Unabomber News History

Copyright 1994 The Chronicle Publishing Co.

The San Francisco Chronicle



LENGTH: 1825 words

HEADLINE: Fatal Bomb Linked to 15 Others Deadly package mailed to New Jersey ad man

BYLINE: Catherine Bowman, Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff


The mysterious mail bomb that killed an advertising executive in New Jersey over the weekend has been linked to UNABOM, a nationwide series of bombings that has killed a computer expert and injured 22 other people over the past 16 years, the FBI said yesterday.

Showing its frustration at not being able to catch the bomb maker, who has never been identified, the FBI urged the public to rack its collective brain for any hint or recollection of anything that might help federal agents crack the case.

''Progress is essential in this case because there is great concern the bomber or bombers will strike again,'' Jim Freeman, the FBI's top agent in San Francisco, said yesterday. ''We believe there is someone who may know or suspect the identity of the bomber or bombers. Such information is needed to prevent more persons from being killed and maimed.''

The number to call, with anonymity guaranteed, Freeman said, is (800) 701-BOMB -- (800) 701-2662. The FBI also said it is releasing an ''enhanced sketch,'' based upon the description by an eyewitness who saw the suspect placing a bomb near a computer company's building in Utah seven years ago. The sketch was drawn by Jeanne Boylan, who helped investigators in the Polly Klaas kidnapping case.

Freeman said a previous sketch that was drawn seven years ago by another artist brought many leads, but none of them panned out.

''We just hope this might be of added assistance,'' he said.

The federal task force looking into UNABOM is headquartered in San Francisco because at least five of the incidents have been linked to Northern California.

FBI agents acknowledged that it has been difficult to find a connection between the bombings, which have occurred all over the country and whose victims have included university professors, computer store employees and airline passengers. About half the bombs were letter or package bombs sent to individuals, Freeman said, and the others were placed in locations where someone would disturb them.

''In those instances, you can't say the (suspect) was targeting a particular individual,'' Freeman said.

Death in New Jersey

The FBI's unusual display of apparent desperation came after the death Saturday of Thomas J. Mosser, 50, in North Caldwell, N.J. Mosser was killed in his kitchen when he opened a small package that had been addressed to him and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service the day before. The package was about the size of a standard videotape cassette.

Mosser was promoted less than two weeks ago to general manager and executive vice president of Young & Rubicam, one of the world's biggest advertising agencies. His wife, Susan, and his two children -- one 13 years old and the other 15 months old -- were at home when the bomb exploded. None of them was injured.

Neither federal and local officials nor senior executives for Young & Rubicam could offer an explanation for the attack on Mosser.

''We really have no knowledge of this crime,'' Young & Rubicam senior vice president Richard McGowan said in a telephone interview. ''We're cooperating with the FBI and other authorities investigating the case. Tom was a close friend of many of us and an absolute professional at his work, and we are simply stunned by this senseless loss.''

In San Francisco, Freeman said experts are ''saying, without question, that the same individual that's been responsible for the other UNABOMs mailed this device. There's enough evidence . . . to lead us to believe it's the same individual involved.''

Characteristic Evidence

Although the FBI was tight-lipped about how it had linked Mosser's death to the UNABOM investigation, Freeman said explosives experts who have sifted through the bomb debris in Mosser's home ''recognized certain unique evidence components as belonging to the UNABOM series.'' In the past, investigators have said the bombs are fashioned from common and easily obtainable items, such as nails, but contain handmade switches and pieces of wood that have been highly polished.

Freeman would not divulge what evidence was found, nor would he say from where the bomb was mailed. He said investigators still believe that the bombs are the work of a single suspect but have not ruled out the possibility that others may have assisted.

The FBI has developed a profile of the suspect. Agents believe that he is a white male in his late 30s or 40s, with a high school education and a familiarity with college environments as well as knowledge of the Bay Area and the other places where bombs have been mailed or planted.

Freeman said the suspect is ''probably a loner'' and is ''very meticulous'' in the way he constructs the bombs.

''He might even appear to be a very nice guy with no predisposition to violence,'' he said.

4 Geographic Regions

The UNABOM incidents -- most were bombs that went off, two were disarmed -- have been centered in the Chicago area, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Northern California. UNABOM (a contraction of ''university,'' ''airline'' and ''bomb'') got its name from the first series of bombings: The first two bombs were aimed at universities; the second two, airlines.

What makes solving the bombings so difficult for investigators is that they have few common links. So far, the only clues have been a brief sighting of the suspect in Salt Lake City in 1987 and a letter to the New York Times last year, in which the bomber said a group known as ''FC'' was responsible for two bombings in June 1993. One of those bombs injured a professor at the University of California at San Francisco in his Tiburon home; the other, a Yale University professor in his office.

''You keep chewing on the same thing, hoping to go further,'' U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokesman John Killorin said last year, after the two June bombings, ''but it's just not there.'' Killorin's agency, along with the U.S. Postal Service, is working with the FBI on the UNABOM case. A reward of $ 1 million has been posted.

In a backhanded compliment, the FBI's top explosives expert, Christopher Ronay, said the maker of the UNABOM devices is ''creative because almost every one of the bombs has been crafted in a unique way, so much so that to the untrained eye, they may not be related. And he's elusive because he's picked his targets in a way in which we can't find a common element.''


Until Saturday, however, there were the common elements of computer experts, universities and airlines.

Of the 15 incidents since May 25, 1978, nine had something to do with universities or their professors. In the two incidents involving airlines, one was a bomb aboard an American Airlines jet in 1979 and the other was a mail bomb that injured the president of United Airlines at his home in 1980.

Another incident involved a bomb mailed to the Boeing Co. in Auburn, Wash., from Oakland. In that incident, the bomb was disarmed.

In the mid-1980s, the UNABOM terrorist went after computer experts. In 1985, a computer store owner in Sacramento was killed when he tried to move a package left near his store, and in 1987, a Salt Lake City computer sales and service employee was injured when he, too, tried to move a package near the firm's building.

Another coincidence that has been explored by investigators is the possibility that the bomber was picking his targets from newspaper articles. After the June 1993 bombings of UCSF Professor Charles Epstein and Yale Professor David Gelernter, agents found that both men had been featured in New York Times articles.

Young & Rubicam's promotion of Mosser, the bomber's most recent victim, was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal on December 2 and in the New York Times three days later.



The FBI attributes 15 incidents to the UNABOM suspect, so named because five early episodes occurred at universities and two involved airlines.


* MAY 25, 1978 -- Package found in parking lot of the University of Illinois in Chicago, with return address of a Northwestern University professor, is taken to that campus, where it explodes, injuring a security guard.

* MAY 9, 1979 -- A bomb placed in Technological Building at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., detonates and injures one person.

* NOV. 15, 1979 -- Twelve passengers on American Airlines Flight 444, en route from Chicago to Washington, are treated for smoke inhalation when a parcel explodes in a mailbag in the cargo hold.

* JUNE 10, 1980 -- Percy A. Wood, president of United Airlines, is injured while opening a package mailed to his Chicago- area home.

* OCT. 8, 1981 -- Bomb squad disarms device found in business classroom of Milton Bennion Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. No one is injured.

* MAY 5, 1982 -- Janet Smith, a secretary at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., is injured when she opens a package addressed to Professor Patrick Fisher, head of the computer science department. The return address on the parcel is Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

* JULY 2, 1982 -- Diogenes J. Angelakos, an electrical engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is superficially injured in a lounge at Cory Hall after picking up a small box with wires attached to it.

* MAY 8, 1985 -- Police disarm bomb found in package mailed to the Boeing Co. in Auburn, Wash., from Oakland.

* MAY 15, 1985 -- Captain John E. Hauser, an Air Force pilot and engineering student at UC Berkeley, is injured in a student lab when he picks up a file card box attached by a rubber band to a binder. The blast maims his right hand, severs the nerves in his forearm and damages his left eye.

* NOV. 15, 1985 -- Nicklaus Suino, a research assistant, is injured at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor by a parcel bomb disguised as a manuscript. The package was addressed to the home of a psychology professor, James McConnell.

* DEC. 11, 1985 -- Hugh Campbell Scrutton, a computer store owner in Sacramento, is killed while attempting to move a package left behind his store.

* FEB. 20, 1987 -- Gary Wright, an employee at CAAM's Inc., a computer company in Salt Lake City, is severely injured by a bomb placed in a bag in the parking lot.

* JUNE 22, 1993 -- Charles Epstein, a geneticist at University of California at San Francisco, sustains abdominal injuries and a broken right arm and loses three fingers when a padded brown mailing flat explodes at his Tiburon home.

* JUNE 24, 1993 -- David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University, is critically injured when opening a package bomb in his office.

* SATURDAY -- Thomas Mosser, an advertising executive with Young & Rubicam, is killed when he opens a package bomb sent to his home in North Caldwell, N.J.

Source: Chronicle staff reports and wire services

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, The FBI released this enhanced sketch of the suspect