• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 8:15am

Career crook Walter Unbehaun feels right at home in prison

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 8:59pm

An ex-con who has spent most of his adult life behind bars got what he said he wanted for robbing a suburban Chicago bank. He gets to go back to the place he called home - prison.

Telling Walter Unbehaun, 74, he frightened a teller by showing her a revolver tucked in his pants during last year's heist, a federal judge imposed a 31/2-year prison sentence, citing Unbehaun's long rap sheet that includes crimes from home invasion to kidnapping.

"This is not the first time you've inspired fear," Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said, repeatedly scolding the high-school dropout and part-time bathtub repairman.

As he had on the day he robbed the bank, Unbehaun gripped a cane as he hobbled to the podium to make a brief statement. Unbehaun did not withdraw his wish to go to prison, though he said: "I don't want to die in prison." No family or friends were in court to support Unbehaun.

Boredom and loneliness, defence filings said, had partly led Unbehaun to conclude that a life on the inside was preferable to struggling to cope on the outside.

On February 9 last year, he walked into the bank with a cane but no disguise, displayed a loaded revolver in his waistband and told the teller: "I don't want to hurt you." With US$4,178 shoved in his pocket, he drove to a nearby motel and waited for police to arrive.

Confronted by authorities in the motel parking lot, the bald, portly Unbehaun dropped his cane, raised his hands and startled police by his apparent joy at getting nabbed.

At his initial court appearance, he also bewildered his appointed lawyer. "His first words were, 'I just want to go home'," lawyer, Richard McLeese said.

For a few minutes, McLeese thought Unbehaun was saying he hoped to get a bond. Then it dawned on him what he meant.

"It is, without a doubt, one of the saddest and most disturbing cases I've dealt with," he said.


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This article is now closed to comments

As much as Walter's state of mind is called into question one also has to wonder about society's indifference to individuals such as Walter who are left to fend for themselves, not readily able to morph into the reality of modern day living, not able to acclimate and the failure of the criminal system to take responsibility. Then again maybe that's the crux? Perhaps all society cares to do is dole out punishment and care very little about rehabilitation, something that perhaps Walter worked out .....


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