Updated: February 9, 2013 6:19AM
After a sensational escape Dec. 18 from the federal jail in downtown Chicago, an exploit that captured the imagination, and grudging admiration, of many us regular folks, fugitive bank robbers Jose Banks and Kenneth Conley ultimately disappointed.
Despite the promising start, they couldn’t carry out their escapade to a finish worthy of an action movie, although Conley gave it his best to enliven the script — disguising himself as an old man, fighting off police when found Friday and fleeing briefly, only to end up getting pummeled as he tried to break into an unsuspecting teacher’s home in Palos Hills.
Unfortunately for him, the homeowner was no schoolmarm but a 6-foot-7-inch guy who didn’t take kindly to a desperate Conley trying to get through his screen door.
Conley’s frantic attempt to avoid capture after 18 days on the run was in the best tradition of movie bad guys, combining measures of cleverness, toughness and daring — unlike the meek surrender of Banks, who was found still hanging out in Chicago only two days after the escape.
When news hit about the pair’s carefully concocted plan to break out of jail — digging a hole through a cinder-block wall, rappelling in the middle of the night from their 17th-floor cell by using bedsheets tied together — there was speculation among many that a duo with such ingenuity would not be caught soon.
John Dillinger might not have anything over these guys, we surmised, especially Banks, who reportedly stole about $600,000 in two heists by raiding bank vaults — only about 50 grand of which was recovered. Where was his cache of cash? Buried in the woods somewhere, awaiting Banks digging it up and using it to head for Fiji or Guatemala? Our imaginations ran wild.
Alas, Banks had no such elaborate plan, or if he did, he wasn’t in a hurry to carry it out. The G-men got him quickly. Did he have to wait for some reason to get access to the money? Was he double-crossed by an outside accomplice? And where is the loot?
We hope to still get answers to such questions, even if Banks clams up. Depending on what they are, maybe this episode will be more exciting after all.