Copyright 1995 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company
The Houston Chronicle
July 31, 1995, Monday, 3 STAR Edition
SECTION: a; Pg. 2
LENGTH: 871 words
HEADLINE: Ex-SLA terrorist is potential suspect in Unabomber probe
BYLINE: JENIFER WARREN, PAUL JACOBS; Los Angeles Times
DATELINE: SACRAMENTO, Calif.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Each day the tips flow in, a hundred of them, sometimes more. They come from Sacramento, San Francisco and places far beyond - from people who believe they know the crafty serial bomber who has killed three people and wounded 23 more.
Despite the extraordinary outpouring, authorities said last week that there is no prime suspect in the 17-year-old Unabom case. But with the promise of a $ 1.1 million reward for the killer's capture, there have been possibilities galore.
For a time, federal agents zeroed in on a suspicious sailor, only to learn he was at sea during one of the bombings. On another occasion, a handyman in Salt Lake City became a tantalizing target, but he, too, had an alibi. Authorities also scrutinized a career criminal in Northern California, because his Social Security number matches a code the bomber uses to identify himself in letters.
One potential suspect on the FBI's list is James William Kilgore, 48, a fugitive from justice who went underground on a bomb-related charge in 1976 and has not been seen since.
Kilgore is best known for his connections to the Symbionese Liberation Army - the terrorist group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst more than two decades ago.
Some of those familiar with the Kilgore case see parallels with the Unabomber. The height and general appearance are about right. So is the timing: the bomber started mailing his deadly packages in 1978, not long after Kilgore disappeared, vowing to attack the U.S. government.
But the FBI has not pressed hard to find him, much to the frustration of some critics of the Unabom probe: ""He is the only fugitive wanted for bombing and hiding for 18 years - and they can't find him? ''said one law enforcement source. ""At least if they find him, they can find out whether he is the guy. '' Officially, Kilgore remains ""a potential suspect, as much as anybody else who hasn't been fully cleared, since he is still a fugitive,'' said the FBI's Sacramento spokesman, Tom Griffin.
The theory that Kilgore might be the Unabomber was ""looked at with a fine-toothed comb,'' said one federal source. ""Although he hasn't been totally eliminated, it doesn't strike any of (the investigators) as a juicy thing. ''
Those who knew Kilgore before he turned fugitive say he is an unlikely serial killer. He is a nice guy among hard-edged radicals, they say, an idealist to the core.
Unlike many other potential suspects, Kilgore presents special problems for investigators. He has been underground so long that even one-time friends cannot describe his current appearance or political beliefs.
Like the Unabomber, his whereabouts are a mystery, which means that agents cannot rule out his participation in the 16 attacks. And like the Unabomber, his occupation, lifestyle and habits are all unknown.
Kilgore first surfaced in connection with the case in April, when KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, citing unnamed federal sources, called him a ""prime suspect'' in the Unabom attacks. FBI officials have repudiated the report, but concede that Kilgore is one of many people they would like to interview.
""I think he's interesting, and you certainly can't eliminate him,'' said Lt. Joe Enloe, a Sacramento homicide detective involved in the investigation. ""The Unabomber has been virtually invisible ... all these years, and you can say the same about Kilgore. '' Said Herbert Clough, the former agent-in-charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, ""He meets a lot of the qualifications, in my view. He's real interesting, because of a number of
Among the reasons that Kilgore has attracted the attention of some law enforcement officials:
Photographs of Kilgore taken before he disappeared resemble a composite sketch of the Unabomber, drawn after a lone witness spotted him leaving a bomb in a Salt Lake City parking lot in 1987. Like the bomber, Kilgore is a white male with reddish hair now in his 40s. His build - 5 feet, 10 inches, 170 pounds - matches the description of the Unabomber as a man 5 feet, 10 inches, 160 pounds.
He is, in the words of one law enforcement source, ""a man of many disguises,'' who easily obtained driver's licenses and other identification in other names.
Born in Portland, Ore., he is the son of a former Northern California lumber broker, which may be significant because of the wood theme running through the Unabomber's attacks.
Some of his explosive devices have arrived in wooden boxes, while others have handcrafted wood parts. One of his targets was Percy Wood of Lake Forest, Ill., another lived on Aspen Drive. And his latest victim, Sacramento lobbyist Gilbert Murray, worked for the California Forestry Association until he was killed by a mail bomb in April.
Raised in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, Kilgore knew the Bay Area intimately and also spent time in Sacramento, 70 miles to the east. Several of the Unabomber's packages and letters have been mailed from Sacramento.
There are similarities between bombs planted by the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s and devices mailed by the Unabomber.
GRAPHIC: Drawing: Mug of unabomber suspect