NBC Special: To Catch, Kill a Predator

Radar Magazine/November 7, 2006

When Radar first reported on the "monstrously exploitative" collaboration between angry, twisted Perverted Justice founder Xavier Von Erck and Dateline NBC to rope greasy perverts and destroy their lives on camera, we quoted an unnamed Dateline producer predicting that "one of these guys is going to go home and shoot himself in the head." That didn't take long.

Less than two months after our story appeared, a To Catch a Predator target has killed himself. Louis Conradt Jr., a prosecutor in north Texas, fatally shot himself as local police attempted to execute a warrant on his home on Sunday. According to the New York Times, Conradt had been exchanging IMs with a Perverted Justice decoy that he believed to be an underage boy, but he never showed up at the Murphy, Texas, house that Dateline had staked out with cameras.

But local authorities sought to arrest him on the strength of the IMs alone, and a Dateline crew came along for the ride. According to a Dateline insider, Conradt refused to open his door. When the cops broke in, they found him holding a pistol. He told the officers, "I'm not here to hurt you guys," and shot himself. He died later at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Allison Gollust, an NBC News spokeswoman, told the Times that Dateline cameras had nothing to do with Conradt's suicide. "We don't anticipate making a change to our reporting." On Perverted Justice's website, a statement describes Conradt's suicide as "quasi-related" to the Murphy sting operation.

"[Conradt] shot himself rather than face justice for his actions," the site says. "It is unfortunate that he chose this end rather than to have his day in court."

Nevertheless, the site says, "we're very pleased with the results of this sting operation."

The suicide comes just as To Catch a Predator is ramping up for November sweeps, with episodes scheduled for the next two Saturday nights. It's unclear whether Dateline's cameras were rolling at the moment that Conradt killed himself, but NBC has already aired footage from the scene in a report on yesterday's Today show.

In a statement, NBC said, "there was no contact whatsoever between Conradt and Dateline at any point in the [sting]."

The Dateline insider suspects that NBC will attempt to head off controversy by directly addressing Conradt's suicide in a segment. "I bet we do a story about this to make sure it doesn't become another GM truck thing," the source says, referring to a 1993 scandal in which Dateline surreptitiously rigged a pick-up truck to burst into flames.

"They have to have thought about this before," the insider says. "That one of these people, who is about to be held to public ridicule, lose his job, lose his wife, and go to jail, where he's going to be molested—that one of these guys might kill himself."

Perverted Justice and the Murphy Police Department did not respond immediately to inquiries.

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