Copyright 1993 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
July 12, 1993, Monday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Page 12; Column 1; National Desk
LENGTH: 1354 words
HEADLINE: Accidentally in the Path of Package Bomber, 23 Lives Are Indelibly Changed
BYLINE: By JANE GROSS, Special to The New York Times
DATELINE: SACRAMENTO, Calif.
Shrapnel from a homemade bomb tore through Hugh Campbell Scrutton's heart in a windswept parking lot here in 1985, and the computer store owner cried for God's help as he died beside a Dumpster.
Earlier that year, a similar explosion at the University of California at Berkeley blew the fingers off Capt. John E. Hauser's right hand, ending the flying career of the ambitious young Air Force pilot and engineering student and shattering his dream of becoming an astronaut.
Three years before that, Diogenes J. Angelakos, an engineering professor at Berkeley, lost something equally valuable to him when an explosive contraption went off in the same university building. After surgery to repair the tendons of his right hand, Mr. Angelakos could no longer cook, clean or change the bed linens for his ailing wife, who died of cancer a month later.
These three men were victims of a bomber who has practiced his deadly handiwork from coast to coast but nowhere more tragically than here in the Bay Area. Interviews with victims, relatives, witnesses and law-enforcement officials offer a detailed look at the bomber's meticulous craft, the blood and terror he has left behind and the frustrating cul-de-sacs that investigators have followed.
Four of the 14 bombs he built went off in this area, another was mailed from here and the only communication linked to all 14 of his bombings was postmarked here. Meticulous Work
Mr. Scrutton, Mr. Hauser and Professor Angelakos were all accidental targets of the bomber, people who happened upon a package that bore no address. Yet each of the 23 victims and their families were indelibly changed.
"This guy has affected so many lives," said Mr. Angelakos, who is now 74 and was recently summoned from retirement to serve as acting director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at Berkeley. "How can one guy do that?"
Also scarred, if only emotionally, by the man called Unabom are the law-enforcement officials here who have wrestled with the mystifying cases: Detective Bob Bell and retired Lieut. Ray Biondi from the homicide unit of the Sacramento Sheriff's Office and Lieut. William P. Foley, the commander of the bomb squad on the Berkeley campus.
These men continue to pore over loose-leaf binders of evidence. They continue to toss and turn at night, considering and rejecting theories. And with the latest bombings, which produced substantial new evidence and heightened Federal interest, they are hopeful that a solution may be in sight.
"We're jazzed, we're juiced, we're ready," Detective Bell said. Bomb Left in Break Room
The bomb that injured Mr. Angelakos exploded at 7:47 A.M. on July 2, 1982, in the coffee break room on the fourth floor of Cory Hall, home of Berkeley's engineering and computer science departments.
The device was cylindrical, studded with gauges and dials, and had wires running up its sides attached to a handle. There was construction going on in the building at the time and Mr. Angelakos said that his "first thought was that a contractor had left it."
The professor reached for the handle, which put tension on the wires and caused a pipe bomb inside to detonate. Below the pipe bomb, at the base of the cylinder, was gasoline, which failed to vaporize and thus did not ignite into a fireball.
The custodian at Cory Hall, Ricky Timms, told the police that he had seen an unfamiliar man in the corridor nearby and speculated that he might have placed the bomb.
Court files include a police sketch prepared with the custodian's help. But for sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, the man, fair-skinned and with a narrow mustache, looks very much like the person seen placing a similar bomb in the parking lot behind a Salt Lake City computer store in 1987.
Amid the debris of the bomb that injured Mr. Angelakos was a scrap of paper with these words: "Wu -- It works! I told you it would. R.V." Lieutenant Foley said that 1,000 fruitless hours were spent trying to interpret that message. Experts in codes were consulted, as were members of the university's English department who might see a veiled literary reference.
The device that maimed Mr. Hauser was superficially different from the one that injured Mr. Angelakos. It resembled a loose-leaf binder, attached by a rubber band to a plastic file-card box, the sort of thing a graduate student might tote from classroom, to laboratory, to library.
It had been on a table in room 264 at Cory Hall, a computer room, for several days before Mr. Hauser grew curious enough to open the binder at 1:41 P.M. on May 15, 1985. That movement activated a switch.
According to police reports, "all the fingers and thumb on the right hand were violently amputated." Mr. Hauser's bicep muscle was also torn to shreds. Mr. Angelakos was one of the first on the scene to help Mr. Hauser, who was an Air Force captain at the time, studying for a master's degree in engineering.
After the bombing, Mr. Hauser endured a lengthy rehabilitation and taught himself to write with his left hand. A year behind schedule he completed his degree. He then won a fellowship for work at Berkeley and was medically discharged from the Air Force.
Mr. Hauser, now 34, taught engineering at the University of Southern California until last year and is now a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Despite his crippling injuries, Mr. Hauser is a buoyant fellow. "When you're faced with something you have to overcome, what are your options?" he said in a telephone interview. "People pat you on the back and say, 'Oh poor you,' for a while, but you eventually have to pick up, set a course and find something interesting to do."
That was not an option for Mr. Scrutton. Mr. Scrutton, 38, was on his way to an appointment shortly after noon on Dec. 11, 1985, when he stepped out the rear door of his computer rental company in a mall here and nearly tripped over a package.
Inside was a bomb. It exploded as Mr. Scrutton bent over it and he caught the blast in his chest.
"Oh my God, help me," Mr. Scrutton cried out, witnesses said, as employees from his store, RenTech Computer Rental, and other adjacent businesses rushed to his aid.
First on the scene was an employee from a nearby software store and a customer, who had served in Vietnam as a medic. They administered CPR. It was too late. A half-hour after the blast, Mr. Scrutton was dead.
The employees at the software company described what they knew of the bombing on the condition that they not be identified because they fear the bomber's return.
Theirs is a concern common in Sacramento these days.
A letter to The New York Times, claiming credit for the series of bombings and authenticated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bore a Sacramento postmark. And the city has been further tied to the two recent explosions, which injured a geneticist from the University of California at San Francisco and a computer scientist at Yale University.
Both of those bombs, addressed to the victims, bore Sacramento postmarks and fictitious return addresses of professors at California State University at Sacramento.
Lieutenant Biondi and Detective Bell wonder if the bomb that killed Mr. Scrutton was intended for someone at California State University, less than a mile from RenTech.
The investigators have traveled to Texas and Colorado to interview suspects. Both proved false leads. They have checked lists of Mr. Scrutton's customers, transfer students at the university, absentee ballots and airline flight reservations, to no avail. Physical evidence in their case was scarce because 20-mile-per-hour winds had scattered it.
"I can't stress the amount of work that's gone on," Detective Bell said.
He has gathered everything he and Lieutenant Biondi know in 17 black loose-leaf binders, which sit on the top bookshelf in the homicide bureau here. After the most recent bombings, Detective Bell pulled the binders down in anticipation of a break in the case.
Does that mean he thinks the bomber is here in Sacramento?
"I would love it," Detective Bell said. GRAPHIC: Photos: In 1982, a bomb maimed Diogenes J. Angelakos, left, a professor at Berkeley. (George Olson for The New York Times); In 1985, Capt. John E. Hauser lost his right-hand fingers to a bomb, ending a flying career. (Michael Lewis for The New York Times)