Unabomber Case Files Trace Trail That Led to Kaczynski


Even before they searched Theodore J. Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin, federal agents had established a series of links between him and the series of Unabomber explosions, including a probable DNA match using saliva from two canceled postage stamps, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

The documents--the application for a warrant to search the cabin and a 104-page supporting affidavit--provide the most detailed look so far at how the government built its case against the eccentric former UC Berkeley math professor who investigators believe was responsible for the 17-year bombing spree that killed three people and injured 23 others. The materials were unsealed by U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell at the request of The Times and several other news organizations.

Among the new information: a detailed accounting of nearly $17,000 that Kaczynski’s family sent him over the years--money that investigators believe allowed Kaczynski to finance his bombing spree--and accounts given to investigators by Kaczynski’s mother of her son’s youthful interest in building devices out of wood and scraps, the materials later used to construct the Unabomber’s explosive devices.

The documents show how investigators probed the suspicions and evidence offered by Kaczynski’s mother and brother over a period of two months--beginning in mid-February, when David Kaczynski first told the FBI that he feared his brother was the suspect they had been hunting, and ending with Theodore Kaczynski’s arrest for possession of bomb-making equipment on April 3.


On Wednesday, federal law enforcement officials said Kaczynski could be indicted in Sacramento as early as next week on bombing charges that carry the death penalty. So far, Kaczynski, 55, has not been charged with any Unabomber-related offense. He has been jailed in Helena, Mont., since his arrest on a charge of illegally possessing bomb components.

According to the affidavit, Kaczynski’s saliva, taken from a stamp and an envelope that he had sent to his brother, yielded DNA that was a probable match to DNA taken from a postage stamp used by the Unabomber to mail a copy of the manifesto he sent to two newspapers and a Berkeley professor last year.

The affidavit also shows that before arresting Kaczynski and searching his cabin, investigators had prepared a detailed accounting of checks Kaczynski had received from his mother and brother from 1985 until 1995 and had established a correlation between when Kaczynski received checks and the dates of the bombings.

On Dec. 5, 1985, for example, Kaczynski received a $600 check, according to the affidavit. On Dec. 11 of that year, Hugh Scrutton, 38, was killed by a bomb found near his Sacramento computer store. David Kaczynski gave his brother $1,000 in November 1994, a month before advertising executive Thomas Mosser, 50, was killed by a bomb sent to his North Caldwell, N.J., home.


Kaczynski got another $2,000 from his brother in February 1995, two months before California Forestry Assn. President Gilbert P. Murray, 47, died after opening a mail bomb at his group’s Sacramento headquarters.

Investigators believe that the checks allowed a jobless, isolated Kaczynski to create and transport 16 bombs targeting universities, industry and airlines.

The investigators had also carefully reviewed letters and other papers provided by Kaczynski’s family and information gathered from sources such as his file at Harvard University, which the young math whiz entered in 1958 at age 16.

In the Harvard file, federal agents found a letter that Wanda Kaczynski wrote the university about her son.


“Much of his time is spent at home reading and contriving numerous gadgets made up of wood, string, wire, tape, lenses, gears, wheels, etc.,” she wrote--listing ingredients similar to those that the Unabomber would employ three decades later. “His table and desk are always a mess of test tubes, chemicals, batteries, ground coal, etc.”

In all, Wanda Kaczynski gave investigators 90 items including letters and essays written by her son. Some of that material, like other bits of supporting evidence quoted in the affidavit, was deleted by the judge to protect the names and addresses of witnesses.

Among the essays Kaczynski’s mother provided was an article that he wrote entitled “How I Blew Up [deleted].” It describes how a high school classmate blew up a mixture of chemicals that Kaczynski gave him. The mixture includes chemicals later used by the Unabomber in his devices.

“There was only one aspect of the subject which interested me, as any chemist could have seen from a brief inspection of my rather specialized home collection of reagents,” he wrote, before listing his home stash of chemicals. " . . . in suitable combinations these things are capable of exploding.’


Kaczynski goes on to describe a mistake he made in concocting an explosive brew, writing that the mixture was “practically impossible to work with.”

“The reader is advised not to play with it,” he added.

In addition to tracing his past, investigators also buttressed their case by comparing unique phrases, words and bits of prose contained in letters Kaczynski wrote to his family with the Unabomber’s 35,000-word manifesto, printed last fall by the Washington Post jointly with the New York Times.

Investigators noted, for example, that in both the letters and the manifesto, the writer consistently had misspelled certain words: “analyse,” rather than analyze, “wilfully,” instead of willfully and “instalment,” not installment.


The Unabomber in his manifesto also reversed an old cliche, writing that “you can’t eat your cake and have it too"--the same phrasing Kaczynski used in a letter to his mother.

The affidavit also described the similarities between the 16 bombs attributed to the Unabomber, noting that they each was made with a black powder that was subsequently found in Kaczynski’s plywood cabin. Law enforcement officials have said they believe that the similarities are strong enough that they can convince a jury that whoever built one of the Unabom devices made all of them.

Times staff writer Mark Gladstone in Sacramento contributed to this story.