An Evanston man charged with robbing nearly a dozen hair salons in the Chicago area was enrolled in culinary school, where he appeared deeply interested in the food and the course work — at least in the beginning, a former classmate said.
She found it difficult to reconcile that the same man, Jason Logsdon, 41, had been charged with 11 counts of felony armed robbery at hair salons throughout Chicago's suburbs.
"I was baffled," said Nicole Horn, 27, of Lake Villa, who last saw Logsdon in November at a class at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. The program began in May 2011 with about 30 students, she said.
"Toward the latter part of the program, you could see he was coming to class less," she said. "But he was also generally nice, polite. We all had financial problems. We are college students trying to balance college and work. We knew he had been on unemployment some time."
On Wednesday, Cook County Judge Marcia Orr ordered Logsdon held without bond because he had implicated himself in the burglaries that had been fueled by a crack cocaine habit, she said. The judge noted that Logsdon allegedly targeted businesses where he figured there would not be male employees and wielded a BB gun that could also be used as a bludgeon.
"I am considering the number of crimes in the short time in which they were committed," Orr said.
Beginning Dec. 26, at least 15 similar robberies were committed in Chicago and seven suburbs spanning two counties, according to Skokie police.
Logsdon is accused of robbing a hair salon in Broadview; five in Chicago; one in Morton Grove; two in Niles; and two in Skokie. The DuPage County state's attorney's office is pursuing additional charges against Logsdon in connection with robberies in Lombard, Glen Ellyn and Bensenville, officials said during a news conference.
Authorities caught up with Logsdon in Elmhurst about seven hours after the last reported robbery, in Chicago's Wicker Park, after a witness at a Great Clips salon provided a partial license plate number to authorities, police said Wednesday.
Police matched the partial number with the make and model of the car he was driving, authorities said. The 2011 Nissan Altima belonged to his girlfriend, who had "no knowledge that these (robberies) were occurring," Skokie police Cmdr. Brian Baker said.
Police recovered the BB gun along with a red coat the suspect wore during some of the robberies, according to court testimony.
Skokie police said they had stopped Logsdon for two minor traffic violations in the past year.
Logsdon kept his head lowered during Wednesday's bond court hearing.
Public defender Leslie Rogoff said Logsdon was expecting to graduate in February from Le Cordon Bleu.
A spokesman for the school said Logsdon was a student at its Chicago campus.
Logsdon was unemployed for the past four months but has worked as a chef before, Rogoff said. He has lived in Evanston for four years.
In each robbery, the suspect followed a similar pattern, entering a hair salon with a black backpack and placing a BB gun on the sales counter before asking for money, according to court documents. He usually left with $100 to $800, according to police.
No one was injured in the robberies.
In Evanston, across the street from Logsdon's residence, John Morici, owner of Avenue Hair on Chicago Avenue, said he wasn't familiar with the man accused in the robberies.
"It seemed like he was just hitting franchise shops," Morici said.
Those shops, he said, typically start their days with more cash in their registers. But, he added, his salon has been on edge since news of the robberies first came to light.
Evanston police came by twice to share a surveillance photo and a description of the suspect, he said.
With news of Logsdon's capture, Morici said he and his employees would breathe a "huge sigh of relief."
"What worries me is the fact that it took them so long to catch this guy makes people think that salons are easy targets," he said.