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Is it time to reconsider how we publicize sex offender investigations?

Sex sting leads to suicide for former Kaufman D.A.
Area residents in 'Dateline' spotlight for second time
07:56 AM CST on Monday, November 6, 2006

The former Kaufman County District Attorney committed suicide Sunday when police tried to arrest him at his Terrell home on a warrant tied to a child-predator sting.

Murphy police Sgt. Snow Robertson said Louis �Bill� Conradt Jr. solicted sex from a decoy posing online as a 13-year-old boy.

Murphy Mayor Bret Baldwin said the sting was a joint operation between Perverted Justice and NBC�s Dateline that lured men seeking sex with children to Murphy. Perverted Justice is an Internet watchdog that received national attention after helping Dateline catch dozens of men trolling chat rooms to meet children for sex.

NBC officials said in a statement there was no contact between Mr. Conradt and Dateline. A crew was outside on the street when Mr. Conradt shot himself. Perverted Justice officials did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Sgt. Robertson said there was nothing police could have done to prevent Mr. Conradt, 56, from shooting himself in the head. No one else was in the house.

�When somebody decides to do this, there is nothing you can do,� Sgt. Robertson said. �We did everything we could.�

Murphy police said Mr. Conradt had not gone to the Murphy sting house but they believed he would. Police were attempting to serve a search warrant for his computer equipment and an arrest warrant for soliciting sex with a minor. Law enforcement officials from Terrell, Murphy and the Texas Rangers were at the home.

Records show that Mr. Conradt lived alone.

Mr. Conradt was the Kaufman County district attorney for more than two decades. He gave up his position in 2002 to run for a seat on the bench. He lost. At the time of his death, he was Rockwall County�s chief felony assistant district attorney.

Police forced their way through Mr. Conradt�s front door after he didn�t answer their knocks or his telephone. He was taken by helicopter to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas where he died.

Unwanted attention

Neighbors in the Murphy neighborhood where the sting occurred expressed reservations about setting such a trap for child predators.

�How do you tell a 6-year-old why he can�t play outside?� asked Michael Smith, who lives across the street from the house. �You come to a nice neighborhood like this, you don�t expect to have to deal with something like this.�

The neighbors first noticed strangers at the house, putting up Halloween decorations after the holiday had passed, working on streetlights and running cable. Friday, they started seeing strangers pull up and go inside. Some neighbors saw the visitors being arrested. It was unclear how many arrests were made.

They said they resent having possible child molesters drawn into their community.

�They�re solving a problem we don�t have,� said Colleen Halbert.

Mr. Baldwin, the mayor, said he had been in touch with residents and that he and the council were not made aware of the operation beforehand.

Murphy City Council member Murray Sanderford said there will be a special council meeting this week to discuss what happened. The time had not been set late Sunday.

Perverted Justice and Dateline conducted a similar sting in Murphy during the summer. Then, they caught a retired doctor from Tyler, a business traveler from Missouri, a former sailor who said he is addicted to sex and a Plano office worker. All thought they were going to have sex with a 13- or 14-year-old.

Mr. Baldwin said he hopes Murphy won�t be used again.

�We�re going to do whatever we need to do to make sure this doesn�t continue,� he said. �I think it�s a noble cause, but our police department is hired to serve and protect our citizens, and not to expose them to outside threats.�
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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While the press can be commended for their contribution in assisting the investigation, perhaps it should not be present during the arrest. I realize they want quid pro quo, but the damage done, such as in this case, is irrevocable.
Posts: 532 | Location: McKinney, Tx | Registered: June 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm sorry about the suicide, but as a poster noted about felony dwi last week, shame is a pretty much inevitable result of public arrest for a crime. And the more reprehensible the crime, the greater the shame.

We know. We're in the consequences business.
Posts: 71 | Location: Houston, Texas, USA | Registered: January 24, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm glad that no officer was injured in the shooting. It is certainly conceivable that a person as desperate as this potential defendant might have turned violence outward as well as inward.

As anti-press as I usually am, I'm not convinced that the presence of Dateline dramatically impacted the choice of the defendant to take his own life. (Can we call him defendant if he circumscribes himself out of the system?) Absence evidence of the guy noticing the cameras, declaring "oh fooey, I'm not going out like that", I don't think we can claim that altering the access of the press to the circumstances led to any different result regarding the suicide.

I think the shock of discovering, "Aw schucks, I'm caught" and the ramifications thereof would be sufficient for his election to shuffle off the mortal coil.

Your question was: Is it time to reconsider how we publicize sex offender investigations? I'd answer: No. I don't think that the publicity itself can be sufficiently liked to the self executioner's choice. The presence of the press from a safe location that restrains impediment to the execution of a warrant is not a negative thing. As long as the press is acting dignified and within safety parameters established by law enforcement (regrettably a rare thing) then their access should not be restricted.
Posts: 764 | Location: Dallas, Texas | Registered: November 04, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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And lets face it, the coverage this issue is getting is far more widespread because of the Dateline series than any verdict that any of us has ever gotten. Our verdicts get 10 lines on page 6-B for one day, Dateline has a cybersex show on every week !

I can't tell you how many parents I've talked to that have changed their teenager's computer usage because of the series !
Posts: 640 | Location: Longview, Texas | Registered: October 10, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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They said they resent having possible child molesters drawn into their community.

�They�re solving a problem we don�t have,� said Colleen Halbert.

What?!? Let me get this straight. The show proves that a perv will travel a great distance for their shot at a 13-14 year old. Therefore, doesnt that prove that it is a problem for any and every community that has 13-14 year olds living there? And as for the molesters being drawn there - wasn't the individual that took his life from there? That means that they at least had one living there amongst them? (or did I miss the residence?)
I've watched it numorous times and the one thing that is obvious is that alot, ALOT, of these guys look like the man next door. They have normal jobs, have families, etc. Not all the time, but a great many are fairly normal looking. Not all of them show up in the long trench coat with nothing on underneath wearing dark glasses and the fedora pulled down low. Not all of them work in adult bookshops.
This show should scare the hell out of parents and be a learning experience rather than a cause for anger at the police departments, etc. Praise those men and women for getting more of the pervs off the street and maybe detering some that might be leaning that way.
Posts: 357 | Registered: January 05, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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As I understand it, Defendant shot himself at his home in Terrell, where the cops were about to execute a search warrant. The concerned neighbors were in another county altogether; the neighborhood where Dateline had set up their pedophile trap. Presumably the defendant had made plans to go to that house for sex with underage child, but never actually went.

The concern expressed by those neighbors is a common criticism of the Perverted Justice outfit. And I must admit that if I saw a bunch of suspicious activity in my neighborhood like that described by those folks - I would not be happy to learn that my local police department had been deliberately luring child sex offenders into my neighborhood (or aspiring child sex offenders). I don't think that's a head-in-the-sand attitude, just a NIMBY attitude.
Posts: 200 | Registered: January 31, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Upon reflection, maybe I was a little harsh. But, if that is the case, then the same could be said, and maybe it is being said, about any other type of sting, be it Drugs or stolen property, prostitution, etc. Keep them all over in the less than well to do sections of town? I guess there really isn't a good place for any of these things to go down, but...
Posts: 357 | Registered: January 05, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Even the absentee owner of the house was in the dark about the sting.

Murphy police, official under fire for sting

Chief, city manager didn't inform others; dismissals considered

11:12 PM CST on Monday, November 6, 2006

By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

The Murphy City Council is considering firing the city manager and police chief because they approved an Internet sex sting that brought pedophiles into a neighborhood filled with children.

"Everybody's mad," said Michael Romero, who lives nearby and has two daughters, 4 and 5. "Why are they drawing these people into our little, quiet neighborhood?"

Mayor Bret Baldwin said he and others are angry because City Manager Craig Sherwood and Police Chief Billy Myrick did not inform anyone about the sting operation ahead of time. And that's why they might lose their jobs, he said.

"That will probably be something we discuss," he said.
Also Online

Dallas teacher in Murphy sex sting

The sting was conducted by Perverted Justice, a watchdog group against sexual predators, Dateline NBC and Murphy police. With hidden television cameras rolling, they lured would-be predators to 434 High Point Dr., a home in Murphy.

Police said the men believed they were going to meet a 13- or 14-year-old child for sex.

Police arrested 21 suspects during the four-day operation. Among the suspects was Louis W. "Bill" Conradt Jr., a former Kaufman County district attorney. He shot himself as police closed in on his Terrell home to arrest him Sunday afternoon. He died in a Dallas hospital.

Murphy, a town of 11,000 in eastern Collin County, is caught up in a debate about whether the sex sting was beneficial because of the arrests or detrimental because predators were lured to a quiet family neighborhood.

Mr. Baldwin said the City Council has not set a date to discuss the sting operation. The next planned council meeting is in two weeks.

Mr. Sherwood and Chief Myrick could not be reached for comment.

In a Monday news release, the Murphy Police Department defended the sting but acknowledged that some residents were angry.

"While some residents do not agree with the operation being brought into our city, Chief Billy Myrick states that everyone needs to understand that this is not just a problem affecting this city," the release said. "These Internet predators are operating everywhere, they know no bounds and will go after anyone's child to satisfy their own personal interests."

Over the summer, Murphy police sought out Perverted Justice � a watchdog group that gained national attention after helping Dateline catch men trolling Internet chat rooms for sex with children. Murphy police arrested four people in that sting. This time, Dateline partnered with Perverted Justice and Murphy police.

In Texas, those who solicit sex from a child don't have to act on that solicitation. The Internet chat itself is enough for an arrest.

Neighbors and city officials weren't the only ones who didn't know what was happening at the home.

Mark Roddy, the home's owner, said he had no idea NBC had rented his house. Mr. Roddy, who lives in California, said he uses a leasing agency to manage the property.

"What?" squealed Mr. Roddy when reached by telephone. "I know nothing about this."

Jenny Tartikoff, an NBC spokeswoman, said Mr. Roddy's leasing agent was aware that the house would be used in the sting operation.

Mr. Roddy said he was angry with the leasing agency and was waiting for more information.

Perverted Justice did not respond to requests for comment.

But the organization's Web site said the angry response of Murphy's residents was "pure and unadulterated ignorance."

Mr. Baldwin, the mayor, said he considers Perverted Justice a "vigilante group" that is belittling the community. The group and Dateline should not plan another sting in Murphy, he said.

"I'd just hate to see Murphy drug through the mud and see us become the poster child for the Perverted Justice debate."
Posts: 200 | Registered: January 31, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I bet the people targeted were pretty PO'd that they weren't notified it was a sting op either. Sheesh. If they told everyone in the "quiet little town" that there was a sting op going on, don't you think that might have undermined it just a little? People don't just keep quiet because you ask them nicely to do so. Roll Eyes Especially if they're going to be mad about predators in the neighborhood. Frankly, I hope there *is* a sting in our neighborhood - then the online predators will only go to that specific house, and once they're arrested, do you really think they're going to come back around? Confused
Posts: 1089 | Location: UNT Dallas | Registered: June 29, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I too think the outrage in this neighborhood over the sting is misplaced. And I don't know how prosecutable the cases that come out of these Dateline stings are, but it seems like the specter of these high-profile busts spreading through the ranks of pedophiles has got to have some kind of deterrent effect. Though I have seen a couple of these shows where guys are now referring to Dateline when they get caught, showing they can't have been too worried. Perhaps confidence in the low odds of getting caught and the strength of whatever compels these guys mutes the impact.
Posts: 49 | Location: Midland, Texas, USA | Registered: December 30, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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If I were a city official, rather than worrying whether people would think poorly of our town because a pervert was arrested there (sadly, every town has a pervert), I would be more worried about the story NBC would probably run detailing how a police chief got fired because a bunch of perverts were arrested in a sting.
Posts: 154 | Location: Texas, USA | Registered: July 11, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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