40-Year Fugitive Search Continues
The aftermath of the attack on Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin
40 years ago this week
Terror at Sterling Hall
40 Years Later, Fugitive Search Continues
Where is Leo Burt? You can earn up to $150,000 by helping us find him.
Forty years ago—on August 24, 1970—Burt and three other young men protesting the Vietnam War carried out a pre-dawn bomb attack at the University of Wisconsin in Madison that would stand as the largest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history until the Oklahoma City bombing 25 years later.
The three accomplices were eventually arrested and served time in prison for the bombing of Sterling Hall, which caused significant damage and the death of a physics researcher. But Burt—22 at the time and an aspiring journalist—has been on the run ever since.
Retired Special Agent Kent Miller, one of several agents to lead the hunt for Burt over the years, said the Bureau has run down hundreds of tips around the world—everything from Burt reportedly being homeless in Denver to working at a Costa Rican resort. But the fugitive has somehow managed to elude capture, leading some to believe he is dead.
Miller, who spent 36 years in the Bureau and is currently a deputy coroner in Madison, thinks Burt may still be alive. “If so, I don’t think he’s living in the United States. And if he is alive,” Miller added, “he’s got to be worried every day that he’s going to slip up and get caught. That’s no way to live.”
Leo Burt’s wanted poster, including images of what he might look like today.
A reward of $150,000 is being offered for information that leads to his arrest.
Special Agent Kevin Cassidy has been in charge of the investigation for the past three years. “Even after four decades,” he said, “we cover every credible lead that comes in.” Despite the passage of time, agents in the field are happy to help. “If we ever catch him,” Cassidy said, “it will be due to the hundreds of agents who have been so diligent in their efforts.”
Cassidy prefers not to speculate about Burt being alive or dead. “Until I know for sure,” he said, “we will pursue him. This was the largest truck bombing in the country’s history at the time, it did millions of dollars worth of damage, and Burt killed someone. He needs to be held responsible for that.”
Burt was part of a radical anti-war group known as the New Year’s Gang. They were targeting the Army Math Research Center in Sterling Hall to protest the Vietnam War and the university’s involvement with the military. The explosion—heard some 30 miles away—caused extensive damage to the building and to 26 others, and resulted in the death of Robert Fassnacht, a 33-year-old father of three who was working late on campus to finish a research project.
Even though Burt is the only bomber to thus far avoid prison—the other three served relatively brief sentences—retired Agent Miller thinks he may have suffered the most.
“He had a fairly close family,” Miller said. “But because he was on the run, he had to sever ties with his brother and other family members. He missed both his parents’ funerals. When he became a fugitive,” Miller added, “he basically gave up his life.”