Copyright 1995 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
April 25, 1995, Tuesday, Home Edition
SECTION: Part A; Page 1
LENGTH: 1858 words
HEADLINE: SERIAL BOMBER BLAMED IN DEATH IN SACRAMENTO
BYLINE: By DAN MORAIN and JENIFER WARREN, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
A mysterious serial bomber linked to 15 attacks that have left two people dead and 22 injured since 1978 apparently struck again Monday, killing a lobbyist with a pipe bomb concealed in an innocuous-looking package mailed to his office.
Richard Ross, Sacramento's FBI special agent in charge, said a "preliminary assessment of some of the materials" at the scene of the bombing just four blocks from the state Capitol "strongly indicates" it was the work of the serial attacker known as Unabomber.
"A very meticulous effort is being made to acquire any and all evidence that may help us put an end to this string of malicious and horrible bombings," Ross said.
Monday's explosion took the life of Gilbert Murray, president of a timber industry group called the California Forestry Assn. Murray, 47, of suburban Roseville, was a married father of three and a licensed forester who had worked for the association for about eight years.
Ross said the pipe bomb -- contained in a heavy package about the size of a shoe box -- was addressed to another individual at the forestry association. He would not identify that person, nor say whether the package carried a return address or other identifiable markings.
FBI officials described the bomb as a "powerful device" that caused a small fire and extensive damage to the association's office in a one-story brick building in the heart of downtown Sacramento.
Tari Sessions, a secretary in a law office behind the building, said she heard "a big crash" that sounded like two train cars hooking up.
"I said, 'Oh my God, what happened,' and I stood up, ran out and saw all the smoke," recalled Sessions, whose office was rocked by the blast. "It was too close for comfort."
"It blew doors out; it blew windows out," said Sacramento Fire Department Division Chief Jan Dunbar. "There's a lot of debris in the hallway. . . . There's glass and ceiling tiles on the floor."
U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said Monday's explosion would receive the highest priority by the Justice Department. Over the past 17 years, the Unabomber has been blamed for attacks that have killed two people -- now a third -- and injured 22. Murray was the Unabomber's second Sacramento victim. The first was a computer store owner, Hugh Scrutton, 38, who was killed in 1985 by a parcel bomb he found in a parking lot outside his store.
Three other victims also were from Northern California, but the bomber has struck from coast to coast, in the Midwest, the South and twice in Utah. The Unabomber's last known victim was a New Jersey advertising executive killed by a mail bomb in December, 1994.
When the first Sacramento bombing occurred, detectives thought they were dealing with a "local, revenge-type crime," recalled Ray Biondi, a retired Sacramento County Sheriff's Department homicide lieutenant who investigated the Unabomber's first murder.
"We soon found it was part of a series that had been going since 1978," Biondi said. "Initially, we didn't have any strong theories about Sacramento. We thought he maybe was passing through."
But a 1993 letter from the Unabomber had a Sacramento postmark. Now, with the second killing here, and given that other bombings have occurred in Northern California, "there probably is a strong Sacramento connection," Biondi said.
Last year, a $1-million reward was posted for information leading to the Unabomer's arrest. But no suspects have been turned up, despite the efforts of a federal task force based in San Francisco. The FBI has established a special hot line for tips related to the Unabomber. The number is (800) 701-BOMB.
FBI agents have sketched a composite of a suspect after a man was seen placing two 2-by-4 boards with protruding nails in the parking lot outside a Salt Lake City computer store. He was wearing a hooded sweat shirt and dark glasses, and was described as 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 165 pounds with light hair.
FBI officials dubbed the series of attacks Unabom, which represents a combination of two of the bomber's favorite targets universities and airlines. One target was a president of United Airlines, and several have been university professors.
Monday's explosion occurred shortly after 2 p.m. when a clerical worker for the forestry association delivered the package -- sent through the mail and wrapped in brown paper -- to Murray in the building near 13th and I streets, police said.
The bomb exploded immediately, killing Murray. There were five other people in the office, but no other injuries were reported. A pregnant woman was taken to a hospital as a precaution and released, police said.
Outside the building, police roped off a block-long section of roadway as authorities prowled for clues. The team of investigators includes the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the state Fire Marshal's Office and local fire and police officials.
Gov. Pete Wilson condemned the bombing and said he was working with the State Police to ensure that all state facilities are protected by "maximum security."
"A civilized society cannot tolerate these sorts of heinous actions, and we will bring all forces to bear to see that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this crime are swiftly brought to justice," Wilson said in a statement.
The explosion came less than a week after the blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed at least 83 people and left about 150 missing.
Dana Santiago, a construction worker who was standing in the street about 25 yards from the scene of the Sacramento blast, said his mind raced to the Oklahoma City tragedy after he heard a thundering boom and then saw a woman stagger out of the forestry association building.
"We thought, 'Oh (no), somebody set off a bomb,' " Santiago said. Because he is working on a new high-rise scheduled to house the state attorney general, Santiago said he feared that the blast might have been the work of anti-government extremists like those accused in the Oklahoma attack.
"Since the Oklahoma City thing, it's been on our minds that it could happen here," Santiago said.
The California Forestry Assn. is a nonprofit trade group that lobbies on behalf of wood products companies and commercial forest landowners. In 1993, it filed an unsuccessful petition asking the federal government to remove the northern spotted owl from the endangered species list.
Lobbyists and others familiar with forestry issues said 1995 has been a quiet year on the timber front, with most of the legislation focusing on minor procedural changes in forest regulations.
Friends of Murray described him as a highly professional lobbyist who was a determined advocate for timber companies but displayed a low-key, affable style.
"It's crazy. It's like the missile hit the wrong target," said former state Sen. Barry Keene, who represented the North Coast during his years in the Legislature and worked on many timber-related bills. "You might not agree with his point of view, but he was not extreme in any sense of the word."
Teresa A. Davies, a lobbyist who worked for the forestry association until a year ago and now works for Louisiana Pacific Timber Co., said Davies "was just real honorable and down to earth." He enjoyed spending his off hours coaching Little League and joining his children at school activities, she said.
Murray's relatives declined to comment.
Many of the Unabomber's attacks have been on people who are in some way involved in computers. But the Unabom devices also have components related to wood. The bases are wooden, and fictional return addresses have been Spruce or Elm streets, or some other tree.
In addition, one of his victims was named Wood, and his target in December, a New Jersey advertising executive, lived on Aspen Drive.
Brian M. Jenkins, a terrorism expert and deputy chairman of the investigative firm, Kroll Associates, called the latest victim "somewhat of a shift in target." But he noted that based on the construction of the bombs, wood may have "some personal meaning to him."
In recent times, the Unabomber has placed his initials on the devices, which are built with painstaking care, often from what seemingly are pieces of junk. Officials at Monday's bombing said there were small holes in the walls, an indication that the bomb was filled with metal fragments and designed to kill.
Monday's bombing comes on the heels of three bomb-related incidents in Nevada in the past month, all aimed against structures of the U.S. Forest Service. No one was injured in the explosions and authorities have turned up no motives or suspects, Forest Service spokeswoman Erin O'Connor said.
Times staff writers Carl Ingram, Ronald J. Ostrow, Max Vanzi and Dave Lesher contributed to this story.
Danger in the Mail
Bombings that law enforcement officials believe are linked and are being investigated by the FBI's Unabom task force.
* May 25, 1978: Package sent to Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, with return address at Northwestern University, exploded and injured a security guard.
* May 9, 1979: Bomb placed in Technological Building at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., detonated and injured student who tried to open it.
* Nov. 15, 1979: Twelve jet passengers treated for smoke inhalation when parcel exploded in cargo hold. The flight, from Washington to Chicago, made emergency landing at Dulles International Airport.
* June 10, 1980: United Airlines president injured when he attempted to open a mailed package at his Chicago-area home.
* Oct. 8, 1981: Bomb squad disarmed device found in business classroom of Milton Bennion Hall at the University of Utah.
* April 25, 1982: Secretary at Vanderbilt University in Nashville injured when she opened package addressed to professor. Package had been forwarded from Pennsylvania.
* July 2, 1982: Professor in electrical engineering and computer science department at UC Berkeley injured when he attempted to move package found in faculty lounge.
* May 8, 1985: Police disarm bomb found in package mailed to Boeing Co. in Auburn, Wash., from Oakland.
* May 15, 1985: Graduate student at UC Berkeley severely injured when he attempted to open box left in computer terminal room.
* Nov. 12, 1985: Secretary injured when she opened package mailed from Salt Lake City to a professor in Ann Arbor, Mich.
* Dec. 11, 1985: Computer store owner in Sacramento killed when he attempted to move a package left behind his store.
* Feb. 20, 1987: Computer company employee in Salt Lake City injured when he attempted to move package left in parking lot.
* June 22, 1993: Geneticist at UC San Francisco lost several fingers when package exploded at his home.
* June 24, 1993: Professor at Yale University injured when he opened a package in his office and it exploded.
* Dec. 10, 1994: Advertising executive killed by bomb sent to his North Caldwell, N.J., home.
* April 24, 1995: California Forestry Assn. executive killed by letter bomb sent to his Sacramento office.
Source: Times staff and wire reports
GRAPHIC: Photo, Gilbert Murray, slain by bomb, was president of the California Forestry Assn., a trade group. Associated Press