Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 19, 2012

2 inmates fled Chicago high-rise jail using rope

CHICAGO (AP) — Employees at a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago knew something wasn't right when they arrived to work and saw a makeshift rope fashioned from bed sheets hanging from the bars of a cell window about 20 stories above the ground.

Inside the jail cell Tuesday morning, investigators found a broken window and bars inside a mattress, according to an FBI affidavit. Stuffed under blankets on two beds were clothing and sheets, shaped to resemble a body, the affidavit said.

Authorities believe it was the handiwork of two daring convicted bank robbers — the first inmates to escape from the federal facility in nearly two decades. They remained at large early Wednesday.

What's less clear is when Joseph "Jose" Banks and Kenneth Conley managed to flee, apparently by scaling down the roughly 20 stories from the cell they once shared.

The affidavit states both men were in their assigned area of the jail for a headcount around 10 p.m. Monday.

U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said they were unaccounted for during a 5 a.m. headcount. That count is not mentioned in the FBI affidavit, which states that jail employees noticed the makeshift rope around 7 a.m. and that Banks and Conley were not present for a subsequent headcount.

The owner of a shop near the jail said police helicopters and canine units didn't start swarming the area until close to 8:30 a.m.

Hours after the escape, the rope of bed sheets could be seen dangling down the side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. At least 200 feet long and knotted about every 6 feet, the rope was hanging from a window that was 6 feet tall but only 6 inches in diameter.

It appeared to illustrate a meticulously planned escape from the 27-story facility that came a week after Banks made a courtroom vow of retribution. Both men are facing hefty prison sentences, and the FBI said they should be considered armed and dangerous.

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