Unabomber suspect is detained in Montana Tips from relatives lead to ex-professor

no charges filed

April 04, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal agents detained yesterday in Montana a man they suspect of being the Unabomber, the terrorist who has left a 17-year-long trail of bombs across the United States that have killed three people and maimed 23.

The suspect, Theodore J. Kaczynski, 53, is a former assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley who graduated from Harvard University and received a doctorate from the University of Michigan -- just the sort of settings in which the authorities had been hunting for the bomber.

Since the early 1970s, Dr. Kaczynski has lived in a tiny, hand-built cabin northwest of Helena, Mont., on the edge of Lolo National Forest, an area so remote that one of the FBI agents who kept him under surveillance there is said to have watched a cougar attack and kill a deer.

Authorities confronted Dr. Kaczynski at the cabin yesterday and, after a brief scuffle, searched it for evidence of bomb-related material. It was not clear last night what they found.

The FBI put Dr. Kaczynski under scrutiny about two months ago, when -- after years of fruitless searching across the country, false leads and the publication of a 35,000-word manifesto from the bomber -- the long-awaited breakthrough came: Members of Dr. Kaczynski's family in the Chicago area, apparently while cleaning house, discovered writings that seemed strikingly similar to the Unabomber's anarchist tracts.

His family turned the papers over to the FBI, apparently relying on a relative, a Washington lawyer, as an intermediary. Members of the family permitted the FBI to search their house, and, officials said, further evidence was found.

While law enforcement officials said that they strongly suspected Dr. Kaczynski, he was not placed under formal arrest. He was detained outside his home after a scuffle with agents trying to serve a search warrant. He was not booked or fingerprinted.

And although he remained under detention, his whereabouts were unclear last night.

Some officials said they expected that he would be formally charged with the bombings, and government lawyers prepared to announce his arrest. The officials said they had uncovered evidence that could link him to the bombings through fingerprints, typewriter imprints, unexploded devices and DNA analysis of saliva recovered from stamps that the bomber used to mail letters to his victims and to news organizations.

Dr. Kaczynski was reared in Evergreen Park, Ill., a working-class suburb of Chicago.

A spokesman for Harvard University, Alex Huppe, said that Dr. Kaczynski graduated from Harvard College in 1962, earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

Professor Maxwell O. Reade, the associate chairman for graduate students at the University of Michigan mathematics department in the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, now retired, said Dr. Kaczynski had written his doctoral dissertation on modern analysis. The paper covered "boundary properties of spaces and functions," Dr. Reade said.

The Unabomber began his mayhem in May 1978 and delivered his last bomb in April 1995, his meticulously built devices growing ever more powerful and lethal, and his communications to authorities more menacing.

In an effort to showcase his anti-technological ideology, the Unabomber last year sent the New York Times a 35,000-word manuscript that railed against what he described as the corrupt and dehumanizing influences of post-industrial society. Academics said the writing conveyed passable but unoriginal thinking about subjects like the history of science.

After the Unabomber had pledged to cease his campaign of violence if the Times or the Washington Post published his manifesto, the newspapers jointly financed the publication of the manuscript by the Post in September. Later it was distributed widely through computer networks.

The manifesto, and a false threat in California to blow up a plane, prompted some criminal profilers to alter their view of the bomber, seeing him not as a terrorist with a political grudge but as a serial killer whose bombs fulfilled an inner psychological need.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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