Among the many red flags that stood out about convicted child sex predator Thomas Hacker were the shorts he wore coaching games and running the concession stand at Westside Baseball in the early 1980s.
He liked to wear them pulled high over his waist so that they barely covered his thighs, recalled Bill Olsen, who was 12 years old when he played for Hacker on the Westside's all-star team, circa 1980.
“I found him odd, just the way he presented himself,” Olsen said. “Just hearing the name gives me chills. Even talking about it right now I get a little angry.”
Hacker was convicted in 1989 on multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault against three Boy Scouts, ages 11 and 13, from St. Louis de Montfort Church. Trial testimony of his preying upon the young boys of Burbank and Oak Lawn horrified parents who had been fooled by Hacker’s manic need to please everyone and his disingenuous concern for their sons.
Except for the now-grown men, who for decades had buried boyhood memories of his alleged attacks in tents on overnight camping trips, or in the offices of the Burbank Park District, Hacker’s name was all but forgotten by the public until it resurfaced in the secret “perversion” files kept by the Boy Scouts of America.
Hacker, 76, has since been declared a sexually dangerous person and is serving an indefinite sentence in Big Muddy River Correctional Center. He has sex crime convictions out of Cook, Kendall and Kankakee counties.
The release of some 1,200 files involving men and Boy Scout troops throughout the country—300 in Illinois alone—have triggered a number of lawsuits against Hacker by men claiming to have suppressed memories of his alleged abuse.
“It was not like a rape situation where you’re beaten or pummeled, it was more like a seduction,” Chicago-attorney Christopher Hurley said, who’s filed five separate lawsuits on behalf of clients against Hacker and his former employers. “It wasn’t until they were adults did they realize how much they were harmed by it.”
'A Sordid Past'
Hacker’s 17-year reign of terror in the Chicago region began in 1971 a year after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indianapolis. He was convicted of a second misdemeanor offense while living in Chicago’s northwest suburbs of taking indecent liberties with a child.
Disappearing on Chicago’s South Side, Hacker taught for the Chicago Public Schools, and worked as a park director for the Oak Lawn and Burbank park districts.
He also found time to volunteer as an assistant scoutmaster for St. Louis de Montfort’s Boy Scout Troop 1600. Changing his middle initial, Hacker was able to avoid detection by the Boy Scouts of a “confidential record sheet” dated June 8, 1970, that he be placed permanently in the “ineligible volunteer file.”
'I Heard the Rumors'
Hacker was hired in 1975 to direct the Oak Lawn Park District’s summer day camp program. He is praised lavishly in the impeccably typed park board minutes for his hard work and devotion to youth.
Marge Joy, who served on the Oak Lawn Park District Board from 1975 to 1991, recalled Hacker as being very youthful and clean cut, but dogged by vague rumors of making advances on young boys.
“Tom was very friendly but I kept my distance,” Joy recalled. “I had heard enough about him from other people that I kept my children away from him.”
Hurley says that on July 4, 1976, Oak Lawn police arrested Hacker for allegedly pulling a boy’s pants down. Hacker was sentenced to supervision.
PATCH DATABASE: Search for your town and troop in the Illinois "perversion files"
It was also alleged during this same period by a young boy that Hacker had pulled him under a table and “massaged my butt” during an overnight camping trip that Hacker had organized for the park district. Other boys on the same trip complained that Hacker woke them up by pulling up their pajama bottoms.
Parents wishing to spare their children further trauma by having them testify against Hacker in court, declined to press criminal charges.
Hacker resigned under duress and was encouraged by park board members to seek help.
Hacker Moves On
He also briefly became president of Westside Baseball, where Olsen recalls Hacker offering to treat him to candy and hot dogs at the concession stand after ball games.
“At age 12, I didn’t feel comfortable around him. Thank God, my parents came to all the games,” Olsen said. “My father didn’t trust him and didn’t like how he maneuvered the player drafts to favor his teams. He made it very clear to Hacker to stay away from his children.”
In 1980, Hacker, with a master’s degree in child psychology, landed on his feet and was hired as a program director by the Burbank Park District.
Tom Cameron was in his twenties when Hacker hired him to start a Tae Kwon Do program in Burbank. He recalls Hacker as a “typical con man.”
“Looking back in hindsight, he was very affable and gregarious, and very much involved with the kids,” Cameron said. “Did Hacker strike me as being unusual, not in the role he was in. People in those types of roles tend to be community-minded, like kids and are very outgoing.”
'Don't Forget to Invite Me'
One of Hacker’s former scouts from St. Louis de Montfort recalls endless overnight camping trips, even in inclement weather.
“The parameters of behavior that he would let you get away with were a lot more than the regular adults,” the former scout said, who asked that his name not be used. “Throwing rocks on the side of the road at night, you wouldn’t get in trouble for that kind of behavior. In hindsight I see it now as him trying to build trust and a bond.”
The former scout said his agenda is to protect other former troop members—now men—who still haven’t told their wives or parents of their alleged abuse by Hacker. He admitted to some boys lying and saying nothing happened when questioned by police in 1987, when the abuse allegations of Troop 1600 members first came to light.
A report by a Boy Scout Council official at that time recounts a meeting with parents and other troop officials in the fall of 1987. Hacker was eventually forced to resign as assistant scout leader.
A copy of Hacker’s resignation letter is included in the perversion files, in which he claims to be leaving because of a recent job promotion.
In it, Hacker explains how it is hard for him to communicate his feelings, and praises the boys for being “good Christian scouts.”
“I will miss all of you,” he wrote. “Just don’t forget to invite me to your Eagle court of honor.”
Read more Patch coverage of the Illinois Boy Scouts:
- Inside the 'Perversion Files' of the Illinois Boy Scouts
- Sex Offender Scout Master Sued by Man With Supressed Abuse Memories
- More Cry Sex Abuse in Case of Convicted Boy Scout Leader