Unabomber News History

Copyright 1993 The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune

September 27, 1993, Monday

SECTION: NEWS; Ed. 1,2,3,4; Pg. A-3

LENGTH: 960 words

HEADLINE: Mail bomber back after lull since '87 Focus of hunt is again on Northern California

BYLINE: JIM HERRON ZAMORA San Francisco Examiner


Takash Kawai didn't think his master's thesis in music was particularly explosive, but officials who received it in the mail at Cal State near Long Beach thought otherwise.

They called in the bomb squad from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Deputies detonated it in a California field.

University officials feared the package Kawai sent from his parents' home in Japan was a bomb. There were no explosives inside, only sheet music and a cassette tape, a music thesis that had taken Kawai and a collaborator about 1,000 hours to complete.

"It's a complete mess," said Juan Hernandez, who recited his poetry on Kawai's tape. "We have the master tape and the basic score, but it's going to take us several hundred hours to retape, edit and mix it all over again."

Kawai was an indirect victim of a mail bomber who targeted scholars and university campuses in the 1970s and 1980s and re-emerged in June, injuring professors at UC San Francisco and Yale University.

As students flock back to schools around the country, they find professors and campus mail-room workers warily eyeing suspicious-looking packages.

Kawai's thesis isn't the only innocent parcel to be destroyed in the nationwide mail bomb scare.

In July at UC San Francisco, a building was evacuated, and the San Francisco police bomb squad detonated a package that turned out to contain several audiotapes "on tips and methods to get you to relax and release stress," said campus Police Chief Ron Nelson.

At UC Berkeley, which receives a million pieces of mail every month, mail-room workers have been taking special precautions because the bomber mailed two bombs to the campus in the 1980s, said UC Police Lt. Pat Carroll.

Immediately after the re-emergence of the mail bomber in June, campus police at UC San Diego received four reports of suspicious packages. None proved dangerous.

Since then, faculty and staff at UCSD and San Diego State University have been advised to be extra cautious with mail, looking out for packages with no return address, excessive weight or suspicious markings.

"I always wondered what happened to the guy," said Diogenes Angelakos, a UC Berkeley electrical engineering professor whose right hand was damaged in 1982 when he picked up a bomb in a room near his office in Cory Hall. "He seems to come back to Northern California. Why?"

More than 25 federal and local law enforcement agents in San Francisco are asking the same question. The case, code-named UNABOM by the FBI in the 1980s, is being investigated by a task force including the FBI; the Postal Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington, D.C.; and several local law enforcement agencies.

"This is a difficult case for us; it is very complicated and frustrating," said John Killorin, a spokesman for the bureau. "This is a person who hits and then disappears for several years."

The bomber mailed or placed 12 devices from 1978 through 1987, killing one man -- 38-year-old Hugh Scrutton in his Sacramento computer store, in 1985 -- and injuring 21 others, the FBI said.

Then, after six years of inactivity, he struck again. On June 22, Dr. Charles Epstein, 59, a geneticist at UC San Francisco, lost three fingers when a bomb detonated in his hands as he opened his mail at home. Two days later, a similar bomb exploded in the office of Yale computer scientist David Gelernter, 38.

Investigators are puzzled why the bomber stopped for six years, then started up again.

In his last attack before disappearing, he was seen placing a bomb in a parking lot of a Salt Lake City computer company in February 1987. Witnesses described a slender, 6-foot-tall, white man in his 30s with reddish-blond hair. The sighting could have driven him underground.

The bomber has never explained his motives, but in a few instances has sent letters to his targets using false names a few weeks before mailing bombs. He sent a letter to an airline executive, exhorting him to read a book that would be arriving in the mail. He asked a professor to read a forthcoming manuscript.

The same week the parcels were sent to Epstein and Gelernter, the bomber sent a letter to the New York Times identifying the author as "a group calling ourselves FC." The letter promised to "give information about our goals at some future time."

"He's trying to reach out to us. I think he's desperately seeking a dialogue," Biondi said. "I wish he would just call us. He clearly wants some kind of recognition. He has some message he wants us to understand."