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Antiabortion activist sought in sex crimes

Published Sep. 1, 2005

John Allen Burt, a controversial Pensacola antiabortion activist who opened a home and school for pregnant teens in rural Santa Rosa County, has been charged with four sex crimes and was being sought Monday night by Panhandle sheriff's deputies.

Deputy Jerry Henderson of the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office said Burt disappeared from his home, where he operated the shelter, called Our Father's House, on Thursday.

After investigation, warrants were issued for Burt's arrest on one count of lewd and lascivious conduct and three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. He also is charged with a single count of contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child.

Henderson said warrants were issued as a result of an incident involving a 15-year-old girl staying at Our Father's House.

In the course of the investigation, the Sheriff's Office has located more victims, Henderson said.

"Some may have been scared to come forward in the past," he said."Now that this has come to light, hopefully more will come forward."

Deputies sent out Burt's photo and a description of the vehicle he is believed to be driving: a dark green 1996 Chevrolet van with license tag CCA2K. The news release noted that the tag was a specialty "Choose Life" license plate.

Burt's daughter, Karen Krzan, said her father has been missing since about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when he fell on the 15-year-old girl near the kitchen in his home, got up, walked out and drove off.

She said the allegations of sexual misconduct stem from Burt's fall on the girl and nothing else.

"We're dealing with troubled teenage girls to begin with," Krzan said. "If parents are sending them away from their house, it's generally for a good reason. . . . He's made enough people angry around here that anything they could get on him they would try."

There's more to the story, Henderson said.

"It goes far beyond someone tripping and falling," he said."We have uncovered evidence that I can't really go into."

Authorities have investigated similar allegations in the past, but this was the first time enough evidence was collected to have a warrant issued, Henderson said.

The 15-year-old girl and another girl staying at Burt's home were removed Friday night by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Burt's family said they believe he is dead. He is prone to ministrokes and has diabetes, Krzan said. He left home without taking extra clothes or medication and has not written a check or used credit cards since his disappearance, Krzan said.

Although he never fired a shot, Burt, 65, was still near the center of some of the nation's worst violence against abortion providers. At one time he advocated the bombings of unoccupied clinics, and he was suspected of clinic bombings that occurred on Christmas Day 1984.

In 1991, Burt, then the regional director for the group Rescue America, purchased land next to a Pensacola abortion provider and used it to launch his protests against the Ladies Center. He aggressively sought information about doctors who provided abortions, then put their photos and information about them on what he called "Unwanted" posters.

In March 1993, Michael Griffin had dinner with Burt the night before he attended one of Burt's protests outside the Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic. Griffin stepped from the crowd and fired three shots into the back of Dr. David Gunn, killing him. Griffin is serving life in prison.

A little more than a year later, Paul Hill shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton, 69, and retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Barrett, 74, who was an abortion rights supporter. Hill is awaiting execution.

After calls from around the country to denounce the violence being employed in the battle over abortion, Burt, a former Ku Klux Klansman, called a news conference on the stairs of the Escambia County Courthouse in Pensacola. There, he held a child above his head and declared, "This is what we are about _ life, not death."

Burt was not charged with crimes in either of the killings of abortion providers or the death of Barrett.

But as part of a lawsuit settlement with Gunn's family, Burt gave up the land next to the Pensacola clinic. Growing weary of the controversies surrounding his activism, Burt told the Pensacola News-Journal in 1995 that he was focusing more on his home for 13 girls aged 12 to 17 and the school he was trying to get off the ground.

"We'll still go to the clinics, but in a way, I think this is stopping abortion before it even gets started," Burt said at the time. "We catch them young and get their lives straightened out."

_ The Pensacola News-Journal contributed to this report, as did Times news researcher Cathy Wos.