An ex-child abuse US detective admitted to molesting minors. He could soon be free

The Guardian [London, England]

April 12, 2024

By Ramon Antonio Vargas

A judge signed off on Stanley Burkhardt, who was investigated for a series of Louisiana killings, to transfer to a halfway house

A former child sex crimes detective who admitted to molesting children during his New Orleans policing career, has been in and out of prison for images depicting the sexual abuse of minors, and has been investigated in connection with a series of killings, has gotten another opportunity at relative freedom.

After a parole violation caused him to spend the last few years in intensive therapy at a federal prison in North Carolina for people who, like him, have been deemed sexually dangerous, Stanley Burkhardt was recently transferred to a halfway house, according to records reviewed on Thursday by the Guardian.

US district judge James Dever III signed the transfer order on 25 March after two reports in January and October of 2023 by Federal Bureau of Prisons psychologist Katherine Sunder declared that Burkhardt’s mental condition had improved to the point that he “would not be sexually dangerous if released under a prescribed regimen of care and treatment”.

Those reports prompted federal prosecutors as well as an attorney for Burkhardt to jointly request his release in February. And Dever acquiesced in an order which said the former policeman should spend six months in a halfway house in or near New Orleans beginning in the next 60 days, or by about 25 May.

Generally, residents of halfway houses live under certain conditions which, if not obeyed, can result in their being returned to prison by authorities tasked with supervising them. In Burkhardt’s case, those include requiring approval for visitors, participating in sex offender therapy in group as well as individual settings, gaining employment and keeping a log of his movements.

He must also not access internet sites or applications promoting pornography or casual sexual encounters, among a litany of other rules.

One of Burkhardt’s acknowledged victims from his days in New Orleans law enforcement, Richard Windmann, was incredulous on Thursday. Windmann, who now lives in the Dallas area, couldn’t believe that the 73-year-old former officer had been released from prison given his history as a repeat predator, and was upset that he did not learn of the halfway house transfer until a reporter called him.

“Once again, the justice system has failed us in regards to repeat predatory pedophiles,” said Windmann, who has since founded the advocacy organization Survivors of Child Sex Abuse and is running for a seat in the Texas’s state house of representatives in November. “Stanley Burkhardt is a monster, he will offend again, and your children are not safe.”

‘Ruined my childhood’

Dever’s order clearing the way for Burkhardt to arrive at a halfway house, an intermediary step before full-fledged liberation, offers the latest twist in a decades-old criminal justice saga centering on a man once sworn to protect one of the US’s oldest cities, but who instead became one of its most notorious sex offenders.

Burkhardt made a name for himself at New Orleans’ police force in the 1970s and 1980s by building cases against child abusers. But he left the department in disgrace and was sent to prison in 1987 after being convicted of mailing images depicting the molestation of underage boys to undercover agents.

Later, he not only admitted that he had again received imagery depicting child molestation – he also pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl to whom he was related by marriage.

“It ruined my childhood,” the victim in that case later told a podcast named New Orleans Unsolved, which focused in part on Burkhardt. “I had a happy childhood until that happened.”

Once again, the justice system has failed us in regards to repeat predatory pedophiles

Richard Windmann

In an attempt to keep him in prison for as long as possible, federal prosecutors resorted to a law providing for lifelong, involuntary commitments for people whom judges deem to be “sexually dangerous”.

North Carolina-based federal judge Bernard Friedman ruled in 2011 that Burkhardt met those conditions and imposed an indefinite commitment. But after four years of treatment, Dever ordered Burkhardt free as long as he complied with certain conditions.

Louisiana state police found in 2019 that Burkhardt had run afoul of those conditions by failing to notify them of an email address and username that he used to leave suggestive comments under young men’s pictures on a photo-sharing website.

He also removed a stamp from his driver’s license that identified him as a convicted sex offender when he applied for a job with a New Orleans casino.

State police troopers re-arrested Burkhardt and searched his home. They said they discovered a phone with 67 images of teenage minors engaged in sex acts. Troopers also said there were images on the phone which showed partially dressed pre-teen boys, another violation of his conditional release.

Cold cases reopened

During the ensuing legal process, Burkhardt in part attributed his behavior to stress inflicted on him by Windmann’s decision to speak publicly about his abuse. Burkhardt’s fellow officers introduced him to Windmann after Windmann, as a child in the mid-1970s, testified to being sexually abused by leaders of a Boy Scout troop in a case that led to numerous criminal convictions – a sequence of events chronicled in the 2023 Netflix documentary Scouts Honor.

Windmann said after he began being abused by Burkhardt himself, the then officer menacingly boasted about having killed a teenage boy who frequented New Orleans’ famous French Quarter neighborhood and was found dead in the nearby Mississippi River.

Those claims led cold case detectives to re-examine the 1982 drowning death of Edward Wells. They also gave fresh looks to the strangulation killings of three other teenagers who frequented the French Quarter before being killed and dumped around the region in a 21-month span in the late 1970s.

Windmann said he was interviewed by the authorities investigating the deaths of Wells, Dennis Turcotte, Raymond Richardson and Daniel Dewey.

However, a state police investigator ultimately testified that Burkhardt was not considered a suspect in the death of Wells, who – along with the ex-officer, Turcotte, Richardson and Dewey – was a subject of the New Orleans Unsolved podcast.. Burkhardt also denied committing murder.

Nonetheless, despite years of claims to the contrary, Burkhardt admitted in court to having molested Windmann – although his attorneys later sought to establish that Burkhardt had once described engaging in sexual activity with Windmann when Windmann had turned 17 and therefore reached Louisiana’s age of consent.

It all culminated in a 2021 ruling from Dever that determined Burkhardt remained a sexually dangerous person deserving of an indefinite return to prison, though the issue could be revisited at a later time.

Windmann has a pending lawsuit demanding damages from Burkhardt and New Orleans’ city government over his abuse.

The city’s attorneys have maintained that the lawsuit should be tossed out because the plaintiff waited too long to file it. Windmann, though, counters that such deadlines shouldn’t apply in his case because he tried to report his abuse to Burkhardt’s fellow officers – yet was either turned away or discouraged from formally accusing him.

Windmann’s attorney, Kristi Schubert, also said that her client can pursue his claim against the city under a 2021 law which eliminated filing deadlines in cases of long-ago sexual abuse. Louisiana’s supreme court recently struck down that law as unconstitutional, but Schubert contended that the due process grounds cited by that ruling do not apply to government entities.

On Thursday, Windmann said his resolve to see his lawsuit through to the end remains as strong as ever.

“We will win,” Windmann remarked. “The only question is what the award will be.”