Unabomber Ted Kaczynski plants 1st bomb in Chicago 40 years ago


On May 25, 1978, the first known bomb by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a man who would become known as the Unabomber, was left in the parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a Northwestern professor’s name in the return address.

The package’s return address listed Buckley Crist, a material sciences professor Northwestern University’s Technological Institute. A passerby found the package in the campus parking lot, and brought it to officials there. They returned it to Crist.

When it was delivered to his office at Northwestern the next day, Crist called for security, knowing he hadn’t sent anything. Northwestern Security Officer Terry Marker opened the package and it exploded, injuring his left hand.

That first bomb by Kaczynski, a Chicago native, began a 17-year bombing spree that killed three people, injured 23 others, and spanned the nation.

Kaczynski was born in Chicago in 1942, and spent his first 10 years in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. In 1952, three years after his younger brother David was born, the family moved to southwest suburban Evergreen Park.

Neighbors in Evergreen Park remembered Kaczynski as a very intelligent loner, who didn’t play with many friends, according to reporting in the New York Times. He excelled academically, skipped two grades, and graduated high school at the age of 15. He entered Harvard College in 1958 at the age of 16.

Kaczynski earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan, then accepted a teaching job at the University of California, Berkeley. At 25, he was the youngest assistant professor of mathematics in school’s history. He taught undergraduate calculus and geometry for two years before he abruptly resigned — without explanation — in 1969.

Kaczynski moved back in with his parents in west suburban Lombard before moving to a remote cabin he’d built outside Lincoln, Montana. His goal was to live a simple life and be self sufficient. He taught himself survival skills and used a bicycle to get around. Lincoln residents remembered he frequently visited the local library and didn’t think his lifestyle was particularly unusual for the area.

But by 1975, Kaczynski had become angry about the destruction of wildlife around his cabin by real estate developers and industrial projects. He sabotaged the development sites while also reading more about political philosophy and sociology, subjects that would later inform his manifesto.

By 1978, Kaczynski turned his attention elsewhere. The package left in the UIC parking lot was the first in a series of increasingly sophisticated bombs that were either hand-delivered or mailed to their targets. Kaczynski took great care in constructing the bombs, and was studious about not leaving fingerprints. He even put misleading clues in the devices to confuse investigators.

Investigators would later discover that the bomb intended for Crist coincided with a period of time when Kaczynski moved back to Chicago to work for his father and brother at a foam rubber factory. He moved back to Montana after being fired in August of 1978, but continued to focus on and operate in the Chicago area. He also mailed bombs to several airline officials.

On May 9, 1979, a Northwestern University graduate student was injured when he opened a Phillies brand cigar box that had been left on a table in the Technical Building on Northwestern’s campus.

On November 14, 1979, Kaczynski mailed a package bomb from a U.S. Post Office in Chicago that was crafted to explode on the airplane transporting it. The next day it was placed in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight traveling from Chicago to Washington, D.C. A faulty mechanism prevented it from exploding, but it released enough smoke to force an emergency landing. Police at the time said it had enough power to destroy the plane had it detonated as planned.

Because the bombing of an airplane is a federal crime, the FBI was pulled into the investigation, which they designated “UNABOM”: University and Airline Bomber. The FBI formed a task force with the ATF and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It would become the longest and most costly investigation in the FBI’s history up to the time of Kaczynski’s capture.

For the next 17 years, the Unabomber, as he became known, terrorized the country. The first fatality occurred in Sacramento, California, in 1985, when Hugh Scrutton, a 38-year-old computer store owner, was killed by a bomb placed in the parking lot in front of his store. Another computer store was targeted in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1987. That victim, Gary Wright, was seriously injured when he tried to move the bomb, which had been disguised as a piece of lumber.

It was six years until the next bomb. In 1993, Kaczynski critically injured Yale University computer science professor David Gelertner when he opened a bomb mailed to his home, the first of two bombings in one weekend.

In 1994, Thomas Mosser, an executive at PR firm Burson-Marteller, was killed by a mail bomb sent to his New Jersey home. In 1995, Gilbert Brent Murray, president of the timber lobbying group California Forestry Association, was also killed by a mailed bomb which was addressed to the former, retired president of the organization.

In total, Kaczynski sent 16 bombs over the course of his crime spree.

Kaczynski evaded capture for almost two decades, but in 1995 he began mailing letters to media outlets demanding they publish his manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future” in full. In return, he promised to “desist from terrorist activities.”

On September 19, 1995, following the recommendation of the Department of Justice and then-Attorney General Janet Reno, the 35,000 word essay was published by The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Kaczynski’s younger brother David recognized the style of writing and some of the beliefs as being his brother’s. David Kaczynski tipped off the FBI to the Unabomber’s identity.

Ted Kaczynski was arrested on April 3, 1996, at is cabin in Montana. He was charged with 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing and using bombs, and three counts of murder. He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to all charges on January 22, 1998 and accepting a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Kaczynski is currently serving eight life sentences without the possibility parole at ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

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Source: Chicago News

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