Ted Kaczynski was a former math professor and “twisted genius”. He came to be known as the Unabomber when he carried out a 17-year spree of mysterious bombings that killed three people and baffled the FBI, he died on Saturday at the age of 81.
Kaczynski was found unresponsive early Saturday morning at the Federal Medical Center Butner, a facility for prisoners with special health needs, in Butner, North Carolina, and pronounced dead at a local hospital. He was shifted to the hospital in December 2021 due to poor health.
According to the sources, the death is being investigated as a possible suicide but there is no confirmation on the cause of death yet.
Kaczynski, who went nearly twenty years without being captured until his arrest in 1996, was considered America’s most prolific bomber. Between 1978 and 1995, Ted Kaczynski placed or mailed 16 bombs that killed three people and injured two dozen others, according to reports.
In 1995, before he was identified as the Unabomber, he demanded the newspapers publish his long manuscript, which he had written, warning that he would continue the killings otherwise. Both the New York Times and Washington Post published the 35,000-word manifesto later that year at the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney General and the director of the FBI.
Ted was a Harvard University graduate, a loner since childhood. He targeted academics, scientists, and computer store owners and even tried to blow up a commercial airliner in a one-man terror campaign from 1978 to 1995 against what he believed were the evils of modern technology.
The name ”Unabomber” was inspired by the case name UNABOM, which is derived from the UNiversity and Airline BOMbing targets, according to the FBI.
For years, he frustrated police who, with no solid clues to the killer’s identity, dubbed his case UNABOM, for University and Airline Bombings. A breakthrough came when Kaczynski released a rambling, 35,000-word manifesto entitled “Industrial Society and Its Future” that was published in the media in September 1995.
If it hadn’t been for the suspicions of his brother and sister-in-law, Kaczynski might never have been caught. Kaczynski’s sister-in-law, Linda Patrik, was one of the first to identify Kaczynski as the Unabomber after reading the Unabomber’s writing.
In an interview with “20/20 on ID Presents: Homicide” in 2016, Patrik recalled the first time she suspected Kaczynski was responsible for the serial bombings.
Besides, Kaczynski’s younger brother, David, tipped off police that the author’s ideas sounded like those of Ted. The family eventually decided to contact the FBI, and on April 3, 1995, a 9-man SWAT team apprehended Kaczynski in his cabin in Montana. A live bomb and a “wealth of bomb components” were found at the cabin, the FBI said, as well as “40,000 handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of Unabomber crimes.”
After rejecting his lawyers’ attempts to have him plead insanity, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all federal charges relating to the bombings in 1998 and a California court sentenced him to four life terms plus 30 years in prison.
He was described by the FBI as “a twisted genius who aspires to be the perfect, anonymous killer,”. Ted was sent to ADX Florence, a “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado. Thereafter, he was transferred to the North Carolina facility in 2021.
Theodore John Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, in Chicago to working-class Polish-American parents. According to the FBI, Kaczynski, who had attended Harvard at 16 and earned a Ph.D. in math at the University of Michigan, had also threatened to blow up airlines. He grew up in Chicago, where his first bomb exploded, taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where two devices were left, and had lived in Salt Lake City, which was also a target, authorities said.
“He wasn’t exactly gregarious, but he was extremely articulate,” Dale Eickelman, Kaczynski’s friend in his early high school years, told the Daily Southtown newspaper in Chicago after Kaczynski’s arrest.
“I remember Ted was very good at chemistry, I remember Ted had the know-how of putting together things like batteries, wire leads, potassium nitrate and whatever, and creating explosions” at the age of 12 and 13, Eickelman said.
While it is not known exactly what caused Kaczynski to channel his natural talent toward evil, his participation in an infamous science experiment at Harvard may have been one reason. There, psychologists subjected volunteer students, including Kaczynski, to hours of extreme verbal and emotional abuse as part of an attempt to measure how people handled stress. The experiment, now regarded as unethical, lasted three years.
Others have cited a period in Kaczynski’s childhood when he spent long periods in isolation due to a severe outbreak of hives.
The prosecution of Kaczynski was supervised by the now Attorney General Merrick Garland when he was a senior Justice Department official. Garland also supervised the Oklahoma City Bombing investigation before he was Attorney General.