Many questions remained about how the two managed to pull off such an escape from the federal prison in the heart of downtown Chicago. At the top of the list is how they could have smashed a gaping hole into the wall at the bottom of a 6-inch wide window being heard or seen by correctional officers.
Another question is why, in the federal facility that houses some 700 inmates, the correctional officers didn’t notice the men were missing between a 10 p.m. headcount and one at 5 a.m.
A guidebook for jail inmates indicates there would have been headcounts at midnight and 3 a.m. But inmates aren’t required to stand for those headcounts, only for ones at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. It’s unclear if guards may have been fooled by items the FBI said the men stuffed under their beds to make it appear they were there.
It’s also unclear what happened between when authorities have said guards first realized the men were missing and when the rope was spotted at 7 a.m.
Authorities also have not said how the two men managed to collect 200 feet of bed sheet or how the broke through the wall.
The escape bore a striking resemblance to one at the same jail in 1985. In that case, convicted murderer Bernard Welch and an accomplice, Hugh Colomb, smashed through a window with a bar from a weight set and used bed sheets and an electrical cord attached to a floor buffer to descend six stories to the ground.
William Rollins, a Washington, D.C., police detective at the time who was brought in by the U.S. Marshals Service to investigate, said the noise of breaking the wall would have been deafening. But he thinks other inmates would have gladly made a lot of noise to drown out the sound.
“They will lure a guard into the laundry room and have all the dryers going,” said Rollins, now retired, whose investigation is included in a book about Welch by Jack Burch and James B. King called “Ghost Burglar.”
Not only that, but he said his investigation revealed that inmates had hidden hacksaw blades in ceiling tiles and drill bits in bed frames.
“And they used a vacuum cleaner motor to power the drill bit,” he said. “These guys are really creative.”
Rollins said it’s likely Conley and Banks are still in the area. The vast majority of escapees don’t stray too far, he said.
“They stay where they feel comfortable in that environment,” he said.