Inmate Walter Unbehaun was granted his wish to go home when a federal judge ordered a 31/2 year prison sentence for a 2013 bank robbery. The judge noted that the defendant had numerous convictions since he was a young man and had spent most of his adult life in prison since he was 22. Walter Unbehaun was released from prison at the age of 72 in 2011.
Relatives purchased a trailer home for him. He spent his days watching television. He was bored and lonely. Unbehaun’s third wife died while he was in prison. Unbehaun’s court appointed attorney knew at the initial court hearing that this was not one of his typical court cases when his client wanted to go home and home meant prison. He said that his life was “like living in solitary confinement.” Unbehaun’s attorney told the court that the onset of mild dementia and lack of effective mental health care probably contributed to his plan to rob a bank and go back home to prison.
In February of 2013, Unbehaun entered a bank using his cane. He had no disguise, displayed a gun in his waistband, and stated to the bank teller, “I don’t want to hurt you.” He left with almost $4200 and drove to a nearby motel. He waited for the police. When he saw the police in the parking lot, he dropped his cane and surprised the police with his happiness at being arrested.
The prosecutor posed the issue in one of her case briefs as to whether the system failed Mr. Unbehaun or whether he just could not lead a lawful life. For Unbehaun, the issue did not matter, he was going home.