A child sex predator could soon be out of prison and return to the Capital Region.
Louis VanWie is scheduled to be released 10 years short of his maximum sentence. The Troy man admitted to abusing more than 150 children over decades.
Two of his victims are trying to fight his release.
Some of his young victims never knew his name until his 1997 arrest. His victims said VanWie got away with most of his horrible crimes. Now they fear he will harm other local children when he is released from prison – possibly at the end of December.
In 1996, Kayla Wittman was a sweet faced ballerina. She was a happy kid growing up in Lansingburgh. But her bright smile would fade with the unwanted touches from a man she knew back then as a family friend.
“He would have me sit on his lap, and he would force me to sit there if I tried to get up,” she recalled. “You know, he would touch me.”
Wittman said the abuse was revealed after the night VanWie entered her bedroom. She and a friend were making a home video. She said VanWie made some comments, which were picked up by the camera.
“And then I just made my parents aware,” she said. “They listened to the videotape, and they just thought that things were a little weird. And then I confessed to them everything that he had done to me.”
Troy police investigated and discovered two more victims. The local handyman was arrested on Sodomy and Sexual Abuse charges.
But then came a chilling revelation. VanWie admitted to abusing over 100 boys and girls going back decades. A search of his home revealed a large collection of children’s underwear and photos of young kids in bathing suits.
Then police received calls from more than 100 other possible victims.
“He is the worst of the worst,” Gary Greenberg said. “Over 40 years, he abused hundreds and hundreds of kids.”
Today, Greenberg is a successful casino investor, but back in 1966, he was a 7-year-old boy living in Cohoes. He said VanWie sexually assaulted him during a visit to the hospital when VanWie was working as an orderly.
“You know, he wanted to touch me in my private parts, and you know, I fought him,” Greenberg said. “I kicked him.”
Greenberg said he fought his way to a set of service elevators.
“That’s where the elevator shaft was,” he explained. “So he picked me up by my ankles, hung me head first down the elevator shaft, and said, ‘If you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m going to let go.’”
Greenberg said his abuser’s identify remained a mystery for 30 years. But that all changed in 1997 when he recognized VanWie in news reports of his arrest.
Greenberg said he and VanWie’s other victims were denied justice due to New York State’s statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, something he’s trying to change by spearheading the Child Victims Act, which would eliminate any time limit.
“He’s a poster case for why we need to change the laws in his state,” he said.
But now, there’s a much more urgent concern.
The man who admitted to victimizing several children is about to be set free. The shocking news was delivered in a letter to Wittman’s parents.
The Department of Corrections told NEWS10 ABC the now-74-year-old convicted child predator is eligible for conditional release after serving two-thirds of his 30-year prison term.
“It’s terrifying to know that I can go to the grocery store and bump into this man who scarred me for life,” Wittman said.
Wittman is afraid other children could be hurt by VanWie when he is released.
“I mean, a lot of people are saying he will be closely watched, but obviously, he doesn’t follow the rules or the laws,” she said. “So I don’t think this is going to stop him.”
VanWie has a tentative release date of December 29, 2016. But the DOC said he has been unable to secure adequate housing, so his release date may change.
NEWS10 was told he still has family in the area and may return to Troy.
Wittman and Greenberg are now asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep VanWie behind bars or place him in civil confinement. NEWS10 reached out to the governor’s office. They said those requests will not happen.
Parole denied VanWie five times, but he has served two-thirds of his indeterminate sentence, so by law, he is eligible for release.