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Hiding in plain sight: How one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives led a quiet life in Lynnfield

Thomas Randele of Lynnfield was recently identified as being one of America’s most-wanted fugitives. Authorities said his real name was Ted Conrad, and he stole $215,000 from a bank in Cleveland in 1969.US Marshals Service

To those who knew him in Lynnfield, Tom Randele had all the hallmarks of a regular guy. He was an avid golfer and car enthusiast. His wife worked for the town, and they owned a modest home on a quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac.

But Randele had a secret — something he’d been hiding for 52 years.

Unbeknownst to the nearly 13,000 residents of this affluent suburb north of Boston, Randele was one of the most wanted fugitives in the country.

On Nov. 12, authorities publicly revealed that Randele was actually Ted Conrad, who in 1969 pulled off a brazen bank robbery in Cleveland and had been on the lam ever since.

Just before he died in May of this year, Randele gave a deathbed confession to his family, letting them know the truth about who he really was. But it wasn’t until his death notice was published that investigators put all the clues together.

Peter J. Elliott, the US marshal for Northern Ohio, said Conrad eluded capture for years by leading an unassuming life in the quiet suburb of Lynnfield.

“Everything I know about Thomas Randele, he was a good family man, good father, good husband, good friend, pro golfer – he seemed to be well-liked by everybody,” Elliott told the Globe in a phone interview. “He pretty much lived the life of a perfect fugitive on the run.”

Ted Conrad as a teenager in the 1960s, before he went on the run. US Marshals Service

According to the US Marshals Service, Conrad worked as a teller at the Society National Bank in Cleveland, and his last day on the job was July 11, 1969. It was the day after his 20th birthday. At the end of his shift, he walked out with a paper bag containing $215,000 (equivalent to more than $1.6 million today) and was never seen again. It wasn’t until he failed to show up for work Monday morning that the bank realized the money was missing.

Conrad had pulled off one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland history and had a two-day head start to make his escape.

A story about the robbery appeared in The Plain Dealer newspaper on July 16, 1969. Ann Hellmuth/The Plain Dealer © 1969 The Plain Dealer

Elliott’s father, John K. Elliott, served as a deputy US marshal in Cleveland and always had a keen interest in the case.

“He literally worked on the case since the beginning,” Elliott said.

Elliott said Conrad grew up close to where his family lived in Lakewood, Ohio, in the 1960s, and the fact that a local kid got away with stealing so much money bothered his father. Conrad had worked at an ice cream shop that his family frequented and even had the same doctor as his father.

Elliott said his father took the crime personally and never stopped searching for Conrad.

“As a kid growing up, the only thing I ever heard was, ‘pass the mashed potatoes’ and ‘when am I going to get Conrad?’” he said.

But Conrad had assumed a new identity and started a new life, and continued to stay one step ahead of law enforcement for decades to come.

Over the years, investigators chased leads all over the country, and the case was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”

But Conrad eluded capture until his death in May. Authorities said Conrad had been using July 10, 1947, as his date of birth, but his real date of birth was July 10, 1949, so he would have been 71 when he died.

According to his death notice, he had been the assistant golf pro and teaching pro at Pembroke Country Club and played on the professional winter tour in Florida in the offseason and later became the full-time manager of the country club.

“He eventually shifted his vocational interests from golf to his second love, cars, and began a successful career in luxury automotive sales which spanned nearly 40 years,” the notice stated. “He had worked at Woburn Foreign Motors, Range Rover, and Volvo until his retirement. 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.”

The notice said Randele was survived by his wife, Kathy, and his daughter, Ashley.

Kathy Randele worked for the town of Lynnfield as a planning and land use assistant for many years. She retired in 2017, according to minutes posted on the town’s website.

An expired Massachusetts driver’s license that belonged to Thomas Randele in the 1970s.US Marshals Service

Staff at Pembroke Country Club and the Land Rover dealership where Randele once worked did not respond to requests for comment and attempts to reach the family by phone, e-mail, and at their house were unsuccessful. Neighbors also declined to comment.

The Lynnfield Villager, a local newspaper, reported that his wake at the McDonald Funeral in Wakefield was well attended and “featured a long line of mourners that wrapped around the entire building.”

It was only after Randele’s death — and the publication of his death notice — that investigators began to unravel the mystery that had stymied law enforcement for decades.

Elliott noted that Randele’s notice contained many biographical details that were strikingly similar to Conrad’s life.

“It said that he was born in Denver, and that’s where Conrad was born,” said Elliott. “It said that he went to New England College, and that’s where Conrad went to college.”

From there, investigators from the US Marshals Service matched up documents that Elliott’s father had uncovered from Conrad’s college days in the 1960s with paperwork that Randele had filled out, including court papers from when Randele filed for bankruptcy in Boston in 2014. The signatures were similar.

With those clues, everything began to add up. The work that Elliott’s father had put into the case years ago was finally paying off.

“It was my father who pulled those original college applications with Conrad’s signature on it,” he said.

In the second week of November, Elliott and his deputies traveled to Massachusetts and met with Randele’s wife and daughter at their home in Lynnfield. They walked in the door of the modest three-bedroom Cape, painted pale yellow with blue shutters, where Conrad had been living until his death.

The house at 55 Carter Road in Lynnfield where Tom Randele lived with his wife, Kathy.Emily Sweeny/Globe Staff

For Elliott, whose father passed away last year, being in Conrad’s home was a strange experience.

“It was kind of weird. ... When your dad spent years being frustrated, trying to find him, and then we’re walking in the house and just sitting down and talking with his family,” he said. “It was strange for me, but the best part is, this really was a case that my father helped close.”

Just before Randele died from lung cancer in May, he gave a deathbed confession to his family and told them about his true identity, according to Elliott.

“The family at first was a little reluctant, but then they admitted [to us] that their husband and father was Ted Conrad,” he said. “They didn’t know until he was dying, that’s what I was told.”

Later, when Elliott signed the warrant signifying that the case was finally closed, he made sure to put beneath his signature “on behalf of John K. Elliott,” in honor of his father.

“There were times I thought, we’re never going to get that guy,” he said. “It’s one of Cleveland’s biggest unsolved mysteries — or was.”

Elliott said that as a young man, Conrad was obsessed with the 1968 bank robbery film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” starring Steve McQueen. According to the US Marshals Service, Conrad saw the movie more than a half dozen times and bragged to his friends that he could take money from a bank, too.

Elliott said Conrad modeled himself after Thomas Crown.

“I think he did this because of that movie,” said Elliott. “He wanted to see if he could get away with it.”

And Conrad managed to pull it off.

“But I think he regretted it at the end,” said Elliott. “The sad part is he’s got a family now and they’re carrying his fictitious name.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.