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Some of Chicago area's most famous prisoner escapes

Here’s a look back at a few of the Chicago area’s most famous prisoner escapes:

Multiple escapes from Camp Douglas during Civil War era

Chicago’s Camp Douglas was built as a training spot for Union soldiers in the Civil War but was eventually turned into a prison. Because it was not originally intended to house POWs, Camp Douglas’ 6-foot-high fence wasn’t much of a force to keep prisoners inside, according to the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. On July 23, 1862, 25 prisoners escaped in one day. “Citizens of Chicago were alarmed at the few guards provided and the resulting large number of escapes,” the Encyclopedia reports.

“Terrible Tommy” O’Connor escapes Cook County Jail, 1921

O’Connor, who was awaiting execution for murdering a police officer, broke out of the Cook County Jail on Dec. 11, 1921. Three days before his scheduled execution, he somehow obtained a pistol, tied up his guards and climbed over a 20 foot-high jail wall. He then jumped onto the running board of a passing car, abandoned his ride and dropped from sight. He was never re-captured, and his celebrated escape helped inspire the Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur play "The Front Page."

Roger "The Terrible" Touhy escapes Stateville Prison, 1942

The Chicago bootlegger was serving a 99-year sentence at Joliet’s Stateville Prison after he was framed by Al Capone’s gang for a kidnapping he did not commit. Touhy brewed his own beer during the Prohibition era and shipped it to speakeasies all over the state, according to History.com. Capone wasn’t pleased with Touhy’s success and orchestrated the fake kidnapping. But on Oct. 9, 1942, Touhy climbed the guard’s tower and escaped — only to be recaptured a couple months later. Touhy’s attorneys eventually convinced an appeals court that the kidnapping was a hoax and he was released in 1959, according to History.com.

Bernard Welch escapes Metropolitan Correctional Center, 1985

Welch was serving a 143-year sentence at the Metropolitan Correctional Center for the murder of Dr. Michael Halberstam, a Washington D.C. cardiologist. Welch and an accomplice, Hugh Colomb, broke out of the correctional center by enlarging a sixth-floor window and shimmying down a 75-foot electrical cord attached to a floor buffer on May 14, 1985. Welch was eventually captured in a suburb of Pittsburg with a stolen vehicle; Colomb was caught that October after he robbed a Mississippi bank with a sawed-off shotgun.

Jeff Erickson escapes custody at Dirksen Federal Building, 1992

The con man was convicted of robbing a string of Chicago-area banks with his wife, Jill Erickson. When the Hanover Park duo was caught in 1991, she was mortally wounded in a chase with FBI officers and he was arrested and taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center. But as he was being led from the Dirksen Federal Building on July 20, 1992, Erickson uncuffed his hands with a handcuff key, disarmed a guard and fatally shot Deputy U.S. Marshal Roy "Bill" Frakes and court security officer Harry Belluomini, a retired Chicago police officer. Erickson, mortally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with Belluomini, shot himself in the head a few feet from a rush-hour Loop crowd.

Six inmates escape Cook County Jail, 2006

Six Cook County Jail inmates, who had plotted and schemed for months, escaped Cook County Jail on Feb. 11, 2006. In the escape, correctional officer Darin Gater turned over his uniform and keys to inmates and handcuffed himself in a cell to make it appear he had been overpowered, according to prosecutors. An inmate wore the uniform and tricked a guard into opening a door. All six escapees were recaptured. Charged in the escape were Tyrone Everhart of Markham; Francisco Romero, Arnold Joyner, Michael McIntosh, Eric Bernard and David Earnest, all of Chicago. In 2010, Gater was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison for aiding the escape.

Cesar Sanchez escapes custody while in transport, 2011

While en route from a county courthouse in Bridgeview to the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet, Sanchez, a convicted burglar, escaped from a moving van near Lockport while in transit. Sanchez was captured six hours later south of Joliet after police dogs caught his scent in a yard storing portable toilets and a helicopter crew using infrared technology located him in one of the toilets, authorities said.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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