MySpace page, though
his pictures were less racy sometimes showcasing his new clothes,
expensive suits or new Air Jordan shoes.

Fort Bend County sheriff's investigators and Texas Rangers don't yet know
which man initiated contact with the other.

Police believe Vogt was killed on the men's 2nd date at the apartment
Banks shares with his mother in the 3300 block of Yellowstone. Banks first
told police Vogt found his gun in his room and they struggled, which
caused the gun to fire, striking Vogt in the head.

Handgun is being tested

He told investigators he then wrapped Vogt's head in 2 plastic bags and
put the body in Vogt's car before dumping Vogts remains in a field in
south Houston.

3 days later, a deputy sheriff stopped Banks in Cairo, Ga. about 14 hours
from Houston as Banks headed to Atlanta, driving Vogt's car.

Officers found a gun that Banks said was his a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber
revolver on the car's floorboard, Martin said.

Police are awaiting ballistics test results to see if it was used in the

Directions provided by Banks later led police to Vogt's body, wrapped in a
blue tarp and dumped in an undeveloped lot in the 5200 block of Fuqua near

An autopsy revealed Vogt had been shot twice in the head once at close
range in the left temple and another time in the base of his skull.

After giving conflicting stories, Banks confessed Monday that he shot Vogt
to steal his car, said Harris County prosecutor Connie Spence.

Investigators found what appeared to be blood on the back patio of the
apartment, a search warrant revealed.

Officers seized all the bedding and sheets from a 2nd-floor bedroom in the
apartment, along with a floor mop, a vacuum cleaner canister, a couch
cushion and fabric cut from a chair.

Banks' life apparently began to unravel when he was expelled from Yates
High School during his senior year in the fall of 2007.

Yates magnet school coordinator Myrtice Newhouse said Banks became
belligerent when she asked for a medical excuse because he had missed
class one day.

She said Banks followed her out of her office, then lunged at her in front
of a school police officer.

"He just lost his mind," Newhouse said. "He was hollering, screaming. It
made me contemplate quitting. It frightened me that bad."

The expulsion also led to Banks removal from the Houston Chronicle
Classroom, a program designed to expose high school students to

In an e-mail to classmates this January, his continuing anger toward
Newhouse was obvious more than a year after the incident.

"I was so mad at that point I really wanted (to) take her life, but they
had me handcuffed to a chair," Banks wrote.

On his MySpace page, he claimed to attend the University of Houston, but
there are no records showing he ever enrolled there.

In March 2008, Houston police arrested Banks on allegations that he struck
his then-boyfriend and pushed him into a window.

He pleaded guilty to Class A assault of a family member and was placed on
deferred adjudication for one year, but failed to comply with his
probation, court records show.

Prosecutors sought to revoke Banks probation and convict him of the
assault charge, saying he hadn't taken part in a domestic violence
treatment program and had not paid court fees.

He was arrested March 18 9 days before the killing then released from
jail with orders to return to court March 30 for a probation revocation

Banks failed to show up in court that day, though, because he had fled
Texas in Vogt's car. Deputies stopped him in Georgia that same day.

(source: Houston Chronicle)