Copyright 1993 Gannett Company, Inc.
June 25, 1993, Friday, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 8A
LENGTH: 549 words
HEADLINE: College professors get bomb-threat alert
BYLINE: Robert Davis
College professors across the country have been warned to be wary of their mail today after two prominent scholars were injured by mail bombs.
At Yale University on Thursday, David Gelernter, 38 - nationally renowned for developing a program that links many small computers to solve huge problems - opened a bomb in his New Haven, Conn., office.
Gelernter suffered severe wounds to his hands, abdomen, chest and face. He ran from his office to the nearby campus health center for help.
In Tiburon, Calif., north of San Francisco, on Tuesday, Charles Epstein, 59, a geneticist who has broken ground with his research of Down syndrome and other genetic diseases, opened a letter bomb sent to his home.
Epstein lost several fingers and suffered a broken arm and severe abdominal injuries. He ran out of his house and collapsed on a neighbor's lawn after the blast.
Federal agents, working with tiny fragments of evidence, are trying to find out if the bombings are related to each other or
"Forensically, there's some similarities and, of course, since there's been some professors involved as victims, there's a possibility this may be connected," says FBI spokesman Rick Smith.
Former FBI bomb expert Robert Quigley says agents will be able to tell from bomb fragments whether the blasts are the work of a serial bomber.
"In his bombs, a signature shows up," Quigley says. "The way he used wood in his bombs and the way he tied certain things together."
Between 1978 and 1987 bombings targeted educators and business
In 1979 a bomb exploded in a mail bag aboard a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., forcing an emergency landing.
In 1980 the president of United Airlines had a bomb explode in
The serial bomber didn't strike for three years from 1982 to 1985. Then, there were four blasts in seven months, including one that killed a Sacramento, Calif., computer rental store owner.
On Thursday, college officials - who feared copycats and did not want to be named publicly - warned faculty to watch for suspicious packages at work and at home.
Quigley says whether the recent bombings were from his old nemesis or a new FBI foe, more may follow.
"Once you have a bomb go off, your big threat is from a copycat bomber," he says. "You can almost be assured of a few more bombs afterward."
Looking for telltale signs
The U.S. Postal Service carries about 160 billion pieces of mail a year, and says it's impossible to screen them all for bombs.
Bomb experts say mail bombs frequently have similarities.
Common signs: - Stains on a package. Explosive chemicals often leave marks. - Excessive postage. Bombers typically avoid going into post offices where they could be questioned or identified. - Erratic writing on the address label. - No return address. GRAPHIC: PHOTO, b/w, Frankie Frost, Marin Independent Journal; PHOTO, b/w, AP