Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 38° Clear
News >  Nation/World

Did Failed Romance Ignite Kaczynski’s Rage In 1978? Federal Investigators Want To Know What Made Suspected Unabomber Tick

Serge F. Kovaleski Washington Post

Federal law enforcement authorities involved in the Unabomber case are investigating whether there is a connection between suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski’s brief failed relationship with a woman in Lombard, Ill., in 1978 and the beginnings that same year of a deadly bombing spree that continued sporadically until last year, according to sources close to the investigation.

The soured relationship was brought to federal investigators’ attention by Kaczynski’s family as a troubling episode from his past and one of the only personal relationships they recall the intensely shy and reclusive Kaczynski having before he went into seclusion in a Lincoln, Mont., hideaway.

Kaczynski, 53, a Harvard-educated mathematician who once held a coveted teaching job at the University of California at Berkeley, is being held in federal custody for possession of an explosive device after authorities raided his cabin last Thursday.

The 1978 relationship ended badly for Kaczynski, who was fired from a job for harassing the woman, and also at least briefly strained the relationship between the suspect and his younger brother, David, who had to discipline him at the factory where they both worked, the sources said.

Last year, David Kaczynski, 46, launched his own investigation before going to the FBI with suspicions that his genius sibling could be the elusive Unabomber, sought by authorities for a string of bombings that killed three and injured 23 others during an 18-year stretch.

The brother’s concerns were based on similarities found by experts between some of Theodore Kaczynski’s letters and other writings kept by his family and the Unabomber’s infamous “manifesto” which was published in The Washington Post last September.

Many of the facts surrounding Theodore Kaczynski’s brief stint at factory work and how he came to work in a job supervised by his own brother are still uncertain. But as the puzzle of Theodore Kaczynski’s life begins to come together, those who knew the family have said that his parents and brother harbored deep concerns about Theodore’s behavior and isolated lifestyle.

The disturbing episode occurred near Chicago in 1978, when Kaczynski left his remote Montana shack to return to Lombard, where his family lived, and earn some money by working factory jobs, according to the sources.

The woman, whom the sources declined to identify, was Kaczynski’s supervisor at a small plant called Cushion-Pak, which manufactured foam-rubber products in Lombard, the sources said. After four months of cutting foam with a saw, Kaczynski was fired for posting copies of crude limericks around the plant that he wrote about the woman after she broke up with him, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“He felt very inadequate about her dumping him and pasted these limericks all over the place,” said one investigator close to the case. “He was also making crude remarks about her in the plant and received warnings from another supervisor.”

The other supervisor, who fired Theodore, turned out to be his own younger brother, David Kaczynski, the sources said.

Sources said that the breakup and job incident may have happened roughly around the same time as the first bombing, which occurred on May 26, 1978, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The bomb was first sent to the University of Illinois at Chicago but was returned to an address at Northwestern. It detonated when a Northwestern campus police officer opened it. The officer suffered minor injuries.

Another bombing occurred at Northwestern the following year while Kaczynski was still in the area. On May 9, 1979, an explosive device left on the university’s student commons blew, slightly injuring a graduate student who opened it.

The sources said that Kaczynski’s family has told investigators that they know of only one other woman with whom the suspected Unabomber was ever involved. The two had a brief relationship in the 1960s before Kaczynski gave up a meteoric career as a university mathematics professor and retreated from society, moving to the Montana tiny shack with no running water or electricity in 1971.

Soon after getting fired from Cushion-Pak, Theodore Kaczynski landed another job at a nearby factory that made restaurant machinery where he worked until the summer of 1979 before quitting and returning to Montana, the sources said. The Kaczynski brothers’ father also worked at Cushion-Pak.

In 1966, the Kaczynski family moved to Lisbon, Iowa, where the father, an engineer, managed a Cushion-Pak plant. In the 1970s, the family moved back to Lombard.

Sources close to the investigation said that it is becoming clear to investigators that while living in Montana, Kaczynski did not work and relied almost exclusively on his family for money - which he used to finance bus travel and cover other expenses that could be related to his alleged terror campaign.

In 1994, for instance, Kaczynski received a $1,000 money order from his brother, David. Shortly after that, on Dec. 10, a New York City advertising executive, Thomas Mosser, was killed in his North Caldwell, N.J., home when he opened a package addressed to him.

In 1995, Kaczynski received another $2,000 from his brother, according to the sources. Soon after that, the Unabomber carried out his final bombing. On April 24, 1995, in Sacramento, the president of the California Forestry Association, Gilbert B. Murray, was killed when he opened a package addressed to the association’s former president.

Theodore’s mother and father also occasionally sent him money, the sources said.

The sources said that the Kaczynski family also has told investigators the parents noticed a major change in Theodore’s personality when he was only six months old and had to be hospitalized for a severe allergic reaction to medicine he was taking.

During his hospitalization, Theodore Kaczynski’s parents were unable to see or hold him - something they believed could have resulted in him becoming much quieter and introverted.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

New health insurance plans available Nov. 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder

 (Photo courtesy WAHBE)

Fall means the onset of the cold and flu season.