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DON BABWIN
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) - Two inmates who escaped downtown Chicago's high-rise federal jail by climbing down a rope may have fled hours before police swarmed the area.

U.S. Marshal's Service spokeswoman Belkis Cantor says the convicted bank robbers were first unaccounted for during a 5 a.m. head count Tuesday.

Cantor says it's unclear if the men were still inside the 27-story Metropolitan Correctional Center at the time.

Local shop owners say police swarmed the area around 8:30 a.m. Police said earlier in the day that Joseph Banks and Kenneth Conley appeared to have escaped between 5 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.

Hours later, a rope, possibly fashioned from sheets and then knotted at six-foot intervals, could be seen dangling from a window about 20 stories up.

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