Unabomber News History

Copyright 1995 Gannett Company, Inc.


May 22, 1995, Monday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 924 words

HEADLINE: FBI: Unabomber will be caught / 'Hundreds of leads' in case that began in '78

BYLINE: Maria Goodavage



Cathy Wilwerdin, assistant to an executive at Louisiana-Pacific lumber company, says she gets "all nervous" when she opens the mail for her boss.

Behind her fear: Nearly a month ago, timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray was killed when he opened a package sent by the so-called Unabomber, whose explosives have killed three people and injured 23 others since 1978.

"The Unabomber says he's after the top people, but it's the poor secretaries who open their mail," says Wilwerdin. "I can't wait until they catch him so we don't have to sweat every time we get a package."

About 80 federal agents have been in pursuit since Murray's death April 24, doing analyses of the bombs and letters sent by the bomber, and scouring the Sierra Nevada, where he claims to test his devices.

"The effort being put forth is monumental," says Bob Griego, a special agent with the FBI. "We're tracking hundreds of leads. I can't say if we're close or not, but at some point, we will find him."

The FBI thinks the Unabomber is a white man in his 40s, who lives near Sacramento. His nickname stems from his first targets: universities and airlines.

Over the weekend, FBI agents released a detailed description of a typical bomb, based on witnesses to the last attack: shoebox size, wrapped in brown paper, sealed with nylon tape and weighing about 10 pounds. The package was stamped "priority," and the names of the addressee and sender were typed on gummed labels.

Terrorism and forensics experts applaud the FBI's efforts.

"They're doing everything possible. But he has an extremely sophisticated, very clever criminal mind," says Michael Hershman, president of the Fairfax Group, a Virginia-based investigation and counterterrorism firm.

The Unabomber doesn't share Hershman's opinion of the FBI. "The FBI is a joke," he taunted in a letter to The New York Times the same day he sent his latest bomb.

Hershman says that because of the Unabomber's smarts, that he seems to work alone and makes his bombs of common materials, "indeed he may not be caught any time soon, no matter what they do."

The FBI has offered a $ 1 million reward. Following Murray's death, Louisiana-Pacific added a $ 100,000 reward.

"We have to protect ourselves and others," says Louisiana-Pacific spokesman Bill Windes. "We don't need him around hurting people in this industry or anywhere."

The latest bombing wasn't the Unabomber's first link with wood. Many of his victims have wood or wood-associated words in their names or addresses. Many of his bombs contain wood instead of metal components, and are boxed in as many as four different types of wood.

But in the letter to the Times, the Unabomber railed against "the worldwide industrial system," writing that "the people we are out to get are the scientists and engineers . . . in critical fields like computers and genetics."

In that letter, the Unabomber said that if a national publication would publish a 29,000- to 37,000-word manifesto prepared by unidentified anarchists behind the bombings, the terrorism would stop.

Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione has offered to print the article. "My intent is . . . to try and save lives," he said in a written statement. Guccione said he would not assist the FBI in catching the Unabomber.

Criminologists say they don't think publishing the article would do any good.

"Like other serial killers, the Unabomber has gotten addicted to murder. Once you murder for 17 years, it's rare to stop," says Mike Rustigan, a criminology professor at San Francisco State University who specializes in serial killers.

Griego says he hopes the Unabomber's writings will lead to his downfall. "Someone might recognize the syntax, the language he uses, the ideas he puts forth."

The Unabomber's letters shed light on his character, say experts. They agree that although he claims otherwise, he is likely working alone.

"The Unabomber is a nobody who has become a somebody with a monstrous ego," says Rustigan. "He isn't the kind of guy to share the limelight, to work in a basement with others."

Rustigan says the Unabomber is typical of criminals known as missionary serial killers. "He enjoys killing and maiming, but with the moral masquerade of a higher cause. When he says 'we' he means the people of the world he thinks share his beliefs," he says. "He's the far-left version of the paranoid ultraright that hit Oklahoma City."

Criminologists say the Unabomber might have failed in a high-tech career or had a falling out with a professor.

Rustigan believes the Unabomber might work part time in a machine shop, painting job or some other "low level, semi-skilled" job. "There's a great gap in what he thinks he should be and what he is," he says.

Terrorism authorities agree that the Unabomber's latest crime may have been prompted by the attention the Oklahoma City federal building bombing was receiving at the time.

"The Unabomber seems to have had a case of explosion envy," says John Thompson, director of Toronto's MacKenzie Institute of Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda.

Thompson expects the Unabomber to make a mistake. "He may have a very subliminal self-destructive urge to be caught. He could slip up on something minor and that would be it."

But for now, the Unabomber probably realizes he may have pushed the envelope a little too far by writing those letters, and may lay low for a while, say crime experts. "We may not be hearing from the Unabomber for some time now," says Rustigan. "But we haven't heard the last of him."

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, b/w, Rich Pedroncelli, AP; PHOTO, b/w, FBI via AP (Composite sketch)