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Cyanide user's note: Not depressed, but unwilling to suffer American way of death

Fairfield Citizen-News
Updated 1:02 pm, Thursday, April 17, 2014

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  • Scene on Clinton Street, near Oyster Riad, where a man has been found dead in a house where officials said there are dangerous chemicals. Photo: Genevieve Reilly
    Scene on Clinton Street, near Oyster Riad, where a man has been found dead in a house where officials said there are dangerous chemicals. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Insisting that he was neither "depressed or distressed," the 69-year-old man, whose apparent death by ingesting cyanide triggered a hazmat emergency in his Clinton Street neighborhood Monday night, wrote in a suicide note that he had an "outstanding" life but did not want his days to end alone in a nursing home or hospital.

Allan Banks, who police said at one time had been a musician, also states in the four-page, hand-written letter that he was in declining health. "This is a suicide, pure and simple," he wrote, noting that he had buried his father in 2005, his wife in 2007 and his mother in 2008, and with no other immediate family, did not want to suffer a lingering death.

"I am one fall or failed capillary away from the American way of death: ambulance, hospital, nursing home, progressive decline, drooling, vegging, dying," he explained.

Banks apparently lay down in the bedroom at 32 Clinton St. last Friday and drank poisonous potassium cyanide from a vial, officials said. Confirmation on the cause of Banks' death, however, had not been made as of Thursday by the state medical examiner's office. A spokesman said more investigation is pending, and it will likely take several weeks while awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

"I have had an outstanding time -- the best time of my life," Banks wrote in the note, which was discovered with his body three days after he apparently consumed the cyanide. "I've taken care of my family and have had more joy than I ever expected to have.

"I am contented and grateful for the life I have had," he wrote.

Banks also asked that the letter be shown to anyone who wanted to read it.

He rented the small, brick Cape house where his body was found, and had lived there about five years, according to police. The house is owned by William L. Burke, who declined to comment.

His late wife, Marcelline Barron, was a math and science teacher in Fairfield. Coincidentally, Barron also had left a note that was quoted in her obituary following her March 2007 death from cancer. "I have had a wonderful time helping the teachers of Fairfield teach the town's children science and math," wrote Barron, whose memorial service was held at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. "I greatly appreciate the personal friendship and professional development that the citizens of Fairfield have given me, and I thank them for both."

Banks "did not intend to harm anyone else" with the cyanide, Assistant Fire Chief George Gomola said at the hazmat scene, indicating the man voluntarily swallowed the poisonous liquid, killing himself after locking up the house.

"A note was placed to warn first responders so they wouldn't become victims," Gomola said. Banks also posted arrow-shaped signs pointing the emergency-services personnel to the poison and where he lay. A small note, attached by Banks to his suicide letter, gave Friday, April 11, "shortly after 9:45 p.m." as the time of death.

The initial call about the incident was made to police just before 6 p.m. Monday from the house off South Benson Road. A friend of Banks had contacted police after reading an email she received from him. Assistant Police Chief Chris Lyddy said the language in the email was "concerning" to the friend, and she requested officers make a welfare check on Banks.

Gomola and Lyddy said first responders, unsure of the extent of the poison in the house, called for support from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's hazardous-materials team. Two police officers and two firefighters who initially entered the home to check on the man were taken to Bridgeport Hospital as a precaution, but were able to return to the scene.

"We isolated the area and made a controlled entry, and determined the victim was deceased," Gomola said.

The end of the street was quickly roped off with yellow warning tape, but neighbors were not evacuated. Spotlights were trained on the house as firefighters and hazardous-materials teams from nearby fire departments arrived on the scene.

A small crowd of neighbors gathered with reporters along the tape barrier, staring at the scene.

"It's really very sad," said one man, who wouldn't give his name.

Gomola said responders determined there was no danger to neighbors, and that the poison was found only in the bedroom of the home. In fact, he said, the cyanide was in two small vials -- one dark, the other clear -- found on the bed with the body.

"While we can't know his reasons for doing what he did, we know he took precautions to make sure no one else was harmed," Gomola said.

Several Clinton Street neighbors appeared to know little about Banks.