Copyright 1996 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
April 11, 1996, Thursday, Final Edition
SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A11
LENGTH: 580 words
HEADLINE: Kaczynski Beard May Confuse Witness; Utah Investigator Says Woman Saw Clean-Shaven Man Put Object Near Car
BYLINE: William Claiborne, Washington Post Staff Writer
DATELINE: SALT LAKE CITY, April 10
An eyewitness who gave authorities their only physical description of the elusive Unabomber is unlikely to be able to positively identify suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski -- if he is the same man -- unless his beard is shaved off before he is put in a lineup, a Salt Lake City Police investigator who has worked on the case for nine years said today.
Officer Kyle Jones, the department's Unabomb Task Group case manager, said he has seen two photographs of Kaczynski since the Lincoln, Mont., recluse was arrested and believes he is a "plausible look-alike," based on his interviews of the only eyewitness. But Jones said in an interview that without seeing Kaczynski clean shaven he could not be certain.
"He certainly is in the same ballpark, the same realm. He has the same reddish blond hair, but without seeing him without the beard, it's hard to say," Jones said. Variable factors like hair color and skin color sometime make identifications after such a long period more difficult, he said. Jones said he has not talked with the FBI since Kaczynski's arrest but assumes federal agents are trying to keep the witness, a woman, from being "contaminated" by exposure to media coverage of Kaczynski's arrest, including photographs and videotapes of the suspect.
He described the woman as "very intelligent and very cooperative," and said he assumed the FBI will try to arrange a lineup or some other identification process. That could raise legal issues of whether Kaczynski could be forced to shave off his beard before participating in the lineup, Jones said.
On the morning of Feb. 20, 1987, the young woman, an employee of the CAAMS Inc. computer store near the University of Utah, was staring absently out of a rear window when she saw a strange man pull a wooden object out of a laundry bag and place it beside a car in the parking lot.
Jones said the woman, who no longer lives in the Salt Lake City area and whose identity is being withheld by the police and the FBI, stood "just a matter of feet" from the man, who was wearing a hooded gray sweat shirt and sunglasses. The Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Examiner, citing an unidentified law enforcement official, said aviator sunglasses and a sweat shirt were found Tuesday in Kaczynski's cabin.
The object the man deposited looked like short lengths of 2-by-4 boards nailed together, with nails protruding from the board. Jones said the device, which concealed a pipe bomb, was designed to look like construction debris.
"It was designed to look like a road hazard. That's what makes it so distinctive from most of the other bombs, because it was not individual specific," Jones said. Most of the other bombs, he said, were packages addressed to specific individuals.
The woman employee remarked to another employee that she thought someone was trying to flatten tires of cars that drove into the parking lot, but then the two workers became distracted by a telephone and moved away from the window.
Minutes later, their boss, Gary Wright, 26, drove into the lot, saw the object and kicked it. An explosion ripped through the lot, lacerating his arms, face and legs and leaving him with impaired function of one hand.
"The device was placed so that someone had to move it, but it didn't seem to matter to him who it was," Jones said. "This case was particularly unusual because it was a device anyone could have interacted with. Also, it was the first and only time he had been seen."