Elderly ‘Homesick’ Bank Robber to Be Sentenced

Armed with a loaded gun, Walter Unbehaun, 73, held up a bank teller last year so that he could return to prison.

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Walter Unbehaun

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An elderly bank robber who was homesick for prison is to be sentenced Thursday for the bank robbery he committed last year in the hopes of returning to prison life, the Associated Press reports.

Walter Unbehaun, who dropped out of high school, spent most of his adult life in prison, and last year, bored, alone and unhappy, he decided to commit a crime and be caught so he could go back behind bars.

In February 2013, the 73-year-old walked into a Chicago bank with a cane and showed a teller a gun in his waistband, telling her softly, "I don't want to hurt you," AP reports. The undisguised Unbehaun then drove to a motel close by with a little over $4,000 and waited for the police to find him.

When the police did find him, he reportedly dropped his cane, raising his hands and surprising authorities with how happy he was to be caught, according to AP.

"Unbehaun stated he wanted to do something that would guarantee that he would spend the rest of his life in prison," an FBI affidavit reads, according to the news wire. "He knew robbing a bank with a loaded gun would accomplish that."

"[He] was happy to be going home to prison," one officer observed.

Deciding Unbehaun's fate will be tricky for the judge. Prosecutor Sharon Fairly addressed that dilemma in court papers, saying that sending the elderly man to prison would seem to be a reward, but setting him free would all but ensure that he would commit another crime.

"Did the system fail Mr. Unbehaun? Or was his inability to stay out of jail the result of his own free will?" Fairly wrote, according to AP. "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."

Unbehaun was imprisoned for the first time at age 23 for transporting a stolen car, and he has a string of convictions including home invasion and escaping from prison.

In the 1970s he kidnapped a 19-year-old girl, tied her to a motel bed in Ohio, and left in her car. That kidnapping conviction earned him 25 years in prison, AP notes. His most recent stint behind bars, which ended in 2011, was a 10-year sentence for bank robbery.

For his 2013 Chicago bank robbery, Unbehaun faces up to 30 years in prison. The prosecution is seeking only seven years, but his defense attorney hopes for a three-year sentence, pleading for lenience, AP reports.

"An individual driven to commit bank robbery so that he can return to prison is, we submit, less culpable than someone who acts simply out of greed," defense attorney Richard McLeese said in a court filing.

Unbehaun, a widower with no children, does have a sister and brother-in-law, who stepped in to help him after his release in 2011, but Unbehaun was still bored and lonely. He compared his existence at that time, living in a South Carolina trailer park in a trailer home that his sister bought for him, to living in prison isolation.

"We tried to help him and do as much as we could, but it didn't work out," Unbehaun's sister, Darlene Kellner, told AP in a telephone interview. "It is a sad story."

Read more at the Associated Press.

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