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Father and son help crack unsolved 1969 bank robbery

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Father and son help crack unsolved 1969 bank robbery

The boy saw his father, John K. Elliot, sitting in the kitchen one afternoon in 1970, engrossed in thought.

“Can you pass the mashed potatoes?” Peter J. Elliot asked his father, a US marshal in Cleveland, Ohio, about the man who pulled off one of the largest bank robberies in the city’s history.

“When am I going to pick up Ted Conrad?” Theodore J. Mr. Elliot asked his son a year after Conrad left with $215,000 in cash, which is equivalent to about $1.6 million today.

On Friday, more than 50 years after the robbery, the younger Mr. Elliot, now a US marshal himself, had an answer for his father.

The US Marshals Service announced that Mr. Conrad was found after investigators had pursued a lead and discovered that he was living under the pseudonym of Thomas Randall in Linfield, Mass., about 16 miles north of Boston. , until he died of lung cancer. May.

Investigators followed clues across the country in California, Hawaii, Texas and Oregon in search of his fugitive. Mr. Conrad was featured in several true-crime shows including “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries”.

Investigators learned that after the theft, Mr. Conrad fled to Washington, D.C., and then to Los Angeles, and eventually moved to Massachusetts in 1970, where he became deeply rooted with his wife and daughter. There, he was a golf pro, worked at a luxury-car dealership for 40 years and enjoyed watching “NCIS” and other law enforcement shows on television, Mr. Elliott said.

Mr. Conrad was well-liked by police officers and other law enforcement officers in his community.

Mr. Elliot said, “Maybe that’s why, you know, we haven’t caught up with him in the past because he was a law-abiding citizen, and we didn’t have any fingerprints on file.”

It was Friday, and he went to work at Societe National Bank in Cleveland, where he was a bank teller. At the end of the day, he stuffed the money from the safe into a paper bag and left.

By Monday morning, as his co-workers opened the safe and wondered where his colleague was, Mr. Conrad began day two on officers.

Some details of the robbery, such as the denomination of the bills and how Mr. Conrad was able to escape unnoticed, were not immediately available. But Mr. Elliot said there was not much security at the bank, where there were no fingerprints of employees.

A year earlier, Mr. Conrad was obsessed with the 1968 Steve McQueen film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” in which a bored billionaire robs a bank to entertain himself. The US Marshals Service said Mr Conrad had told friends he planned to rob the bank, bragging about how easy it would be.

“He was a daredevil, so to speak,” said Mr. Elliot. “After seeing that movie, I believe he thought, ‘Hey, what if I do this and get away with it? I really think it was a challenge for him to be able to do that. ,

Years later, officers would retrieve the letter Mr. Conrad wrote to his girlfriend in 1969. In this he confessed his crime and expressed regret for committing it.

After Mr Conrad’s confession this year, his family did not contact authorities, Mr Elliot said. It was only after officers saw an obituary for 73-year-old Thomas Randall that they began collecting evidence, most of which had been collected decades earlier by Mr. Elliot’s father.

Mr Elliott said the Randall family would not be charged for failing to disclose Mr Conrad’s confession to authorities. Mr. Conrad was indicted and there is no statute of limitations on bank robbery, so he would still have been arrested if officers had found him, Mr. Elliot said.

He declined to share what prompted investigators to commit to the obituary. But once he saw it, he found information that reflected Mr. Conrad’s real life. Mr. Conrad’s actual date of birth was July 10, 1949. In the obituary, the date of birth listed was July 10, 1947.

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The second clue was the names of his parents. In obituary they were almost identical. The obituary also included his actual alma mater, New England College and birthplace, Denver.

“When people lie, they lie near the house,” said Mr. Elliot.

Then, the final clue that tied it all together: a signature from a college application, first found by Mr. Elliot’s father, on a 2014 bankruptcy court document by officials, named Thomas. was written. Randall.

That was all Mr. Elliot needed. He traveled to Linfield, knocked on the door and was greeted by Mr. Conrad’s family, who were surprised to see the officers.

“I feel bad for them because of a father-husband that they never really knew who he was, and at the same time, you know, they are living under a fictitious name,” Mr. Elliot said.

Mr Conrad’s widow, Cathy Randall, said in an interview on Saturday that “we are still mourning his loss, and he was a wonderful father and a wonderful father.” He declined to comment further.

The last time Mr. Elliot and his father spoke about the bank robbery case was in March 2020, when John’s Elliot was in hospice.

Mr. Elliot wanted to please her, so he reached for his iPad and played “Lake Erie’s Coldest Case”, a documentary series that featured an episode on the case and showed his father was interviewed.

“Hey, look, you’re on TV,” said Mr. Elliot to his father, who smiled.

John K. Elliot died a few days later.

Perhaps soon, Mr. Elliot said, he will watch “The Thomas Crown Affair”, watch Steve McQueen try to get away from it, and think of his father.

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