3rd of 4 men arraigned in Vermont murder-for-hire case

Posted at 2:33 PM, July 29, 2022 and last updated 3:31 PM, July 14, 2023

By LISA RATHKE Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Las Vegas man pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of helping arrange the 2018 kidnapping and murder of a Vermont man that grew out of a financial dispute.

Berk Eratay, 35, is the third of four men to be arraigned in the crime.

He and Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, the co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotechnology company, 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 Gregory Davis of Danville.

FILE — A Vermont State Trooper, center, speaks to a homeowner on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2018 near an area on Peacham Road, in Barnet, Vt., where the body of Gregory Davis was found. Federal prosecutors say a conspiracy that resulted in the murder of Gregory Davis grew out of a financial dispute between him and one of the men now charged with arranging to have him killed. In a Monday, May 30, 2022 filing, prosecutors said that Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI with information that Serhat Gumrukcu was defrauding him in a multi-million dollar oil deal. (Dana Gray/Caledonian-Record via AP, File)

Prosecutors say Davis had been threatening to go to the FBI with information that Gumrukcu was defrauding him in a multimillion-dollar oil deal that Gumrukcu and his brother had entered into with Davis in 2015.

Davis was kidnapped from his Danville home on Jan. 6, 2018, and found shot to death in a snowbank the next day.

Prosecutors say Aron Lee Ethridge, 42, of Henderson, Nevada, arranged for Jerry Banks, 34, of Fort Garland, Colorado, to kidnap and then kill Davis. Banks allegedly called Ethridge the day after the kidnapping to inform him that Davis had been successfully kidnapped and killed.

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

Ethridge pleaded guilty last week for his role in helping to arrange the kidnapping and murder of Davis.

Eratay, who was extradited from Nevada and has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Turkey, arrived in Vermont on Thursday to face charges. Gumrukcu is in custody and has not yet been arraigned.

Banks has only been charged with kidnapping, but prosecutors allege he killed Davis. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held pending trial.