This was Tuesday's live blog. These entries are meant to coincide with the broadcast.
by Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent
The online watchdog group Perverted Justice had worked before with the Murphy, Texas police Department to catch potential predators before, and received attention in some of the local newspapers. During our investigation here, which took place in the days before elections, the issue of online predators was raised in campaign ads that seemed to run every 10 minutes.
I wondered whether all this would keep men from showing up at our hidden camera house. As your about to see, it did not. 31-year old "sunsetliquid", who works in real estate drives more than four hours from Houston after chatting online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl home alone. The man talked about kissing the girl all over and giving and receiving oral sex. He even says he could go to jail if he's ever caught doing this.
But, when I confront him with the chat log--his words in black and white-- he claims he thought the girl was 18. He also says that he would never have had sex with the girl; he was just there to visit and take some pictures of her. He does have camera equipment in his car. Watch as he admits to me that he's seen an episode of "To Catch a Predator" and how he thought it was disturbing that so many men would try to meet a teen. Perhaps what will disturb him more is what's about to happen to him when he leaves our house.
You'll see the man I told you about in a previous blog: Eric Rubalcava, who talked about how he wants to have sex with the girl and how he'll kiss her all over. He recognized me and talked about seeing the "To Catch a Predator" series once before. I asked him what he thought about the show. He told me it was disturbing to see men go after young girls, but there he was allegedly doing the very same thing. The difference, he claimed, is that he really wouldn't have had sex with the girl, although he admitted that he might have taken some photographs of her.
It continues to surprise me how comfortable these men are walking into the home of a total stranger. When 40-year old "eearthshine66" walks in, he chats with our decoy who is standing behind a bar in the living room. He wants a beverage but notices there is no ice on the bar. As he continues his discussion with the girl, he walks into the kitchen to get some ice out of the freezer.
What he doesn't know is that while he's chatting away, the girl has left the room and I have gotten into position behind the bar. Watch his face closely as he realizes that his visit is about to take a turn for the worse. We find out "eearthshine66" has a criminal past. When he was 18, he says he was charged with sexual assault. He was later found guilty of fourth degree sexual assault and was put on 2 years probation.
After the commercial break, you'll see that our investigation is about to take a tragic turn. A Perverted Justice contributor has been chatting online with someone calling himself "inxs00." At first he says he's a college student and sends explicit picture of a young man to the decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. There's a phone conversation between the potential predator and an actor pretending to be the 13-year old. There's talk online and on the phone of getting together for sex. As the encounter continues, it becomes clear that the man on the other end of the conversation is actually 56 years old and holds a prominent position in Texas law enforcement. His phone number comes back to Louis W. Conradt Jr. and when the decoy adds him to his buddy list, the screen name goes from "inxs00" to "louiswconradt."
Late on a Saturday night, Murphy police confirm this is the same Louis W. Conradt Jr. who is an Assistant District Attorney in a nearby county. He'd been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. We'll never know why Conradt abruptly ended his conversations with the decoy and why he apparently started to delete material from a MySpace account, but in the eyes of law enforcement, he'd already committed a crime. That night, Murphy Police began the process of obtaining an arrest warrant and a search warrant for Conradt.
Sunday morning, we know that Murphy Police have contacted the police in Terrell where Conradt lives to assist with his arrest. Dateline producers and I discuss whether it's best for me to stay at the house where more potential predators were scheduled to arrive or go to Terrell and try to get a word with Conradt after his arrest. The fact that a prosecutor had surfaced in this investigation is obviously significant and I chose to go to Terrell for what we thought was going to be a few hours. It ended being a much longer and much more tragic than anyone could have imagined.
As you're about to see, when officers attempted to serve the warrants, Conradt would neither answer the door or his phone. After about 45 minutes, a tactical team arrives and enters through the back. We can't see this, but enough time goes by that after we hear the pop of their forcing the back door open -- we know something didn't go as planned. I wonder to myself if Conradt simply wasn't at home. In a matter of minutes, a police lieutenant comes out and tells me that Conradt had shot himself in the head as officers entered the home.
You're about to see how the rest of the story plays out and why it generated so much controversy. Obviously we'll never know exactly why the prosecutor chose to take his own life and there is no indication he knew he had surfaced in a Dateline investigation. But police believe his tragic decision is related to what's locked inside three computers taken from Conradt's home. As of this posting, the computer manufacturer is still trying to unlock those files and see what was apparently worth dying for.
In the end, 25 men were caught in this operation. They were charged with a felony online solicitation of a minor. While many said they were innocent, they have not yet had a chance to enter a plea.
Next week, we head to the beach, Flagler Beach, Florida. It may be a small community by the sea. But still, potential predators keep coming. They all end up pleading not guilty, but some come up with excuses you may find hard to believe. You'll also meet a police officer who drove hours to get to the 'To Catch a Predator' house, with a gun in his pocket and an arsenal in his car.
Editor's note: Send us your thoughts, below. We're reading -- and will be responding to some of the blog comments on the community reaction in Texas. Watch this blog for that.
And to those who asked about Texas law, here's a link to how they define soliciting a minor of the Internet.