Copyright 1994 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
December 12, 1994, Monday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A1
LENGTH: 827 words
HEADLINE: N.J. Death Linked to UNABOM; Mail Bomb Fits Pattern, U.S. Investigators Say
BYLINE: Roberto Suro, Washington Post Staff Writer
Federal investigators yesterday said the killing of a top advertising executive Saturday may have been the latest in a long series of crimes by a deadly bomber who specializes in mailing lethal packages to his victims.
The bomber, code named UNABOM, has been held responsible for 14 other incidents since 1978 that have resulted in 23 injuries and one death. The code name reflects the fact that most of the bomber's early targets involved universities or airlines.
On Saturday morning, Thomas J. Mosser, 50, died at home in North Caldwell, N.J., after opening a package that had been delivered on Friday by the Postal Service. A statement by the FBI Newark field office yesterday said that the bomb that killed Mosser "appears to have been constructed and mailed by the same individual" involved in the UNABOM cases.
"A physical examination of the bomb's components has led us to believe that this is linked to the other cases because there are some unique characteristics," said FBI Special Agent Rick Smith.
Investigators are also trying to determine where the bomb was mailed from and whether Mosser had any connection to either the airline industry or scientific research, especially in the area of computers because most of the bomber's previous victims have worked in those fields, Smith said.
The bomb killing Mosser was about the size of a videotape, and it exploded as Mosser opened it in his kitchen.
Experts have described previous bombs as "diabolical" in construction because they involved hundreds of hours of meticulous work, including the creation of handcrafted parts.
The FBI statement said the bomber is believed to be a white male in his late thirties to forties "with a high school education who has an exposure to and/or familiarity with the college environment. This individual meticulously constructs his explosive devices and is a loner."
The only known sighting of the bomber came in 1987 when a witness saw a man place behind a computer store a package that later exploded. The man was described as a white male with a ruddy complexion and blond or red hair. The FBI yesterday issued a sketch based on this sighting.
In 1993, the New York Times received a letter from a person claiming responsibility for previous bombings, and investigators believe the letter to be authentic. The letter bore the initials "FC", which also were found on several of the bombs.
Mosser recently was named executive vice president and general manager of Young & Rubicam Inc. Worldwide, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. He does not obviously fit the pattern of the bomber's other victims, which mostly have been people working at universities or involved in research. In addition, UNABOM has struck three times at targets related to commercial aviation.
Aside from Mosser's killing, the other death among the UNABOM cases was Hugh C. Scrutton, a Sacramento, Calif., businessman killed on Dec. 11, 1985, when he picked up a bomb disguised as a block of wood near an entrance to his computer rental store.
John Hauser was a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley working alone in an engineering laboratory on May 15, 1985, when he noticed what appeared to be a black notebook inside a plastic container. Opening the container out of curiosity set off an explosion that obliterated part of his right hand and ended Hauser's career as an Air Force fighter pilot.
Until Saturday, UNABOM's most recent bombings involved two packages mailed from Sacramento in June 1993 -- one to a medical researcher in Tiburon, Calif., and the other to a professor at Yale University.
"We are certainly looking at Northern California as a possible residence or favored area of operation," Smith said, "but so far we have not drawn any conclusions, and this remains a nationwide investigation."
The bomber has sometimes appeared to take care in selecting and preparing his targets. For example in 1980, Percy Wood, a former president of United Airlines, got a letter telling him to expect a book he needed to read about a week before he received a book-sized package containing a bomb.
In other cases, the bomber has been less discriminating. On Nov. 15, 1979, a bomb exploded on American Airlines Flight 444 as it flew from Chicago to Washington. The device was designed to explode at high altitude and caused 12 injuries.
From 1978 to 1982 the bomber appears to have struck at least once or twice a year, according to the FBI's list of UNABOM cases, but then there is a three-year break in the pattern. In 1985 there were four cases, but then came another hiatus until 1987, followed by another break until 1993.
The UNABOM Task Force, made up of three federal agencies, is offering a reward of up to $ 1 million for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in making or mailing these explosive devices. The task force number is 1-800-701-2662.
GRAPHIC: PHOTO, A NORTH CALDWELL, N.J., FIREFIGHTER COMFORTS SUSAN MOSSER SATURDAY OUTSIDE HER HOME, WHERE A MAIL BOMB KILLED HER HUSBAND, THOMAS. AP