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Cops Nab Escaped Bank Robber Near Police Station

By  Alex Parker Mark Konkol Quinn Ford and Darryl Holliday | January 4, 2013 4:31pm | Updated on January 4, 2013 6:54pm

 Kenneth Conley, 38, escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in December. He has been found in suburban Palos Hills.
Kenneth Conley, 38, escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in December. He has been found in suburban Palos Hills.
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CHICAGO — After about three weeks on the run, a bank robber who scaled the walls of the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in a brazen escape was found in the most unlikely of places: an apartment complex just yards from the Palos Hills police station.

Kenneth Conley, 38, was taken into custody Friday afternoon after police spotted him during an unrelated investigation at an apartment complex on the 10200 block of South 86th Terrace, Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan said.

While three officers were investigating a call of a man sleeping in the complex's basement, one spotted Conley in the parking lot, looking suspiscious. When the officer asked Conley to identify himself, he refused, punched the officer and fled, Madigan said.

The two other officers took off after him, and "tussled" with Conley before subduing him. Madigan said Conley was found with a BB gun that could have been mistaken for a real firearm.

"He's lucky he didn't get himself shot," Madigan said. "He really could have ruined his day if he would have pulled out [the BB gun] on an officer. His biggest problem is with federal officers right now."

Madigan said Conley was transferred to an area hospital and is in federal custody. FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde confirmed Conley had been arrested. He was arrested shortly before 3:30 Friday afternoon.

Conley and an accomplice, Joseph "Jose" Banks, made a daring escape from the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Dec. 18, in which they fashioned a rope out of bedsheets. A massive, multi-state manhunt ensued, and the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the fugitives' arrests.

Banks was caught in Lincoln Park a few days after the escape.

Mary Challman, who lives on the block where police say they nabbed Conley, said FBI agents were canvasing her apartment complex early Friday morning with a picture of Conley.

"They must have had pretty good information," Challman said, adding she heard police cars and helicopters over the Scenic Tree complex throughout the day.

But Challman said her block was "probably the last place you'd look" for Conley.

"It's a nice area, real quiet," Challman said. "It's a big apartment complex, a pretty smart place to hide."

Challman said it does not surprise her that Conley would choose to hideout so close to a police station.

"Here's a guy that climbed down 15 stories on a sheet," Challman said. "He's pretty ballsy if you ask me."

Another neighbor, Kenny Stucky, 20, agreed.

"It's really ironic that it's across from the police station, like he's been sitting in the window sneering" at police, he said.

According to the court papers, Banks and Conley — who shared a cell at MCC — were present for a head count at 10 p.m. the night before the escape. Early the next morning, employees at the facility noticed what appeared to be rope hanging from the side of the building.

Then officers discovered Banks and Conley were gone.

The window in the cell was broken, and metal bars from the window were found in one of the mattresses. Fake metal bars were found in the cell, according to the complaint.

A law enforcement source said the rope was crafted from bedsheets, which Banks and Conley used to help break out of the jail.

Banks, known as the "Second-Hand Bandit" because of the old clothes he wore during his crimes, was convicted last week of two bank robberies and two attempted holdups.

Conley took $4,000 from a MB Financial Bank at 2345 W. 184th St. in Homewood on May 13, 2011, escaped, and was apprehended later by police for pointing a gun at someone in Chicago Heights, the Tribune reported.

After denying the bank robbery, he fled to California, where he was arrested in September 2011, and later convicted, the Tribune reported. He lived in Tinley Park and worked at a strip club, the paper said.

Both men were awaiting sentencing in the Loop jail.