NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tonight - more in our TV exclusive. We sat down with a former NOPD detective who helped crack an infamous pedophile ring in the late 70s that was tied to a Boy Scout troop here in New Orleans. And we have learned at the center of it all was Richard Windmann, the man who says he was raped by a Jesuit High School janitor while a priest watched.
Mason Spong had no idea that the case he worked in 1976 as a young NOPD detective would change his life. "A man saw some sexually explicit pictures of young children and he reported it," Spong said. Spong says that tip would lead investigators to a pedophile ring connected to Boy Scout Troop 137.
"These guys moved in and were able to gain control of this Scout troop,” Spong said. “They took these kids across the lake to K Bar B Ranch and they had sexual acts over in St Tammany,…and this went on for a while, a couple of years before we even came on to these pictures that were turned over to us…
"…They were very young and very angelic children, very friendly, outgoing most of the times. The common denominator was a single parent home, basically poor."
Spong says men traveled to New Orleans to have sex with the boys - and the children were even taken across state lines.
"These adults had money to some degree, you know, they were middle class, and those pedophiles would come in from out of town and have that sexual contact here in New Orleans in the homes of these other pedophiles. That’s how it happened,” Spong said.
As part of his investigation, Spong met a little boy named Ricky.
“He was a tiny little boy,” Spong said. “Like I said, he was frail. His personality was twice as big as his body, you know? He was a good kid.”
That boy was Richard Windmann, the same man who says Jesuit High School janitor Peter Modica raped him in the late 70s while priest Corneilus Carr watched. Windmann says Jesuit high paid him $450,000 in a settlement for that abuse.
Reporter: "You were able to corroborate everything Richard Windmann told you as a little boy?”
Spong: “Yes, everything."
Spong, who is now an investigator for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, says Raymond Woodall, Richard Stanley Halvorsen, Harry Cramer and Lewis Sialle were the troop ring leaders.
Reporter: “Richard Windmann would be critical in helping you solve and prosecute this case?”
Spong: “Yes he was, because I think at some point Ricky was able to speak to these other children, and he got them to trust us."
Windmann says all four men raped him. Spong was in the courtroom that day in the late 70s when Windmann testified.
“It was kind of gut-wrenching, because I have heard these different stories from these different children, and then to hear it again and to watch Ricky testify - he was pretty good," Spong said. “He brought all the facts forward. He was looking at nothing but adults in the courtroom – strangers – plus he had the press there.”
"It was horrible,” Windmann said. “I mean, you feel embarrassed, you feel like you've done something wrong. And you're sitting there in a courtroom full of adults and media and you are asked to recount all of this."
Spong says as the case progressed, the detectives involved kept watch over the young victims. But the investigator checking in on Windmann was moved to another assignment. So Windmann was introduced to the lead detective in the NOPD’s child abuse unit at the time: Stanley Burkhardt.
“(The detective) asked Stanley Burkhardt to keep an eye on him, you know, because (Ricky) was special to us,” Spong said. “I had three other kids that were special to me that I tried to keep a watch on.”
But instead, of being protected, Windmann says he was victimized once again when Burkhardt raped him.
“Burkhardt definitely knew the Boy Scouts,” Windmann said. “All of these guys and Burkhardt also knew Jesuit. You know, I played basketball in the back of Jesuit, and there was Burkhardt and Peter Modica on the sidelines, so they knew each other.”
Burkhardt was convicted of numerous sex crimes in the 80s and 90s, including possessing child porn and aggravated crimes against nature for molesting a young female relative. He was never prosecuted for Windmann’s allegations.
But according to court documents, Windmann was called to North Carolina as a witness in a 2011 federal case against Burkhardt. The court concluded at the time that Burkhardt was "a sexually dangerous person." And in coming to that opinion, the judge cited significant events in Burkhardt's life, including that "while a police officer, he molested Richard Windmann, a young boy at the time." The opinion also says "the court finds clear and convincing evidence that the testimony of Mr. Windmann is credible and the denial by Mr. Burkhardt of this incident is not credible."
“It was almost more gut-wrenching to hear that one of our own abused Ricky,” Spong said. “To me, it was worse than the initial blow when we first started investigating this case that one of our guys violated this child. It was tough."
Spong says it’s not uncommon for a child to be victimized over and over again like Windmann was.
“They were able to hear the stories that one pedophile would tell another,” Spong said. “Before you know it, that child was passed on, so that’s kind of how it happens.”
Reporter: “How difficult is it for you to discuss the details of this case today, decades later?”
Spong: “Very difficult. You know, it dredges up a lot of memories, you know, memories that I have tried to suppress most of my life since this happened.” The
NOPD confirms it has opened an investigation into new sexual assault allegations against Burkhardt. They would only say they have spoken to an alleged victim in the case.