Vol 6 No. 48 - August 23, 2006

Killer planned murder-suicide

Police block off the Coquina Beach parking lot where the body of Orland Hanks was found behind the bushes in the center of the photo.

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Police say it appears a murder/suicide at Coquina Beach and just short of the Longboat Pass Bridge last Friday was premeditated.

According to police reports, it all began when Orland Hanks, 32, of Cortez, kidnapped his estranged girlfriend, Michelle Smith, 33, also of Cortez, and took her to Bradenton Beach Friday morning shortly before 7 a.m.

Smith had gotten an injunction against Hanks in July and three days before the shooting, Hanks had appeared in court to answer charges that he had violated the order not to go near her.

According to Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Det. Lenard Diaz, Hanks left behind evidence that he had been planning the tragic shooting.

"They had gotten back together three days prior to the shooting," he said. "His roommate said Hanks came into her bedroom Thursday night, kissed her on the forehead and told her he had put something under her pillow and for her not to look at it until the morning.

“She forgot about it the next morning but when we questioned her, she remembered it and got it. It was a deck of tarot cards and the top one was labeled ‘justice.’"

Diaz said he feels that the injunction that she had filed against him possibly drove him over the edge, even though they had appeared to have made up with each other. He said that raises questions whether he forcibly kidnapped her the morning of the shooting.

In addition to the domestic violence incident that led to the injunction in July, Hanks also had a felony stalking charge filed in August 2005, which the district attorney’s office decided not to prosecute.

In April 2005, Lori Lynn Powers got an injunction against him. He had fathered a child with Powers, but the relationship had turned sour and he had reportedly made threats against her.

Diaz said it appears Hanks got the pistol used in the shooting three weeks earlier. He said they found more evidence in the house that the shootings were premeditated when they spoke with his roommate.

"She said he had a small safe in his bedroom," Diaz said. "She knew how to open it and when we asked if we could look inside, she said okay. There was a branch new box of 38-caliber bullets there and four were missing."

Diaz said Hanks fired two bullets into Smith’s head and his head and they have not be able to find the other two.

Several people witnessed the Smith’s shooting, including Patti Reid, daughter of Duffy’s Tavern owner Pat Geyer.

"I was on my way to work in Sarasota when I saw the couple arguing on the side of the road," she said. "The girl looked like she was trying to get away from him, so I pulled over to the side of the road and called 911."

Reid said she asked for Bradenton Beach Police, but the operator refused to transfer the call and asked her questions about Smith, who continued to struggle with Hanks.

"When I looked into my rear view mirror, I saw the woman go down," Reid said. "I told the operator that they needed to send someone right away.

"I backed up, got out and checked the woman and she still had a pulse," Reid continued. "A couple of other witnesses pulled up and asked where the man was.

“I went over to the side of the road and saw him lying under a tree and when I went over to him, I could see he was dead."

Reid said Longboat Key police were the first to arrive at the scene. Smith reportedly called her sister in New Jersey while she and Hanks were arguing and left a message, saying this might be the last time she would talk with anybody.

She also called her parents in Florida to tell them that Hanks was holding a gun on her and had told her to call her parents and tell them she loved them.

Reid said after police questioned her about what she saw, she spotted a cell phone near the road, which they took as evidence.

Gulf Drive was closed to traffic shortly after the shooting while police investigated the shootings. It reopened around 10 a.m., causing problems for commuters between the Island and Longboat Key. A school bus was late arriving at Anna Maria Elementary School because of the closed road.

A memorial for Michelle Smith is planned for Sunday, Aug. 27, starting at 8 p.m. at the Banana Factory Two, 10104 Cortez Road W., where she was employed.

<< Go back to Index August 23

<< Go back to Index archives

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper