SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

April 18, 2014

Robber, homesick for prison, to be sentenced

CHICAGO — Walter Unbehaun has spent nearly all of his adult life behind bars, so it’s not surprising that he faced sentencing yesterday for yet another crime, a bank robbery last year. His reason for robbing the bank is surprising, though: He was homesick for prison.

The 74-year-old high-school dropout and part-time bathtub repairman isn’t the first long-term convict to apparently prefer being barked at by guards to life on the outside, which has its own demands. But feeling discontent, Unbehaun hit on the idea of committing a crime in order to get caught.

On Feb. 9 of last year, he entered a Chicago-area bank with a cane but no disguise, displayed a loaded revolver in his waistband to a teller and told her softly over and over, “I don’t want to hurt you.” With $4,178 in loot shoved in his pockets, he then 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, according to detailed court filings by both his attorney and the lead prosecutor in his case.

“Unbehaun stated he wanted to do something that would guarantee that he would spend the rest of his life in prison,” an FBI affidavit said. One officer observed, “(He) was happy to be going home to prison.”

The judge in Chicago sentencing Unbehaun faces a dilemma, prosecutor Sharon Fairly said in one filing: Sending Unbehaun to prison would be more reward than punishment to him, but setting him free would risk him committing another serious crime.

“Did the system fail Mr. Unbehaun? Or was his inability to stay out of jail the result of his own free will?” Fairly asked. “We may never know. But what we do know, clearly, is Mr. Unbehaun lacks the desire to lead a law-abiding life outside of prison walls.”

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