Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber

Brother and Hero

On January 23rd 1998, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh issued a statement praising his team and acknowledging the valuable contributions of the ATF, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Forest Service.

He noted The UTF (Unabomb Task Force) had — over 17 years — dealt with "3,600 volumes of information, 175 computer data bases, 82 million records, 12,000 event documents, and 9,000 evidence photographs." He also applauded the special computer system devised to present all evidence at the trial — even though it was never used.

David Kaczynski (AP)
David Kaczynski (AP)

But solving the crime was more luck than police work — David Kaczynski deserves most of the credit for bringing his brother, the Unabomber, to justice. The story of David Kaczynski is, in itself, a massive one. He had often tried to emulate his older brother, and clearly admired his ability to survive on his own.

David attempted to follow Ted's lead — he, too, took to the wild and built his own cabin, but in the end, he left it to follow a more conventional life with brilliant and supportive wife, Linda.

David and Linda were the ones who had to deal with the trauma of turning Ted in for the greater good. They were the ones who had to deal with the knowledge that the money the family sent Ted over the years — around $17,000 — was spent, largely, on building and transporting bombs to kill innocent people. Ted had often claimed he needed the money for medical reasons, and, time and time again, he betrayed David.

When David received the one million dollar reward for uncovering the bomber, his selfless nature again surfaced — half the money went immediately to bomb victims and their families. The balance was needed for the mammoth legal bills the family had covered.

David and his mother paid dearly for their insults. Nothing they did for Ted was good enough. He even dictated the size of books David was "allowed" to send him as gifts. He also demanded that only urgent letters be specially marked — the others he would ignore until he chose to open them. When David coded one urgent so Ted would learn that his father had died, Ted was angered, calling the news unworthy of his immediate attention.

It is significant that David, his wife, and mother were respected and admired by everyone for the tough decision they took, and for the way they conducted themselves throughout the entirely unwelcome experience.

When Time asked David if he felt guilty, he said, "Guilt suggests a very clear conviction or wrongdoing, and certainly I don't feel that I did wrong.

On the other hand, there are tremendously complicated feelings not just about the decision itself but a lifetime of a relationship in which one brother failed to help protect another."

There are many heroes in this case but not one stands taller than David Kaczynski.

During the sentencing, every victim and every legal representative held David, Linda and Wanda in high esteem. Candice DeLong summed up the general feeling when she wrote, "To my mind, David Kaczynski deserved to be named Man of the Year."

Because of the plea bargain, most of the evidence never saw the light of day.

This in itself was regrettable because too many questions were never answered satisfactorily. Among them, how a man in the wilderness — with no machine shop and no electricity — even machined and built the bombs remains a puzzle.

Kaczynski received four consecutive life sentences in a maximum-security jail. He was transferred to the Colorado "Supermax" facility, where he will spend the rest of his life — and simply fade into oblivion.

"This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper."

- T.S. Eliot.

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