CHICAGO — A serial pedophile who admitted to sexually abusing hundreds of children in Illinois and Indiana from the 1960s through the 1980s received second chances when sexual assault allegations arose against him, according to a newspaper investigation.
The Chicago Tribune review of public records and personnel files found that Chicago Public Schools hired Thomas Hacker in 1970 just three months after he was convicted for sexually molesting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. There’s no indication that school officials were aware of Hacker’s conviction.
Hacker remained at the school for a decade despite red flags emerging about his behavior.
In 1971, Hacker was charged with taking indecent liberties with a child and sentenced to a year of court supervision, according to court records. Then in 1976, Hacker was convicted of misdemeanor battery. The newspaper found no evidence of CPS learning of the incidents or taking action.
When a sexual assault allegation was brought to school officials’ attention in 1973, Hacker was transferred to another school where officials said he would be under close supervision.
CPS said it has since taken steps to improve its response to abuse allegations. The district is now facing a set of lawsuits that allege officials failed to protect six children from harm.
“We express deep sorrow over the reprehensible harm that took place several decades ago,” a CPS spokeswoman wrote. “Since that time, and in recent months, the district has taken significant action to improve how it prevents, responds to, and supports students who come forward with allegations of abuse.”
Chicago Public Schools fired Hacker in 1980 after a student told school officials that Hacker was abusing the boy’s classmates. Hacker was then convicted in 1989 of aggravated sexual assault of an 11-year-old Boy Scout and ordered to 100 years in prison.
In a deposition from Big Muddy River Correctional Center, Hacker noted that he had a “very troubled childhood” with a grandmother who molested him and an alcoholic father who beat his mother.
Hacker testified during a deposition that he typically lost sexual interest in boys when they hit puberty, but he would often manipulate his former victims into assisting with abuse.
Hacker would be friendly with the parents of the boys he targeted, prayed with his child victims and threatened them, according to Hacker’s court dispositions and police statements from the victims.
Hacker died in June at age 81 at Big Muddy.