Unabomber News History

Copyright 1993 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company

The Houston Chronicle

June 25, 1993, Friday, 3 STAR Edition


LENGTH: 658 words

HEADLINE: Second scientist hurt by mail bomb; Cases tied to notorious serial bomber

BYLINE: Washington Post


A mail bomb exploded Thursday in the hands of a world-renowned Yale University computer scientist in what federal officials said was the second mail-bombing case this week that could be linked to a serial bomber in operation since 1978.

The choice of targets in the Yale case and the Tuesday bombing of a geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco bears the hallmark of the elusive ""Unabom,'' who targeted employees of the computer industry and university researchers for more than a decade before the bombings stopped in 1987, officials said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has added the Tuesday bombing that injured Charles Epstein to its Unabom incident list, and FBI agents in New Haven, Conn., said there was an ""unavoidable question of connection'' to Thursday morning's bombing of David Gelernter at Yale University.

Named for a penchant for targeting academics, Unabom is believed to be responsible for 12 bombings from 1978 to 1987 in seven states that killed one person and injured 21. Despite the creation of a federal-state Unabom Task Force, which is still active, the bomber's whereabouts and motives remain a mystery. What is known is the similarity of the victims, who have been university scientists or employees in the computer and airline industries.

The New York Times reported that it received a letter Thursday that warned of a ""newsworthy event'' and that law enforcement officials said was signed by a bomber believed linked to the earlier attacks.

The letter, postmarked June 21 from Sacramento, Calif., identifies its author as ""a group calling ourselves FC'' and promises to ""give information about our goal at some future time,'' the newspaper said.

Gelernter, who created a computer language that allows desktop computers to achieve the power of supercomputers, triggered the explosion when he opened a package around 8:15 a.m. at the school's computer center. Gelernter suffered severe wounds to his abdomen, chest, face and hands.

Across the country two days earlier, Epstein, known for his work locating a gene that may contribute to Down's syndrome, opened a package in the kitchen of his home in Tiburon, Calif., that had arrived in mail brought in by his daughter Joanna, according to Rick Smith, spokesman for the FBI's San Francisco bureau. The explosion blew off several of Epstein's fingers, broke his arm and caused several abdominal injuries. Epstein was listed in fair condition following surgery.

Unabom has never shied from targeting well-known people. One of his early targets, in June 1980, was Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, according to the ATF. Among the 14 listed Unabom incidents, at least six bombs were mailed and eight were put in place by the suspect. Federal officials said the San Francisco package carried Unabom's signature: a pipe bomb in a small package with explosions triggered by touch.

FBI Director William Sessions warned university officials Thursday to ""be alert to all packages and mail received'' at their offices and homes. In addition to this week's suspected Unabom incidents, Unabom explosive devices have been found in the past at Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Michigan.

Also targeted were Boeing Aircraft Co., Rentech Computer Rental and United Airlines. One mail bomb detonated on American Airlines Flight 444 on Nov. 15, 1979, bound for Washington from Chicago. Twelve people suffered smoke inhalation.

The Unabom suspect disappeared following a Feb.20, 1987, blast in Salt Lake City in which a witness was able to offer a general description of a man who left a package that exploded in a parking lot. The white male was described as slender, 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, 25 to 30 years old and with reddish-blond hair.

ATF officials believe that the sighting may have forced him underground. GRAPHIC: Mug: David Gelernter