CHICAGO -- The so-called 'Bearded Bandit' who killed two law enforcement officers, then took his own life in a botched courthouse escape had just reviewed the medical examiner's report on his wife's suicide, his attorney said Tuesday.
Attorney Richard Mottweiler said, however, there was nothing in Jeffrey Erickson's demeanor to indicate he would attempt the Monday escape.
Erickson, 34, killed a federal marshal, a General Services Administration security guard and himself as he and other prisoners were being herded into the basement of the Dirksen Federal Building late Monday for transport back to the nearby federal lockup.
Erickson went on trial last week, accused of being the 'Bearded Bandit' who pulled a series of Chicago-area bank robberies.
Yelling, 'I'm going to take everybody with me,' Erickson, a one- time police officer and an expert marksman, grabbed a gun as he was leaving the prisoner elevator and began shooting. He then ran up the ramp from an underground parking area, put a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger, witnesses said.
U.S. Marshal Roy Frakes, 30, and security guard Harry Belluomini, 58, were pronounced dead shortly after arrival at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
As a result of the shooting, trials requiring the presence of a marshal in the courtroom were canceled for the day Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen.
The FBI said it was trying to determine how Erickson obtained a handcuff key, enabling him to free one of his hands and grab the gun.
FBI spokesman William Clancy said a handcuff key was found beneath Erickson's body and an inventory of all federal handcuff keys was under way to determine if any are missing.
'We are convinced at this point that somehow Erickson acquired a key and that during the elevator ride (down to the garage) in the prison elevator, he was able to free himself,' Clancy said.
The FBI said Belluomini managed to fire four bullets at Erickson, one of which struck the defendant in the back and would have proven fatal.
'He knew he was already dying when he shot himself,' FBI spokeswoman Deborah Jones said.
Mottweiler said, however, he was at a loss to explain his client's behavior.
'The day had gone very well. He was very upbeat all day,' Mottweiler said. 'We had some good things happen from the defense side. ...
'What occurred at the end of the day was that...the U.S. attorneys and I were discussing a stipulation on the medical examiner's report. Jeffrey was reading the report that gave the opinion that his wife committed suicide. He got up from the table and he left....I told him to have a good night.
'He seemed a little unusual when he left, a little depressed. I chalked it up to reading the medical examiner's report.'
Erickson, who did not survive probation as a suburban police officer, was arrested last Dec. 16 as he and his 27-year-old wife, Jill, approached a stolen car in a Schaumburg parking lot that had been staked out by FBI agents.
The agents arrested Erickson but his wife fled in a van, leading authorities on an 11-mile, high-speed chase that ended in a shootout in Hanover Park. Erickson's wife killed herself in the van by placing one of the guns in the vehicle to her forehead and pulling the trigger.
Mottweiler said he had no inkling that Erickson would try to escape.
'I have the deepest sympathy for the families of the two who were shot. Clearly what he did was indefensible,' Mottweiler said.
The attorney said last week Erickson's mother said she had a feeling that her son mighttry to escape.
'She told me Jeff was acting strange and was talking funny. Intuition told her he might try to make a break for it. I took the marshals aside and told them. They really seemed to tighten up security in the courtroom after that,' Mottweiller said.
He said Erickson's mother 'just cried' when she heard what happened Monday.
Mottweiler said there was no reason for Erickson to attempt an escape because the trial was going very well.
'I thought the government had not presented the quality evidence we'd expected,' he said, noting that there had been a series of misidentifications.
The government had been expected to rest its case Wednesday or Thursday.
U.S. District Judge James H. Alesia Tuesday declared a mistrial in the Erickson case and dismissed the jury.