Unabomber News History

Copyright 1995 Globe Newspaper Company

The Boston Globe

May 10, 1995, Wednesday, City Edition


LENGTH: 477 words

HEADLINE: Menacing letters a departure, FBI says

BYLINE: By Judy Rakowsky, Globe Staff


Sending threatening letters to two Boston researchers is a sharp break from the pattern the Unabomber established over 17 years of mail and package bombings that have left three people dead and 23 injured, the FBI said yesterday.

The FBI reported this week that Wenham geneticist Richard J. Roberts had received a letter from the Unabomber. Sources said yesterday that Phillip A. Sharp of Newton, a geneticist who shared the Nobel Prize with Roberts, also was sent a letter by the terrorist. Both letters were mailed April 20 in Oakland, Calif.

At the same time, authorities believe, the Unabomber mailed a package holding one of his meticulously crafted explosives that killed Gilbert Murray, a forestry lobbyist in Sacramento, Calif., and sent a taunting letter to a previous victim, Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter.

"It's a departure," FBI Special Agent Rick Smith said of the two letters, which brought the case to the Boston area for the first time.

Roberts and Sharp are the latest members of the high-tech community targeted by the Unabomber, who is apparently obsessed with wiping out "the worldwide industrial system," as he called it in a letter to The New York Times.

Smith said members of the 100-agent Unabomb task force in San Francisco do not believe the threats to Roberts and Sharp necessarily are precursors to mail bombs. So far, Smith said, Roberts and Sharp can consider themselves lucky.

"Anytime you receive correspondence from this individual and it's not a bomb, you're fortunate," he said.

Specialists on serial killers say the April 19 Oklahoma City bombing that killed at least 160 people upstaged the Unabomber, prompting him to deviate from patterns formed in 16 bombings.

The Unabomber, who is believed to be a resident of California, has provided few solid clues, avoiding mass-produced mechanisms that could be traced and instead using his own hand-tooled components. The lengthy letter sent to The New York Times and the other letters last month caught many observers by surprise.

"It's interesting to see in the wake of Oklahoma City how he changed his style to gushing information in the letter to The New York Times and the threatening letters to the researchers, said Michael Rustigian, who teaches police officers about serial killers at San Francisco State University.

Even more provocative is the demand in the Times letter for a major media outlet to publish his 29,000-word essay.

"He knows that every word he supplies will be subject to psycholinguistic assessment," said Robert Ressler, a former psychological profiler for the FBI who now works as a consultant. "It's more like, 'Catch me if you can.' He's in his 40s now, more sure of himself, feeling pretty omnipotent.

"He's got to show he's got it all over Timothy McVeigh," the alleged Oklahoma City bomber.