Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber

Born Again Bomber

In 1993 he was back with a whole new arsenal — and a newfound vengeance.

After his six-year hiatus, he felt he had a backlog of scores to settle. Authorities would later learn how the Unabomber had transported several bombs from his Montana home to Sacramento — his operations base for one week of mayhem.

On June 18th 1993, The Unabomber mailed two similar bombs; each contained in a wooden box and packed in a padded envelope.

The first reached geneticist Dr. Charles Epstein of the University of California, San Francisco, at his home. With no reason to suspect the parcel posed a threat, Epstein opened it and a violent explosion tore through the room. Shrapnel blasted into his chest and face as the overall force ripped off three of his fingers and broke his arm. Medics, police and an ambulance raced to the scene and rushed him to Marin General Hospital. Thanks to their swift response, Dr. Epstein lived to continue his valuable research for humanity.

The return address was a ruse. The alleged sender — Professor James Hill of Cal State — had not mailed it.

Later, Dr Epstein reflected on a scenario that could have been even more gruesome. "On most any other evening than June 22nd, 1993, my daughter, who brought in the bomb from the mailbox, and my wife, would have been standing next to me as I opened my mail."

A similar bomb was delivered to Dr. David Gelernter, associate computer science professor at Yale University. The alleged sender — Mary Jane Lee of Cal State's computer science department — knew nothing of the parcel.

On June 23rd, the accomplished scholar received a package roughly the size of a shoebox. When he opened it mayhem erupted. The smoke from the explosion triggered fire alarms and sprinklers, the noise brought others running and the damage he sustained was horrendous.

The blast ripped off part of Gelernter's right hand, destroyed the sight in one eye and hearing in one ear. Bleeding, he managed to drag himself down five flights of stairs and staggered to the campus' medical center blocks away. By the time he got there, his vital signs were critical.

He was stabilized and rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital. The story of his difficult recovery makes fascinating reading in his book "Drawing Life — Surviving The Unabomber." Said to be fine artist, Gelernter had to re-learn to paint with his left hand.

He is, above all, a survivor — and the last one to live through a Unabomber attack.

"There are computer scientists far more distinguished than I...I don't even like computers very much."
  - David Gelernter, on being targeted by the bomber, who saw computers as evil.

Soon after the bombing, a man telephoned the hospital where Gelernter's brother — a geneticist — was working. His message was brief and threatening; "You are next."

The same day Gelernter was hospitalized, The New York Times received a letter postmarked Sacramento, California.

Directed to assistant managing editor Warren Hoge, the letter claimed to speak for a group calling itself FC. Its authenticity seemed beyond question. Not only did it predict the latest two bombings, it connected the earlier Unabomings with a coded clue. In part, it read:

"We are an anarchist group calling ourselves FC. Notice that the postmark on this envelope precedes a newsworthy event that will happen about the time you receive this letter, if nothing goes wrong. This will prove that we knew about the event in advance, so our claim of responsibility is truthful. Ask the FBI about FC. They have heard of us. We will give information about our goals at some future time. Right now we only want to establish our identity and provide an identifying number that will ensure the authenticity of any future communications with us. Keep this number secret so that no one else can pretend to speak in our name."

The identifier — 553-25-4394 — read like a Social Security number. It turned out to be just that, and belonged to a paroled con. Co-incidentally, he had a prominent tattoo reading "Pure Wood." The only possible connection the FBI could come up with was that somehow, the Unabomber had stolen or found the ex-con's ID where he claimed to have lost it.

By now, the media and the public were demanding the FBI provide answers regarding the investigation. At the same time, FBI director William Steele Sessions was under attack and on the way out. It seemed apparent to everyone — except Sessions himself — that his days as chief were numbered. Six months earlier, a Justice department report had charged him with ethical violations.

William Sessions, Director FBI (AP)
William Sessions, Director

Desperate to cling to his position, he attempted to shore up support in a San Francisco press conference regarding the Unabomber. He discussed the letter and the way prior bombings tied in with the two most recent blasts. But his statements were devoid of any startling new revelations. At one point, he simply underlined the obvious with: "The FBI will go back and look at all similar bombings, and if there are firm links that will come from the evidence."

Louis J. Freeh, Director FBI (AP)
Louis J. Freeh, Director FBI

The press conference did nothing to help save Sessions, and President Clinton was forced to fire him when he refused to resign. On July 20th a new FBI Director was appointed — US District Court Judge Louis J. Freeh.

Still, the investigation struggled unsuccessfully to find any lead on the killer. The same July, a course of action that should have been taken years before was announced — the UNABOM task force was born.


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