When Melbourne Beach residents woke up to reports Friday morning of a “gunshot victim” found on the beach in a quiet residential area, it sounded scary. But as police investigated and details unfolded, it turned out to be just a very sad story.
The body of a Satellite Beach dentist, Dr. Frederick Banks, was discovered in the surf about 7 a.m. near his South Beaches home after an apparent suicide.
Deputies from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office cordoned off a 100-foot-wide stretch of beach and put up a privacy tarp while detectives conducted their investigation. But still, curious neighbors gathered.
Deputies on the scene would not divulge how Banks died, except to say that they did not suspect any foul play.
A woman who identified herself as Banks’ wife to a Beachsider photographer said she thought the body might be that of her husband, adding that he had locked his office door, something he wouldn’t normally do. She spoke with a detective, breaking into sobs. Claudia Fortunato Banks worked alongside her husband as a Certified Dental Assistant.
“My wife Claudia and I, we really enjoy helping people. We take a sincere interest in doing good things for other people. We want to make as many people as we can as happy as possible,” Banks said on a video about his practice.
A neighbor who spoke to the Beachsider but declined to give her name said Banks had been in her home the previous evening. She said there was nothing unusual about his behavior.
According to a curriculum vitae posted online, Banks was in his early 60s.
He opened his Satellite Beach cosmetic and general dentistry practice, The Dental Makeover Center, in 2009. Prior to that Banks was a clinical associate in 2006-09 for FoxCare Dental Associates in upstate New York.
Banks also spent 25 years as president and general dentist for Hudson Dental Care in Massachusetts. He was licensed to practice in Florida, Maryland and New York.
He wrote periodically, with his work appearing in several dental-related publications. Most of his writings were published in 2007-08. The most recent was titled “Team Playing Tips” and appeared in Modern Hygienist in August 2008.
Dentistry has the second highest suicide rate among medical professions, according to a January 2015 post on the blog Mental Health Daily – second only to medical doctors – with dentists nearly 1.67 times as likely to take their own lives as the general population.