LAKE NONA, Fla. - As Elmer Banner sits in the Orange County Jail, charged with murdering his wife and mother-in-law, newly-released police interviews detail bizarre activities in the family's Lake Nona home days before the alleged attack.
"He began to preach to the family, yelling and screaming Bible stories," Banner's 14-year-old son told detectives. Banner had never been openly religious, according to the teen.
But on Feb. 18, the day before the shootings, the son said Banner began talking about a "family curse," according to police reports.
Another family member told detectives Banner bought white T-shirts for himself, his wife Debra, his two teenage sons and his in-laws, who were also living at the house. That night, Banner gathered the family together in the living room to hold hands while he told Bible stories for more than five hours, according to reports.
"He's never done that before," said the son in the police report.
Banner also discussed his desire to visit a nearby body of water, said the teen.
"He talked about Lake Nona being the fountain of youth," his son said.
Around 7 p.m. the next evening, after returning home from a movie, Banner called his 14-year-old son into the garage.
"He opens the breaker box and flips every switch off," according to the report, so the house was dark. Banner then ordered everyone to go to bed, according to the son. "He says, 'No one pee, no one do anything, just go to bed.'"
A short time later, the teen said his father entered his bedroom and handed him an antique 9mm Luger as Banner held a .45-caliber handgun.
"He was talking about judgment," said the teen. "He's like, 'It's time, it's time,'" as the two walked downstairs.
"He told me, 'Stay behind me. I'm your protector. I'm going to protect you. You're the Chosen One,'" said the teen.
As Banner and his son approached the garage, they were confronted by Banner's mother-in-law, Carol Minich, according to the report.
The teen said his dad shot the 70-year-old woman in the head without warning, and then called to his wife.
According to witnesses, Debra Banner ran downstairs screaming, "You killed my mom!" Banner then pointed his gun at his wife and fired into her chest several times, said the son in the report.
"He knelt down with the bodies," said the teen, describing how his dad appeared to be performing some sort of religious ritual. "I know he did something with her blood."
The 14-year-old said he and his dad stepped over the bodies and walked back upstairs into the bathroom, where Banner filled the bathtub with water until it overflowed. The father and son then got into the water to undergo what a detective described in a report as a "ceremonial cleansing."
As the two bathed, Banner's father-in-law, who also witnessed the shootings, ran outside in his underwear and told a neighbor to call 911. The couple's other son, age 13, remained in his bedroom, where he had been hiding since he first heard gunshots.
When Orlando police arrived, Banner walked outside, according to the report. According to investigators, Banner ignored their commands to put down his weapon, so police shot and wounded the gunman. As Banner lied on the ground near the back door, his 14-year-old son approached.
"He just said, 'I love you. I love you, son. I love you a lot.' And I said, 'I love you too, daddy.'"
Paramedics took Banner to the hospital. When he recovered from his injuries he was booked into the Orange County Jail on two counts of first-degree murder.
"He fell off his rocker. He went berserk," said Banner's father-in-law, Joe Minich, who also survived the attack. He described Banner as a "good father, good husband, good provider, good businessman" who had exhibited no unusual behavior until the day before the shooting.
"Either he has a tumor in his head putting pressure on his brain causing him to go off the deep end, or some God-forsaken demon got a hold of him," said Minich. "That was not Elmer."
"By all accounts Elmer was a loving father and husband," said Banner's attorney, Mark NeJame. "Everyone who knows him and his family are completely baffled by this. We are investigating everything thoroughly, and more will come out as we continue looking into it."
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