Imagine being around the deathbed of one of your closest friends. He’s a family man, someone who provided ably for his wife and children and dotes on his grandchildren. He probably helps at the neighborhood food drive every few months or something like that.
On his deathbed, he tells you he’s D.B. Cooper, the man who parachuted out of a 727 he hijacked in 1971. You figure it’s the morphine talking, but no — he produces some of the money, shreds of the parachute and a copy of his ticket from that day.
What would be your reaction?
Ted Conrad might not be as famous as D.B. Cooper, but he pulled off one of the largest unsolved bank robberies in history and became a part of Cleveland lore. After he pulled off the 1969 robbery, he simply disappeared — not out the back of a plane, but off the face of the Earth.
Here at The Western Journal, we chronicle strange stories like that of Mr. Conrad — although that’s not the name most people knew him as. If you want us to bring you more coverage of events like these, you can help us by subscribing.
As he was about to die, Thomas Randele’s wife of 40 years asked his friends to gather around — his golf buddies, his co-workers in the auto dealerships where he was a salesman.
“They gathered to say goodbye to a guy they called one of the nicest people they’d ever known — a devoted family man who gushed about his daughter, a golfer who never bent the rules, a friend to so many that a line stretched outside the funeral home a week later,” Fox News reported.
If Randele wanted to tell the gathering in may of his deep, dark secret, he couldn’t — Randele, who lived in suburban Boston, had lost his voice to cancer.
Instead, he went to the grave without telling anyone that 50 years ago, he perpetrated one of the most infamous bank robberies of the 1960s. Authorities are just beginning to figure out how he left behind his old family in Ohio and established a new one in Boston.
As a 20-year-old, The Washington Post reported, Conrad had become obsessed with “The Thomas Crown Affair” — a movie in which a millionaire robs a bank just for the fun of it.
“Conrad had seen it some half-dozen times and bragged to his friends how easy it would be to steal money from the bank where he worked. He even told them how he’d do it,” The Post reported in November.
On July 11, 1969, Conrad went to work on Friday at Society National Bank in Cleveland and, at the end of the day, stuffed a bag with $215,000 in cash, equivalent to $1.7 million today.
When his fellow employees came back from the weekend on Monday, they found two things missing: Conrad and the money. The 20-year-old had a two-day head-start on them — and, as Fox News noted, he committed the heist in the midst of the first moon landing, meaning it didn’t exactly hit the news at first.
“In a letter sent to his girlfriend, he mistakenly thought he could return when the statute of limitations expired. But once he was indicted, that was no longer true,” Fox News reported. “Conrad apparently cut off contact with his family. Some eventually presumed he was dead, said Matt Boettger, whose mother was Conrad’s older sister.”
Conrad’s older sister said she was happy her brother lived a good life after the heist: “She thought she would go to her grave and never know,” Boettger said.
Conrad was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List and featured on various shows, but the trail went cold. However, he was tracked by a father-and-son team of U.S. Marshals named John and Pete Elliott, who lived near Conrad.
The Marshals found documents that Randele filled out during a 2014 bankruptcy case were similar to documents Conrad had completed in the 1960s. Furthermore, when Randele died in May, information from the obituary matched information they knew about Conrad.
In November, investigators traveled to Boston and confirmed Randele was Conrad. He’d applied for a Social Security number there and had made a living selling luxury vehicles like Range Rovers and Volvos. He was also a golf pro at a country club. In his spare time, he enjoyed watching shows like “NCIS” — series in which criminals are investigated.
“He was also an excellent cook who loved watching any and all cooking shows, and enjoyed testing out new recipes on his wife and daughter, always asking ‘So, can I make this again?’ at the end of every meal,” his obituary read.
It turns out Randele, who died at 71, confessed to his family regarding the bank robbery before he passed. They won’t be charged for not reporting it.
U.S. Marshall Pete Elliott, meanwhile, hoped his father would find closure posthumously now that the case has been solved.
“My father never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020,” Elliott said in a news release. “I hope my father is resting a little easier today knowing his investigation and his United States Marshals Service brought closure to this decades-long mystery. Everything in real life doesn’t always end like in the movies.”
Randele always stayed a step ahead of the feds, even in his final moments. How did he do it?
For one, he disguised his appearance with a beard. He was also particularly careful — and given that it wasn’t about the cash, it’s not like he spent it all in one place.
“It wasn’t about the money. He always wanted to impress people,” a high-school friend said.
“He was a darer, so to speak,” Pete Elliott said. “After seeing that movie, I believe he thought, ‘Hey, what if I do this and get away with this?’ I really think it was a challenge for him to be able to do it.”
On one hand, it’s not hard to admire Conrad/Randele in some ways. After all, he got away with the perfect crime — and died without getting caught. It’s still a crime, however, even if it was a mistake by a 20-year-old that he carried for the rest of his life.
And no, he didn’t suffer carcereal punishment — yet Randele lived over a half-century with an anvil over his head. He knew that, at any time. a phalanx of police cars could descend upon his house — perhaps as he was testing out a new recipe on his wife and daughter.
He was a man living a lie — and one that could land him in jail for years. That’s gotta weigh on a person over a half-century.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.