40 years later, FBI still looking for suspected terrorist Leo Burt

40 years later, FBI still looking for suspected terrorist Leo Burt

Sterling Hall bombing


With the 40th anniversary of the Sterling Hall bombing approaching, the news from the Federal Bureau of Investigation is really no news at all — Leo Burt is still on the lam.

The FBI held a press conference Wednesday in Madison to issue an update on its 40-year investigation into the whereabouts of Burt, the last remaining fugitive from the bombing and one of the longest-listed individuals on the agency's list of domestic terrorism suspects.

The agents in the FBI's Madison office said Wednesday morning they are still looking.

"Until we've got credible information that he's no longer alive it remains a priority," said Chris Cole, supervisory special agent in the Madison office. "He killed someone. Obviously there's a certain mystique in the early 70s. But the reality is that there was a young researcher doing nothing more than his job who lost his life."

The bombing of UW-Madison's Sterling Hall in the pre-dawn hours of August 24, 1970 was a watershed moment in Madison and in a country torn by anti-war protests. Investigators said Burt was part of a group of campus radicals, called the New Year's Gang, that targeted the Army Math Research Center located in Sterling Hall as a protest to the Vietnam War. The explosion damaged 26 buildings and killed Robert Fassnacht, a 33-year-old physics researcher, working late in the building to wrap up research before leaving on vacation. However, it barely touched the military's research center.

Eventually, brothers Karl and Dwight Armstrong and David Fine were arrested and served time for the bombing.

Burt disappeared. The last confirmed sighting of Burt, who would now be 62, was just days after the bombing when he and Fine fled through the rear window of a boarding house in Peterborough, Canada as Royal Canadian Mounted Police knocked at the front door. Burt left behind a wallet with a fake ID bearing the alias "Eugene Donald Fieldston,'' said FBI special agent Kevin Cassidy at Wednesday morning's press conference.

A "Wanted" poster shows an age-enhanced photo of Burt as he might look now, a smiling face with graying hair and a full beard. He's wanted for sabotage, destruction of government property, and conspiracy. Even after all these years, the FBI is still offering a $150,000 reward and warns that Burt could be armed and dangerous.

Cassidy said hundreds of leads have been pursued, including many received after repeated airings of Burt's story on the television show America's Most Wanted.

Dwight Armstrong died of lung cancer on June 20 at the age of 58. Karl Armstrong remains in Madison where he operates a fruit juice cart. David Fine is in Portland, Oregon where he works as a paralegal.

Forty years later, Sterling Hall is undergoing a renovation, but it still bears the marks from the bombing. An angry scar lines the yellow bricks in the narrow alley, where the bombers pulled up in a Ford Econoline van with six 55-gallon drums of fuel oil and ammonium nitrate.

But don't go looking for the plaque that was dedicated in 2007 to Fassnacht. It was taken down for the renovation and hasn't been returned to its place on the brick wall, near where the white van was parked that early August morning.

Ron Seely can be reached at 608-252-6131 or rseely@madison.com. Deborah Ziff can be reached at 608-252-6234 or dziff@madison.com.


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