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Escapee hunted in bank robbery
Clerical error may have aided jailbreak

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Tom Rybarczyk

The Cook County sheriff's office acknowledged Tuesday that errors at the jail might have contributed to the escape of an inmate suspected of robbing a Loop bank after he made his getaway.

The sheriff's office has launched an internal investigation of whether a clerical error allowed convicted felon Randy Rencher to remain in a medium-security wing of the jail. Officials are also looking into whether lapses in procedure allowed him to walk out Monday.

Rencher, who officials say stole a guard's uniform, became the first inmate in 10 years to escape from the jail. A man wearing a similar uniform robbed First American Bank at 50 E. Adams St. a short time later.

Rencher was originally booked into the jail in November on drug and weapon charges and was placed in the medium-security lockup. But last week, additional charges of home invasion and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault were lodged against him, according to court records.

Those charges were not updated in the jail's computer. That information could have had him taken off his work crew or reassigned him to a higher-security wing of the Southwest Side complex, Cook County sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said.

"There are a lot of maybes and could-have-beens," Cunningham said.

Instead, Rencher was kept in Division 6, a medium-security wing, and was assigned to a work crew that delivers meals to prisoners, Cunningham said. While on his work detail Monday, Rencher allegedly slipped down into the sheriff's locker room in the basement of Division 6 and traded his jail jumpsuit for a Cook County correctional officer's uniform.

Rencher then left the building and had to walk past sheriff's deputies at the gate, Cunningham said.

"Even an officer coming out in a uniform should show an ID before exiting the jail," Cunningham said.

Jail procedure questioned

Cunningham said there is an internal affairs investigation looking into mistakes that might have allowed Rencher to escape. Questions are being asked of deputies assigned to watch Rencher's work group, deputies at the gate and the deputy whose uniform was stolen, Cunningham said.

Rencher's escape has set off a manhunt in the Chicago area as sheriff's officers and Chicago police, as well as the FBI and the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force of the U.S. Marshals Service, look for clues that might lead them to a man they deem dangerous and possibly armed.

"We have dozens of officers on the street and we have developed some leads," Cunningham said. "We are hopeful that we will be able to locate the fugitive in the next couple days."

As the search for Rencher continues, details of his past criminal activities are surfacing.

The home invasion and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault charges stemmed from an August 2004 incident in which Rencher is alleged to have broken into the Saratoga, a motel at 7701 S. Cicero Ave., and held a North Carolina woman and her four children at gunpoint, said state's attorney's spokesman Tom Stanton.

The children, who were 6 and younger at the time, watched as Rencher ordered their 26-year-old mother to disrobe before he barricaded the door with a dresser, Stanton said.

Rencher allegedly bound the woman and her children, smoked crack cocaine and masturbated while he watch pornography on TV, Stanton said. Before leaving, he threatened the woman, ordering her not to tell anyone about the incident, but she called police, Stanton said.

DNA from cigarettes found in the motel room linked Rencher to the crime earlier this month, Stanton said.

Rencher appeared in bond court last week on the charges, according to court records. He was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 bail by Circuit Judge Colleen Hyland, according to court records.

But Rencher's new charges never made it into the jail computer, which might have prompted jail officials to reclassify him, Cunningham said.

Jail work crews

Prisoners are classified by a variety of factors, including criminal history and age, Cunningham said. Those factors are considered when determining at what level of security prisoners are placed and whether they are eligible to be among the 600 inmates on work crews, Cunningham said.

"If the computer had updated, there's a chance he could have been moved from that division or taken off the work crew," he said.

Rencher's criminal history includes an arrest last November on charges of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a weapon, Stanton said. In January 2003 he pleaded guilty to possession of robbery tools and was sentenced to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for robbing a North Michigan Avenue store.

Rencher also has a 1999 burglary conviction to go along with an aggravated battery and aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction in 1988 for which he received 15 years in prison, according to court records. He was convicted in 1987 of motor vehicle theft, records show.

The man authorities are looking for goes by several aliases, including Randy Brown, Gregory Baily and Andrew Moss, according to court records and has given authorities several ages. Rencher is from Matteson, according to Cunningham, but court records show his last address in the 6100 block of South Whipple Street.

Rencher is described as 6 foot 3 and 180 pounds, Cunningham said. He has a tattoo on his back that says "Outlaw."

FBI shows tape

On Tuesday, the FBI released the surveillance tape from Monday's Loop bank robbery. It shows a man wearing a black uniform entering the bank about 2 p.m. Monday and approaching the teller. The man told the teller, "I'm not a police officer. Give me all your money or I'll kill you," according to Chicago police.

The teller appears calm on the surveillance tape as the man leans over the counter and seems to direct her. She puts three stacks of bills on the counter before placing the money in a bag. The entire transaction takes a little more than a minute.

"The physical description of the two men is pretty similar," said FBI spokesman Ross Rice.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 312-431-1333.

Though Rencher is the first inmate to escape from Cook County Jail in 10 years, in March 2003 a clerical error was responsible for the release of a man awaiting trial for hiring two men to kill the boyfriend of his estranged wife, authorities said.

In that incident, Juan Alvarez, 38, was released because of a paperwork error.



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