On January 5 2023, a Reddit post to r/WhitePeopleTwitter queried whether it was true that the To Catch a Predator series (a sting-based reality show) ended after an entrapped Texas district attorney died by suicide “in front of the camera”:
A screenshot of a January 3 2023 tweet by @nikescarkyle was attached to the post. It appeared that an unrelated December 29 2022 tweet about To Catch a Predator revived interest in those implicated in the course of filming:
Google Trends data demonstrated sustained search interest in To Catch a Predator after January 4 2023, indicating “Breakout” interest in terms including:
- “To Catch a Predator“;
- “Texas DA”; “
- “To Catch a Predator last episode”;
- “District attorney To Catch a Predator“;
- “Texas district attorney To Catch a Predator“;
- “Texas district attorney”;
- “Last episode of To Catch a Predator“;
- “To Catch a Predator district attorney kills himself”;
- “Louis Conradt episode,” and;
- “To Catch a Predator Texas senator.”
Among the search terms was a man’s name, Louis Conradt. A search for Conradt’s name alongside the show indicated that the same claim appeared on Reddit’s “Today I Learned” (TIL) subreddit in 2012:
Another result was a November 2006 NBC News report about Conradt’s death, “Texas prosecutor kills himself after sex sting.” It did not indicate that Conradt’s death occurred “in front of the camera,” but it did report that he died by suicide:
A prosecutor killed himself as police tried to serve him with an arrest warrant alleging he solicited sex with a minor, authorities said.
Louis “Bill” Conradt Jr., 56, chief felony assistant district attorney for nearby Rockwall County and former district attorney in Kaufman County, died [on November 5 2006].
Police forced their way into Conradt’s Terrell home after hearing a gunshot when he refused to answer the door, a police spokesman said. The officers found Conradt with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and he later died at a hospital in Dallas, about 30 miles west of Terrell.
NBC included a statement from its network’s Dateline property about the incident:
NBC News’ “Dateline” was in Texas reporting on its “To Catch A Predator” series in conjunction with online watchdog group Perverted Justice. In the midst of that effort, Rockwall County Assistant District Attorney Louis W. Conradt Jr. contacted a decoy from Perverted Justice who was posing as a 13-year-old boy. Local authorities launched an investigation into Conradt’s online communications and went to his home with an arrest warrant. In the course of that investigation, Conradt committed suicide. There was no contact whatsoever between Conradt and “Dateline” at any point in the investigation.
Louis William Conradt Jr. was a predator who was supposed to be caught during the Murphy, Texas investigation. He shot himself before police could apprehend him. His death and fallout ultimately resulted in the cancellation of To Catch A Predator.
Conradt, an assistant district attorney living in Terrell, Texas, contacted a decoy posing as a nineteen year old university student named “Wil” when he contacted someone he believed to be a thirteen year old boy named “Luke” … For unknown reasons, Conradt stopped responding to phone calls and instant messages. It was then decided by police to confront Conradt at his home in Terrell, Texas.
[Law enforcement] broke the door’s lock and swept through the house. They finally encountered Conradt in a hallway. Holding a Browning .380 handgun, Conradt said “I’m not going to hurt anyone” and shot himself. Recovery of all of Conradt’s digital devices showed images of child pornography.
On June 24 2008, ABC News reported that a settlement between NBC/To Catch a Predator and Conradt’s sister had been reached. That article mentioned the presence of a film crew alongside law enforcement when Conradt died.
ABC News referenced a their own “ABC News 20/20 investigation” into the practices of To Catch a Predator around Conradt’s death, and reported that Conradt “did not take the bait to go to the sting house” during the initial “sting”:
NBC has settled a lawsuit that blamed the network for the suicide of a Texas prosecutor who was targeted in an undercover sting against alleged pedophiles as part of the Dateline: To Catch a Predator show.
The suit was brought by the sister of William Conradt Jr., an assistant district attorney in Rockland County, Texas, who shot himself in the head after a local police SWAT team, accompanied by a Dateline crew, surrounded his house and moved in to arrest him in November 2006 … Conradt’s suicide was at the center of an ABC News 20/20 investigation looking into troubling questions for both law enforcement and the news media raised by the popular Dateline series.
When Conradt did not take the bait to go to the sting house set up by Dateline and Perverted Justice, a civilian watchdog group hired as a paid consultant by NBC, the decision was made to go get him at his home in Terrell, Texas.
ABC quoted a since-retired detective named Walter Weiss, who postulated that the presence of a camera crew drove Conradt to die by his own hand:
Walter Weiss, a former detective with the police department that partnered with Dateline, and who has since left the force in disgust, told 20/20, “I understand he took his own life, but I have a feeling that he took his own life when he looked out the door and saw there was a bunch of television cameras outside.”
In May 2022, the Dallas Observer spoke to To Catch a Predator host Chris Hansen about the legacy of the show, and the outcome of the sting ending in Conradt’s suicide. Hansen maintained that while Conradt’s death was “horrible,” “dark,” and “sad,” the investigation was productive:
Hansen insisted on the recent Coptales and Cocktails podcast that even though the episode ended in a horrific manner, the raid on Conradt’s home produced results. He said that a forensic investigation of Conradt’s laptop found several images of child pornography as well as evidence that helped convict “Conradt’s boss” of unrelated crimes.
A viral January 3 2022 tweet claimed that the series To Catch a Predator “ended because the last person getting caught was a Texas DA” who died by suicide “when he realized what the situation was.” A Reddit user shared the tweet to r/WhitePeopleTwitter and asked if the claim was true. The death of Louis Conradt and the involvement of To Catch a Predator was well documented, with Conradt’s sister reaching a 2008 settlement with NBC over her brother’s death. The tweet was slightly overgeneralized (likely due to Twitter character limits), but its basic assertion was accurate.