Unabomber News History

Copyright 1994 Gannett Company, Inc.


December 13, 1994, Tuesday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 1511 words

HEADLINE: Bomber 'most elusive' / 'He considers himself a real pro'

BYLINE: Maria Puente


He's thought to be a quiet loner with low self-esteem, trouble dealing with women and maybe an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

He likes to make lists.

He also likes to make bombs.

Identity: unknown. But the FBI calls him "Unabom."

So far, he's made at least 15 bombs, burned and injured 23 people and killed two others - the latest on Saturday, when a New Jersey advertising executive died after opening an explosive package received in the mail Friday.

The suspect may have a high school education. But for 16 years, he's thwarted the nation's savviest and most highly trained FBI agents, bomb experts and criminologists, who've spent millions of dollars trying to catch him.

"There have been bombers in the past, but this is extraordinary, this is extreme," says James Fox, dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Boston and author of Overkill: Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed.

The case - dubbed Unabom by the FBI because of the bomber's penchant to attack people who work for universities and airlines - is the first of its kind of decades.

In fact, experts say, there hasn't been anything like the Unabom case since the 1950s, when a man named George Metesky terrorized New York City for seven years with homemade bombs planted at crowded locations. Fifteen people were injured.

The Unabom suspect has "been the most wanted man in America for 10 years," says Lawrence Myers, who is writing a book on serial bombers and also is the author of Counterbomb: Protecting Yourself Against Car, Mail & Area-Emplaced Bombs. "It's the most delicious thing to him to see he's the most wanted man. . . . That's most important to him."

The bomber's explosive creations are sophisticated - meticulously handmade, almost lovingly assembled killing devices.

He's "one of the most creative and elusive bombers ever encountered," says an FBI press release.

Adds Fox: "If he weren't good at making bombs and then covering it up, he wouldn't still be on the loose."

And he may strike again. Soon.

Investigators think he may send, or already has sent, another mail bomb because that's his pattern.

The Unabom task force - including 35-40 agents from the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Postal Service - has little to go on but a speculative 1991 psychological profile, a list of apparently unconnected victims and the remains of his made-from-scratch bombs that are virtually impossible to trace.

"He is very good at what he does, unfortunately," says New Jersey FBI agent Barry Mawn. "And the bomb blows up a lot of evidence. We don't have a lot to go on."

The FBI has distributed a composite sketch of a suspect, based on a witness' description of a man in a hooded sweatshirt and aviator glasses who was seen placing a wooden box in the parking lot of a Salt Lake City computer store bombed in 1987.

The FBI's psychological profile suggests the person they are looking for is a white male in his 30s or 40s, probably reared in the Chicago area - where the first four bombs went off - now possibly living in Sacramento or San Francisco.

The profile continues: He has a history of menial jobs, and few friends. He is a neat dresser, meticulously organized, probably an ideal neighbor. Unlike most serial killers, he's not an attention-seeker.

Instead, the experts say, he enjoys the secret feelings of power when his devices explode, the police scurry about trying to find him and the media blare his exploits.

"He considers himself a real pro and that gives him a sense of pride," says Fox. "Bombing makes him feel better about himself."

Adds Myers: "He thinks he's so smart that he has to leave some intentional clues so they'll chase him some more. He sees his handiwork in print and on TV . . . (and likes) the mental rush of being hunted again because he's sent them a whole bunch of new clues."

Whoever is behind the attacks wouldn't necessarily have to be trained in bomb-making; a bomb can be made from easily obtainable items, such as fertilizer.

"It's not hard at all" to build a bomb, says Paul Ragonese, former member of the New York Police bomb squad. "If you read books, you could put it together."

But the devices in the Unabom case are unique - carefully designed to leave a "fingerprint" linking them to previous bombs.

"His signature is the careful blend of smokeless black powder he uses," says Myers. "He also makes his own wooden boxes . . . handcrafted almost like he has cabinetmaking skills. He spends an incredible amount of time on detail. He also polishes all of his metals, sands them."

Also, the bombs usually contain a part bearing the letters "FC."

In a letter to The New York Times last year, believed to be from the bomber, the writer identified "FC" as an anarchist group. Investigators say "FC" may stand for an obscene phrase denigrating computers.

That raises a possible motive: the suspect as a modern-day Luddite raging against technology. All the victims were connected to either the airline industry, computer industry or university departments in computers, genetics and technology.

The latest victim, Thomas Mosser, 50, an executive with the advertising firm Young & Rubicam, had numerous contacts with the airline industry, and his firm had just been hired by two major computer companies.

Mosser also had just been featured in a New York Times article about his recent promotion. Three of the other victims had been featured in Times articles as well.

But Fox questions the notion that the suspect has a technology grudge.

"I think he's simply striking back at successful people," Fox says. "They have something he does not have - professional success."

The randomness of the bombings terrifies many, as does the possibility the suspect won't be caught. Myers estimates that authorities catch only 1 out of every 3 bombers.

"They'll never catch him," predicts Myers. "What will catch him is old age . . . or incarceration for another reason. The only thing we can do is react to him."

Contributing: Andrea Stone

Warning signs The Postal Service says it's impossible to screen billions of pieces of mail for bombs. Experts say mail bombs frequently have similarities:

Explosive chemicals often leave stains

Package is lopsided, with soft spots or bulges, or envelope is rigid or bulky

Excessive postage; bombers typically avoid going into post offices

Erratic writing on the address label, with no return address

Key clues to 'Unabomb'

-- Most bombs had components, designed to survive the blasts, stamped with 'FC'

-- Investigators believe 'FC' represents an obscene phrase denigrating computers. Most targets appear involved in technology

-- The bombs have been constructed with hard-to-trace household items: nails, screws, towels, fishing line, glue, string, handmade switches, a barometer, metal, pipes, gunpowder and batteries

Where the bomber struck Since 1978 there have been 15 bombings in 12 cities that are linked in a case code-named 'Unabom' because early bombings targeted universities and airlines.

Evanston, Ill. (2) Washington, D.C. (1) Berkeley, Calif. (2) North Caldwell, N.J. (1) Auburn, Wash. (1) Ann Arbor, Mich. (1) Sacramento, Calif. (1) Salt Lake City (2) San Francisco (1) New Haven, Conn. (1) Chicago (1) Nashville (1)


May 25, 1978: A bomb at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., injures a security guard.

May 9, 1979: A bomb injures one person at Northwestern University's Technological Institute.

Nov. 15, 1979: Twelve people suffer smoke inhalation when a bomb explodes in a plane's cargo hold during an American Airlines flight, forcing an emergency landing at Dulles International Airport near Washington.

June 10, 1980: The United Airlines president is injured by a bomb at home in the Chicago area.

Oct. 8, 1981: A bomb is placed in a business classroom at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. No one is injured.

May 5, 1982: One person is injured at Vanderbilt University in Nashville; bomb is addressed to a professor.

July 2, 1982: A professor in electrical engineering and computer science is injured by a bomb in a faculty lounge at the University of California-Berkeley.

May 8, 1985: Police disarm a bomb mailed to the Boeing Co. in Auburn, Wash.

May 15, 1985: One person is injured by a bomb found in a computer room at the University of California-Berkeley.

Nov. 15, 1985: Two people are injured by a bomb mailed to a professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Dec. 11, 1985: A man is killed by a bomb found near a computer rental store in Sacramento, Calif.

Feb. 20, 1987: A man is injured by a bomb left in a lot behind a computer store in Salt Lake City.

June 22, 1993: A geneticist at the University of California-San Francisco is injured by a bomb sent to his home.

June 24, 1993: In New Haven, Conn., a Yale University computer scientist is injured in an office.

Dec. 10, 1994: An advertising executive is killed by a bomb sent to his North Caldwell, N.J., home.

 GRAPHIC: GRAPHIC, color, Source: Congressional Budget Office (Diagram); GRAPHIC, b/w, Marty baumann, USA TODAY, Source:Associated Press (Map, Suspect sketch by Linda Radin); PHOTO, color, Frankie Frost, Marin Independent Journal; PHOTO, color, AP