Unabomber News History

Copyright 1993 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

June 26, 1993, Saturday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 1; Page 6; Column 5; National Desk

LENGTH: 1261 words

HEADLINE: Portrait of a Serial Bomber Emerges After Parcel Blasts

BYLINE: By STEPHEN LABATON, Special to The New York Times



Federal investigators who have spent years trying to crack the case of a serial bomber who they say struck again twice this week think he is an obsessive-compulsive white man who was reared in the Chicago area and probably has had menial jobs.

They believe he is a neat dresser who leads a meticulously organized life, the kind of person who likes to make lists. He is likely to be quiet and would be an almost ideal neighbor. He has had at least a high school education, and possibly more. His self-esteem is low -- and most likely he has had problems dealing with women -- because of his physical flaws, either real or perceived.

If he does have a relationship, it is probably with a woman who is younger than he, and he is probably in his late 30's or early 40's. And perhaps most worrisome of all, the time between the onset of his outrage over some event and the point when he strikes can be a long one, making him even more difficult to track down.

These characteristics were part of a psychological profile compiled about two years ago by Federal officials, based on research from the way he constructed bombs and the targets he chose in the 12 times in the 1970's and 80's that he mailed or placed bomb-laden parcels across the nation. Imprecise Science

Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms combined these gleanings of evidence with patterns they had detected in scores of cases involving serial killers. Agents have used these often highly detailed profiles with a high degree of success, although they recognize that such behavioral study is an imprecise science and that harder evidence is needed for arrests.

According to the profile, the bomber would probably often visit the scene of his drops to watch the parcel blow up. The bombs include a "signature" cleverly incorporated into the construction of the device and designed to survive the blast. The message lets investigators know that the same bomber has struck again. And, to re-live the experience, he probably keeps souvenirs like newspaper clippings and videotapes.

To law enforcement officials, the investigation has been known as the Unabom case because the bomber has terrorized universities and airline and aircraft companies.

"It has been over four and a half years since his last bombing -- the longest interim to date," says the profile, written in 1991 by officials of the F.B.I. and the firearms bureau. "Although no one involved in the investigation believes he will stop, no one knows when or where he will strike again." Professors Hospitalized

The bomber is believed to have struck again twice this week, sending the parcels that exploded in the hands of prominent professors. Officials said the two bombs had been made of the same batch of explosive material and had arrived in packages that had markings from Sacramento, Calif.

The parcels arrived on Tuesday at the home of Charles Epstein, a genetics expert at the University of California at San Francisco, and on Thursday at the office of David Gelernter, the director of undergraduate studies of computer science at Yale University. The two professors were critically injured.

Professor Epstein, 59, lost several fingers in the explosion and was listed in fair condition today at Marin General Hospital.

The condition of Professor Gelernter, 38, who was severely wounded in the abdomen, face, chest and hands, was upgraded from serious to guarded today by Yale-New Haven Hospital. He underwent six hours of surgery on Thursday and remained on a respirator today.

Investigators said this week's bombs, like the others, had been prepared from cheap components that could be acquired at any hardware store. The bombs were meticulously built in a way that takes enormous patience and expertise, the investigators said.

"He has demonstrated technical and creative capabilities far beyond the average bomber, his expertise increasing with every device, as does his threat to public safety," the 1991 profile says.

An investigator said today that the bomber had used a type of packaging remarkably similar to that used by makers of artificial human joints, suggesting that the bomber might have had a job in that industry. The psychological profile notes that the bomber's probable lack of social skills makes it likely that he has had many jobs that are mostly menial and do not require much social contact.

"His choice of targets indicates a need to move freely, and his employment record would reflect this," the profile says.

The case has led to one of the most puzzling, time-consuming and expensive investigations in recent years. Scores of Federal and state officials have spent tens of thousands of hours in fruitless pursuit of a criminal whose motives and patterns remain cloudy. The victims have tended to be involved in computer and high-technology fields, and the bomber's motive appears to be some sort of revenge. But beyond that, the authorities remain stumped.

"We don't even know how he selects his victims, or even whether he is aiming the bombs at individuals, institutions or particular ideas that they represent," said a senior law enforcement official who has spent years investigating the bomber. "For all we know, the only connections in this case are those in the bomber's mind."

The authorities are at a loss to explain the six-year hiatus that had occurred before the bombings this week. Some officials theorized that the bomber could have been in prison or a hospital or overseas for the last few years.

It could also be that he had not struck since a package exploded in Salt Lake City in 1987 because an eyewitness had provided a description of a white man moving that package in a parking lot. He was described at the time as between 25 and 30 years old, around 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, and weighing 165 pounds, with reddish-blond hair, a thin mustache and a ruddy complexion. A sketch of such a man wearing a hood and smoked lenses was widely circulated since then but has led to no new significant leads.

Officials today described the bomber as an angry person who fears open confrontation and so strikes out in a more concealed way.

They believe he spent his formative years in the Chicago area because of the location of the first four bombs. The first two, in 1978 and 1979, were placed on the campuses of Northwestern University in Evanston and Chicago. The third exploded on an American Airlines 727 aircraft traveling from Chicago to Washington, injuring 12, and the fourth was a book bomb mailed to the Lake Forest, Ill., home of Percy A. Wood, the president of United Airlines.

Investigators focused today on the Sacramento markings on the parcels. The bomb sent to Professor Epstein was in a manila envelope that felt as if it contained a videocassette in some kind of soft packaging. It had a return address of the chairman of the chemistry department at California State University in Sacramento, James Hill, who is not regarded as a suspect in the case, and has told investigators he had never heard of Professor Epstein.

The envelope for the bomb sent to Professor Gelernter had a Sacramento postmark.

A Sacramento postmark also appeared on a letter that arrived yesterday at The New York Times. The authorities said today that the letter signaled the first time that the bomber had begun to explain his motives behind the parcels. The letter said it had come from an anarchist group and that the group would "give information about our goals at some future time."