Unabomber News History

Copyright 1995 The Times Mirror Company

Los Angeles Times

July 7, 1995, Friday, Home Edition

SECTION: Part A; Page 3; Metro Desk

LENGTH: 1207 words





Sacramento police said Thursday that they videotaped a man resembling the elusive Unabomber in the crowd that gathered around the blast site where the terrorist's bomb killed timber lobbyist Gilbert Murray in April.

Police videotaped the crime scene and surrounding crowd when they arrived and noticed that a man abruptly hurried away when he realized he was being taped, said Homicide Lt. Joe Enloe.

When police studied his image later, they saw that he was wearing aviator-style sunglasses that are very similar to those worn by the Unabomber when he was seen in 1987 -- the only known sighting of the terrorist.

The man, who appeared to be in his 40s or early 50s, also had a mustache like the Unabomber's. He was wearing a baseball cap with an unrecognizable logo and a watch with a distinctive symbol on its face.

"This guy caught our attention because he obviously didn't want to be photographed," Enloe said. "Was he cutting work? Cheating on his wife? Is he wanted for something else? We don't know. But he left the area quickly when he knew we were looking at him."

Meanwhile, scrap metal dealers in the Bay Area say they have been shown a grainy photograph of a man by FBI investigators -- along with an enlarged close-up of a watch with an unusual face.

FBI agents have been showing possible witnesses a photograph taken from a videotape, hoping to identify the subject of the picture in connection with the elusive Unabomber, said FBI spokesman George Grotz. But Grotz would not say where the video came from or whether it was from the Sacramento police.

Grotz said agents do not believe that the individual in the photograph is the Unabomber, who has killed three and wounded 23 during 17 years. He would not specify what connection the man in the photo might have to the case or whether the picture was taken from the Sacramento police video.

Sacramento police said they turned over at least one still print from the videotape to the FBI, but said they did not know whether the FBI is using its photograph in any way.

The revelation of Sacramento's videotape and the FBI photographs came as the Unabomb Task Force continues evaluating documents and tips provided in the last week, including six communiques from the Unabomber to newspapers, magazines and a UC Berkeley professor.

Los Angeles International Airport remained on alert Thursday with increased security, although the time period of the original threat has passed and the Unabomber said in a letter to the New York Times that the threat was a hoax.

The FBI also said Thursday that it has no plans to release a new composite sketch of the Unabomber -- drawn by the artist who prepared the original composite sketch of the suspect -- that for the first time shows him without sunglasses.

The artist, a former consultant for the task force hunting the serial bomber, has distributed the sketch to federal agents and to local police departments.

FBI spokesman Grotz said investigators prefer an earlier composite sketch of the suspect with his sunglasses on because they believe it to be "the best likeness" available.

He said the FBI sees no need to release a new sketch because the witness who saw the Unabomber in 1987 "is very pleased" with the drawing.

"The FBI will continue to use that composite until such time as another witness steps forth," Grotz said.

The new sketch of the Unabomber was drawn by Canadian artist Robert Exter, who drew the first composite of the terrorist based on the only sighting of him -- in a Salt Lake City parking lot in February, 1987. Exter, whose work includes sketches of the notorious Green River serial murder suspect in Washington state, said he mailed his new drawing to the FBI in December and believes it could be of help in finding the bomber.

"I don't understand why they won't use it," Exter said in an interview. "If it's on target, which I believe it is, then he might panic and blow his cover."

At the time he prepared the original sketch, Exter said, he was asked by investigators to draw the Unabomber without sunglasses but felt he lacked the skills to do so. In recent years, however, Exter has consulted with anthropologists and learned how to study human skull structure to determine corresponding eye shape and size.

The eyes he gave the Unabomber "may not be exact, but they are definitely in the ballpark," Exter said. "When you have a certain shape of skull, there's not a whole lot of variation in the eyes -- except maybe in their cant."

Exter said he was moved to re-sketch the Unabomber without glasses after the death of New Jersey advertising executive Thomas Mosser on Dec. 10, 1994. He said he believes the sunglasses -- which obscure a large portion of the bomber's face -- discourage people from attempting to recognize a suspect.

"I thought if we gave this guy eyes, it might trigger something before he kills somebody else," Exter said.

Sacramento detectives endorse that conclusion and support the release of the revised sketch. Enloe said the new drawing gives the terrorist a "much different and more human look."

"The sketch that's out there hasn't produced anything, so why not try this?" Enloe said. "There's a certain amount of guess" in revealing the eyes, he conceded, but it's worth a try.

FBI officials said they are no longer interested in releasing a sketch of the Unabomber without sunglasses, and one veteran artist said that such a drawing could be harmful to the investigation.

Oregon artist Jean Boylan, who drew a second composite of the Unabomber last year at the FBI's request, said drawing the terrorist's eyes amounts to "pretending you know something you don't." "Releasing that would be disastrous," said Boylan, who worked on the Polly Klaas kidnaping case in Petaluma and also sketched John Doe No. 2 in the Oklahoma City bombing. "It's totally speculative and unprofessional."

If the new sketch led to a Unabomb suspect, Boylan added, the use of Exter's technique could create problems in court: "A defense attorney would have a field day with that," she said.

Exter's sketch, which was viewed by The Times, was done in watercolors and shows a face that appears somewhat thinner than the sketch being shown by the media. In addition, the jaw line is softer, the hairline is higher and the features have a Nordic look.

The eyes are relatively small, and have been colored blue, because "the bomber has light hair and the odds are he has light-colored eyes," Exter said.

Finally, unlike the somewhat ominous look of the Unabomber in the current sketch, the new drawing evokes a milder-looking personality, that of your average-Joe neighbor or Little League coach down the block.

Meanwhile, investigators studying the Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto have begun looking for clues in the writings of radical environmental groups in the Bay Area, task force officials said.

Those comments prompted a vigorous denunciation from Earth First! spokesman Daryl Cherney, who accused Davis of "spreading disinformation for the benefit of those who don't like environmentalists."

"People from the radical environmental community are roundly condemning (the Unabomber) as a fraud," he said, "and of course as a psychotic violent person."