Copyright 1994 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
December 13, 1994, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Page 1; Column 5; Metropolitan Desk
LENGTH: 1108 words
HEADLINE: BOMBING IN NEW JERSEY: THE OVERVIEW; Bomber Leaves Familiar Trail, Going Nowhere
BYLINE: By CLIFFORD J. LEVY, Special to The New York Times
DATELINE: NEWARK, Dec. 12
It did not take long for Federal agents to conclude that the mail bomb that killed an advertising executive over the weekend was sent by the shadowy figure who had unleashed similar attacks 14 times before. The bomb was designed like the others. And, the agents disclosed today, the information still legible on the shredded package was also chillingly familiar.
The postmark was San Francisco, long a center of activity for the suspect. And the return address was San Francisco State University, an indication that the bomber's violent fascination with academia had not ebbed in the 18 months since his handiwork maimed a professor in Connecticut and another in California, senior law-enforcement officials said.
Two days after the executive, Thomas J. Mosser, was killed in North Caldwell, N.J., the Federal agencies that have searched in vain for the bomber for 16 years once again found themselves poring over pieces of evidence from one of his grisly assaults, certain of the suspect but baffled by the choice of victim.
The suspect, who apparently has anarchist leanings, has now killed 2 people and wounded 23 others with pipe bombs that typically shatter into a hail of shrapnel upon detonation.
"He has been targeting a broad spectrum of the population," said Jim R. Freeman, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in San Francisco, which has been leading the investigation. "This has made it difficult to articulate to our investigators links between victims."
Federal agents today interviewed co-workers of Mr. Mosser, 50, and combed through lists of the clients that his companies have worked for, seeking a connection to what are believed to be the bomber's obsessions: universities, airlines, computers and the influence of technology in society. From those first two fields, the F.B.I. has given the case the code name Unabom.
Mr. Mosser had recently been promoted to general manager of Young & Rubicam, one of the world's largest advertising companies. He is the only victim from the advertising business.
But before he was promoted, Mr. Mosser had long been an executive at Young & Rubicam's public relations subsidiary, Burson-Marsteller, which has represented numerous computer and high-technology companies, including International Business Machines Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation, Microsoft, NEC, Apple and Motorola.
Federal agents were also checking whether Mr. Mosser received any sort of message from the bomber before the deadly delivery arrived, a tactic that was used before, apparently to allay suspicions that the victims might have had about receiving packages with return addresses that they did not recognize.
Mr. Mosser received a call recently from a man who asked for his help on a research project, said senior law-enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They said initially that they thought the call might have been related to the bomber, but today they were discounting that theory.
The bomber's attacks have often come in pairs, but senior law-enforcement officials seemed divided today about whether they expected another attack in the coming weeks. Some said they feared another attack, but others disagreed, saying it was foolish to try to predict the suspect's behavior with so little concrete information about him.
Many earlier bombs were stamped with the initials "FC," which seems to stand for an obscene phrase about computers, but investigators said they had not determined whether that signature was on the bomb that killed Mr. Mosser on Saturday in the kitchen of his home. The most recent bomb was the most powerful yet, the investigators said.
Though the package had San Francisco State University as its return address, that does not necessarily mean that it was mailed from there, officials said. The suspect has used universities as return addresses before, perhaps because they make the packages seem less suspicious or perhaps as some kind of symbolic gesture.
Of the two parcels that wounded professors at Yale University and the University of California at San Francisco last year, the return addresses for both were professors at California State University in Sacramento. Neither knew the victims or is suspected of sending the packages. It was not immediately clear whether the return address on the most recent package included a professor's name.
Ligeia Polidora, a spokeswoman for San Francisco State University, said that the F.B.I. had not contacted the university about the case.
Mr. Freeman said that at least 7 of the 15 attacks attributed to the bomber have some connection to Northern California, meaning that the victims lived there or the packages appeared to have originated there.
"He certainly has a familiarity with the Bay area," Mr. Freeman said of the bomber. "Whether he is a full-time resident, I don't know."
Originally, investigators believed that Mr. Mosser may have become a target after a short article on his promotion appeared in The New York Times on Dec. 5. The two professors maimed last year had been featured in Times articles, as had an earlier victim. A writer identifying himself as the bomber also wrote to The Times last year.
But today, Mr. Freeman said the package sent to Mr. Mosser was postmarked on Dec. 3, two days before the Times article.
The investigators did point out that Mr. Mosser had been mentioned in other publications in the days before the package was mailed.
Investigators as well as the victims have grown accustomed to such leads turning cold. "How can you predict what the next victim will be when this guy ranges nationwide this way?" said one of the bomber's earlier targets who escaped injury, Patrick C. Fischer, director of computer sciences at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Professor Fischer's secretary was injured 12 years ago by a bomb intended for him. He has carefully watched his mail since.
He said he thought the bomber might use library resources to get a home or office address for some victims. "He's not always up to date," Mr. Fischer said, noting the bomb meant for him was first mailed to an address at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., that was two years out of date, then forwarded to Vanderbilt.
Professor Fischer theorized that the bomber chose his victims as impersonal symbols of still murky grievances.
"He always has some new wrinkle, just enough so that his M.O. is basically the same," Professor Fischer said, referring to the suspect's method of operation. "But with just enough variety among the choice of victims that it's very hard to get a common denominator and solve the case."