Originally created 08/16/06

Witnesses testify to Stanko lies



GEORGETOWN, S.C. - Witnesses who encountered Stephen Stanko testified Tuesday that he was a big spender and a big talker while on the run from police.

Mr. Stanko was convicted of murder and five other counts last week in the slaying of Laura Ling and raping a teenager in Murrells Inlet. Jurors must now decide whether Mr. Stanko should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

Mr. Stanko, 38, an ex-convict who once co-wrote a book about life in prison, eluded police for four days after the April 8, 2005, slaying before being captured in Augusta.

Ryan Coleman, a waiter at the Blue Marlin Restaurant in Columbia, said Mr. Stanko spent about $300 on food and drinks.

Mr. Stanko claimed to be a Citadel graduate who worked for the New York Stock Exchange, Mr. Coleman testified.

Mr. Stanko later drove to Augusta, where he met Dana Putnam.

Mr. Stanko told her he owned several Hooters restaurants, had a master's degree in mechanical engineering from New York University and was a lifeguard in Myrtle Beach, Ms. Putnam testified.

Mr. Stanko said his Jaguar was in the shop and he was driving a borrowed pickup, Ms. Putnam said. Authorities say the truck belonged to Henry Turner, whom Mr. Stanko is also accused of killing.

Ms. Putnam's mother recognized Mr. Stanko from his picture in the newspaper and Ms. Putnam said she contacted authorities.