EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU ) — Sunday marks 40 years since George Banks murdered 13 people in Luzerne County.

Banks was convicted of shooting and killing seven children, five of his own, and six adults. At the time, it was one of the largest mass murders in the history of the United States and remains the largest in Pennsylvania’s history.

“It’s probably one of the things that sticks in my mind. There was a little girl sitting in her bed and she had that look of fear in her eyes, you could see it, she was deceased already,” said James Zardecki.

Former Chief Luzerne County Detective James Zardecki says he is still haunted by what he saw inside George Banks’ home on Schoolhouse Lane in Wilkes-Barre on the morning of September 25th of 1982.

County detectives and Wilkes-Barre Police rushed to the scene after getting reports of murders inside the home. They found eight people shot to death including five children, four of those being Banks’ own children, a bystander on the street, and another bystander who was shot and survived.

Investigators then got a call that Banks shot and killed four people at a home in the Heather Highlands Mobile Home Park in Jenkins Township. Detectives found two adults and two children dead. One of those children was George Banks’ five-year-old son.

In total,13 people were killed. Seven children and six adults, five of the children killed were fathered by Banks. Among the adults that were murdered included girlfriends and mothers of his children.

Banks then held police at bay in a home on Monroe Street in Wilkes-Barre.

“As I got out of the car up above the window porch, he busted out the window with the butt of the rifle and turned the rifle down and pointed toward us and just started screaming at us. At that time I dove back under the car,” Zardecki told Eyewitness News.

Banks was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. During the four-hour stand-off, Zardecki says they had several chances to take a shot at Banks, but they decided not to.

“If we shot, and anybody missed, we had a lot of dead people. He’d just start firing away with that AR-15. He testified I was in his sights at one point in time,” Zardecki explained.

Police convinced Banks to surrender. After telling him his children were still alive and airing a fake radio news report saying his kids survived.

“He didn’t want his kids to grow up in this racist world that was part of his whole. He had his mind set,” Zardecki stated.

Luzerne County Detective Mike Dessoye was also one of the first officers to arrive at the home on Schoolhouse Lane. He showed Eyewitness News the AR-15 rifle Banks used, it is still in the county detective evidence room.

Dessoye says the images of that deadly day are still vivid in his memory.

“I can still see [the] baby in her mother’s arms which was shot, [the] mother was dead, the children in that home. It’s a scene you never forget,” Dessoye said.

Bob Kadluboski was Wilkes-Barre’s towing contractor in 1982. He helped police get into the home. We talked with him near the lot where the home on Schoolhouse Lane once stood.

“The offices opened the door but could not get in because the dog was out of control. And I used to help train the K9 dogs years ago I was able to make entry get the dog under control put the dog in the kitchen. The police were able to make entry and that’s when they found the horrors of exactly what happened downstairs and upstairs,” said Bob Kadluboski, one of the first people on the scene.

Attorney Al Flora was a member of Banks’ defense team. He says he first met Banks inside the Luzerne County Prison.

“He was the most respectful person I ever met for having killed 13 people. Highly intelligent, but the more I talked with him I came to realize there really was something off with his thinking, his process,” Flora said.

Flora argued for the insanity defense. He said George Banks did not want his children to experience what he said would be an impending race war and even insisted that the police were part of a conspiracy against him, that they shot the victims again to make the deaths look more terrible to the jury.

“He believed, and that was part of the insanity defense, he believed that the police shot everybody. He believes that the coroner covered up a lot of the bullet holes with coroner paste and those holes were caused by police shootings. He wanted the photographs into evidence to prove that. That was his thinking,” Flora explained.

Banks was convicted of 12 counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. In 2010, a judge ruled that Banks was incompetent to be executed and was sentenced to life in prison.

People Eyewitness News has spoken with over the years about the George Banks case say the murders forever changed the Wyoming Valley, and in many ways, the valley lost its innocence.