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Infamous Unabomber cabin saved at last minute

Kaczynski's cabin was not destroyed, but plans for it were not immediately clear.
Kaczynski's cabin was not destroyed, but plans for it were not immediately clear.

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RANCHO CORDOVA, California (Reuters) -- The Montana cabin where convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski lived got a mysterious last-minute stay of execution on Thursday, minutes before officials were to destroy the infamous one-room shack.

Officials wheeled the 10-by-12 foot plywood cabin out of a storage facility outside the California capital Sacramento for a scheduled demolition. Then the firm's president emerged to say there had been a change of plans, but gave few details.

"This cabin will not be dismantled today," said Randy Turtle, president of SafeStore, the storage company that has had the shack since it was brought from Montana for Kaczynski's 1998 trial.

In an interview on Wednesday she said Kaczynski had transferred ownership of the cabin to a female investigator of his case whom she declined to name. It appears that woman may have had a last-minute change of mind.

America has a long tradition of preserving links to notorious criminals to promote tourism or museums. Legendary bad guys such as Jesse James and Al Capone have museums chronicling their exploits.

On other occasions, officials have auctioned off objects related to famous crimes.

For example, in 1996, a lawyer was allowed to auction off serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's personal possessions on behalf of families of his victims. A civic group raised more than $400,000 to buy the items and destroy them.

Views divided

Beau Friedlander, publisher of Context Books in New York, who came to know Kaczynski as he planned to publish his memoir, said the cabin should be preserved.

"I think it is a total crime that they are destroying it," said Friedlander, who eventually gave up on publishing the memoir because of disagreements with Kaczynski.

"I have a very hard time comprehending why it is not being put in the Smithsonian. That's where it belongs," he said. "It is a curio, and at that a rather macabre one, but nonetheless I am sure you will see many a macabre curio in the Smithsonian collection. I mean creepy, creepy stuff."

A curator at the Smithsonian Museum of American History said however that they were not interested in the shack, partially because it was so large.

"We have basically stayed away from the famous criminal sort of thing," said Steven Lubar, chief curator of the museum's history of technology section. "If it were up to me I would say no, it is not worth saving."

He said that as part of a collection on reactions against technology, the museum might be interested in Kaczynski's manifesto against the modern world or the typewriter he used to produce that document.

Kaczynski, a Harvard-trained mathematician who is serving a life sentence for three murders during a 17-year bombing career that injured more than 20 others, lived in the cabin, just outside the small town of Lincoln, Montana, for nearly two decades as he conducted his so-called a war against modern technology.

Turtle said collectors had offered a lot of money for the cabin but had been rebuffed. She said on Wednesday that destroying the cabin would bring closure to the families of the victims.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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