FBI Renews Its Hunt for 'Wisconsin's State Ghost'

It releases photos of Leo Burt that have been aged 50 years
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2023 12:20 PM CDT
FBI Tries New Tactic in Hunt for 'Wisconsin's State Ghost'
This image provided by the FBI shows Leo Frederick Burt. More than 50 years after a bombing on the University of Wisconsin campus that killed a researcher, the FBI on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 released age-processed photographs of Burt.   (FBI via AP)

Leo Burt was 22 when he was suspected of helping to commit the largest act of domestic terrorism at the time: bombing a mathematics center at the University of Wisconsin. The Aug. 24, 1970, attack, thought to be in protest of the Vietnam War, killed 33-year-old physics researcher Robert Fassnacht and injured others. The bombers fled to Canada, and three of four men wanted in the case were ultimately captured in the 1970s. "They were convicted, served short prison terms, and resumed their lives," as the AP puts it. Despite a sea of tips and alleged sightings over the decades, the fourth man—Burt—has never been apprehended, earning him the nickname "Wisconsin's state ghost." Now the FBI is trying a new tactic in their hunt for him.

In late August it released new images of what Burt would look like today—at roughly age 75. In his photo from 1970, Burt has on glasses and sports a full head of dark, curly hair. In the new age-processed depiction, he is mostly bald and frowning. One version shows him with glasses, the other without. Burt, who "remains the last fugitive sought by the FBI in connection with radical anti-Vietnam War activities," per the AP, is wanted for sabotage, destruction of government property, and conspiracy. The FBI flyer notes he "should be considered armed and dangerous" and that a reward of up to $150,000 is being offered for information that leads to his arrest.

The New York Times cites its own article from 1970 in reporting that Burt, a rower on the university's varsity team and sports reporter for the university paper, had "changed into an avid follower and reporter of the radical movement," according to friends. The blast, caused by what the Wisconsin State Journal reports was a 2,000-pound bomb made of fertilizer and fuel oil contained in a stolen van, destroyed a $1.5 million computer at Sterling Hall, home to UW-Madison's Army Mathematics Research Center, and caused another $4.5 million in damage. (More fugitive stories.)

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