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Inmate Carves Gun Out of Soap, Escapes

August 27, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ Police searched Saturday for an inmate wanted on murder charges who escaped from jail using a ″John Dillinger special″ - a fake gun carved from a bar of soap that fooled a guard.

Victor Thomas, 27, told Cook County Jail officials that he was ill and wanted to go to Cermak Memorial Hospital, which is connected to the jail by a tunnel, said Robert Glotz, assistant director of the county corrections department.

In the basement of the hospital, the inmate pulled out a weapon made of soap and threatened the unarmed guard escorting him, Glotz said.

Thomas tied up the guard, then took his uniform, badge and wallet and walked out of the jail complex Friday, he said.

″People here are saying he got out using the John Dillinger special,″ said an officer in the Cook County sheriff’s department, who spoke Saturday by telephone on condition of anonymity. ″There are many ways out and he used the oldest ruse - the phony gun routine - and it worked.″

″It was quite a work of art,″ said the officer, describing the soap-bar gun. ″It was black with some light blue highlighting - probably made with a marker pen - it was approximately the size of .25-caliber automatic pistol with a delicately carved barrel, grooves and a trigger guard.″

According to legend, Dillinger escaped from a jail in Crown Point, Ind., in 1934 after brandishing a fake gun that he carved out of wood. The legend lives though it later was revealed Dillinger accomplished the escape with a real .45-caliber automatic.

Glotz said Thomas had been in jail for a year on three armed robbery charges. His soap gun was recovered a block from the jail.

Thomas was in jail on three counts of armed robbery, police said. He also is wanted in California for the March 3, 1987, slaying of three alleged drug dealers who were strangled or stabbed to death in the Los Angeles area, police said.

About 40 officers were looking for Thomas on Saturday, interviewing acquaintances and checking areas Thomas has been known to frequent, said police Sgt. Tom Whalen.

According to the ″Encyclopedia of American Crime,″ the story that Dillinger used a wooden gun to escape was a hoax to cover up the fact that the real gun had been smuggled into the jail by an Indiana judge bribed by Dillinger’s lawyer.