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CRIMES OF THE CENTURY
Aired January 11, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He orchestrated a vicious bombing spree that killed three, maimed four, and injured nine teen others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In all sixteen bombs, locations all over the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I began to think I may not make it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His base of operations was crude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cabin was a bomb factory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His devices were hideously lethal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matches, pieces of wood, nails.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Small device. That's used to maim or kill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For almost two decades, he skillfully evaded identification and capture.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had literally hundreds and hundreds of suspects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He dropped out of sight for six years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People thought he was dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was obsessed about leaving fingerprint evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody has seen anybody like Theodore Kaczynski.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hunt for the Unabomber. Next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: A simple sketch was almost all investigators had to go on. The facial features were distinct, the behead was cloaked by a hood. And the eyes obscured by aviator sunglasses. For more than 17 years, he operated without restraint. In all that time, no one knew who he was or how exactly he chose his targets. Even his victims remained in the dark until he struck.
GARY WRIGHT, UNABOMBER SURVIVOR: I had never heard of the Unabomber before I was injured. I had learned about the existence of the Unabomber two days after I came home from the hospital. UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: February 20th, 1987. An unseasonably warm and sunny day in salt lake city. Police and emergency personnel respond to a report of an explosion outside cam's computer services. Owner Gary Wright had arrived at his office at 10:25 a.m.
WRIGHT: When I had pulled into the parking lot, I noticed there was a piece of wood over to the right-hand side near my secretary's car. Two two by fours that appeared to be nailed together. I thought well, it's just a piece of scrap lumber from a construction project. It has got nailed sticking out of it. I should probably throw it away. Somebody will step on it and will get run over. But as I bent down to pick it up, there was a slight click and instantly I could feel this huge pressure in my chest like I almost like crushing pressure. And I heard what sounded like a fighter jet going over.
At that point, I didn't know that it had been a bomb. What I honestly thought was someone had shot me with a shotgun. I began to think, I may not make it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The explosion has severed nerves in Wright's left arm and impaled more than 200 pieces of shrapnel in his body. The investigators quickly determined that Gary Wright has just become the latest victim of the Unabomber, a shadowy figure who has been engage in a campaign of terror across the country for nine years.
TERRY TURCHIE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRO UNABOMBER TASK FORCE: The case we called Unabomber actually began in May of 1978 and continued until the last bomb was delivered in the U.S. mail in April of 1995. And during that time, the Unabomber placed or mailed 16 devices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The first device explodes at Northwestern University just north of Chicago. Disguise as an ordinary package, the bomb inflicts minor injuries on a university police officer.
A year later, northwestern is hit a second time. When another package detonates on campus, graduate students, John G. Harris sustain cuts on his arms and burns around his eyes.
Then on November 15th, 1979, a bomb is placed in the cargo hold of American airlines flight 444 heading from Chicago to Washington, D.C. In mid-flight, it sets off a smoldering fire. Twelve passengers suffers smoke inhalation.
TURCHIE: The pilots were able to land the plane at Dulles shortly before they said to us later that it would have probably burn to the hydraulics and dropped the plane out of the sky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Authorities now begin to suspect the bombings are linked. All doubt is removed seven months later. A suspicious package arrives at the home of Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines. The subsequent explosion inflicts cuts and burns over large portions of Wood's body.
TURCHIE: Now come 1980, we know we have a serial bomber. And so, the FBI started working as a joint task force with ATF and because we had bombs in the mail, with the postal inspection service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The task force dubs the investigation Una bomb.
TURCHIE: Una bomb, University and airline bombings because those first were either affiliate with university locations or with airlines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: From the beginning, the investigation is hampered by a lack of evidence. The Unabomber's devices are relatively crude making it difficult to trace them back to their maker.
RANDY PARSONS (RET.), SPECIAL AGENT IN-CHARGE, FBI: There wasn't a lot of evidence left. And the evidence that we could identify, matches and pieces of wood, nails, were the kind of things you could buy at any hardware store.
TURCHIE: We started calling him early the junk yard bomber. Because in fact, he would make these bombs from scratch. He didn't go buy components and buy pieces of metal and that type of thing. He went out to piles of old abandoned cars, to carve off chrome to use in his bomb construction. He used scraps of wood.
NINA DELGADILLO (RET.), SENIOR SPECIAL AGENT ATF: While everything you find at a bomb scene, every piece of evidence is critical because for one, you have to decide how the device functioned. And in finding out how the device functioned, you look if there's a circuitry involved. Where in most of his devices, he created a circuitry. And it was not through a timer like many bombers use. He actually took the time to create the mechanism to create the circuits. And that made it really difficult for investigators.
TURCHIE: He built his own switches for the bombs from hickory. And when he bought batteries, he would peel off the covers of the batteries so we couldn't be able to go back and trace where those batteries might have been purchased.
PARSONS: There was no evidence that would lend itself to take us to a particular manufacturer, vendor, sales documents, a person's name on a purchase order. There wasn't anything like that connected with the devices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: But as the attacks continued, the bombs became more sophisticated and more lethal.
May 1982, a pipe bomb mailed to the head of the computer department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville explodes when it's opened by a secretary. She sustains severe burns to her hands and shrapnel wounds to her body.
Two months later, at the University of California Berkeley, a package explodes when engineering professor (INAUDIBLE) picks it up. He too suffers severe burns and shrapnel wounds.
TURCHIE: Usually in bombings or any kind of serial crime, you can look at what they call victimology. And you try and determine perhaps people or businesses or something that all of the victims had in common with the suspect or the person who's doing the bombings in this case. With Unabomb, none of these people, none of the victims over the years had any connections.
DELGADILLO: Did they go to the same universities? Did they have difficulty with one person and was there a commonality between all the victims? And that was very difficult, because we had literally hundreds and hundreds of suspects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: There are no incidents for almost two years. Then on May 15th, 1985, engineering student and aspiring astronaut John E. Hawser (ph) is nearly killed when he picks up a parcel left in a computer room on the UC Berkeley campus.
JOHN E. HAWSER, SURVIVOR: And it exploded. Blew me arm off to the side like this and the first thing I thought was why did they do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Six months later, a package mailed to the home of a University of Michigan psychology professor explodes when research assistant Nicolas Sweno opens it. Sweno sustained burns and shrapnel wounds. The professor suffers some hearing loss. One month later on December 11th, 1985, the Unabomber claims his first fatality with his 11th bomb.
Computer rental store owner Hugh Strutten (ph) is killed when he picks up what appears to be a piece of scrap wood. Metal shrapnel penetrates his heart and tears off his right hand. This bomb contains a clue that has been known as the Unabomber's signature. A metal plate stamped with the letters FC.
TURCHIE: FC became one of the ways for us to tie in one bombing with another. And over the years, became one of the giveaways that this was a y unabomb device.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: But the FC signature shed no light on the identity of the Unabomber or even if he was only one person.
PARSONS: Throughout the investigation, one of the main questions was is this a lone actor or is there a group involved? There wasn't clear evidence one way or the other for quite a while.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Finally on February 20th, 1987, investigators got their first break with the Gary Wright bombing.
WRIGHT: One of my employees had actually seen a person place this device outside in the parking lot about 25 minutes prior to when I arrived. He stared at her, emotionless, and once he was done pulling the device out of the bag and setting it there simply got up and walked away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The result of this employee's description is this now-famous sketch of the suspect. A white male wearing aviator sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt.
WRIGHT: This was the first time anybody knew what the Unabomber looked like. For all these years prior to that, nobody knew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: But another nine years would pass before the Unabomber was actually identified. And the truth would be stranger than anyone ever imagined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: After nine years and 12 attacks, the FBI finally had a physical description of the mystery man known as the Unabomber. But the psychological profiles were mixed. One said he was a young college student, possibly still a teenager. Another had him as a white collar professional living with his mother.
The reality was very, very different. The Unabomber was, in fact, a brilliant middle aged mathematician who had abandoned a promising academic career to live like a hermit in this cabin in the Montana wilderness. His name is Ted Kaczynski.
DOCTOR PHILLIP RESNICK, UH CASE MEDICAL CENTER: He was extremely smart, but socially awkward. In retrospect, we would have to consider a diagnosis such as Asperger's syndrome where he had a hard time of reading clues of other people's emotions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski was born on May 22nd, 2942 to a working class family in Chicago Illinois. The older of two brothers, he excelled academically. In the fifth grade tests indicated that his IQ was 167, genius level.
RESNICK: As he was so smart, he skipped two grades which then made him even more socially awkward, because now he was with students two years older than him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: In high school the shy, young genius set his sights on the best, Harvard University.
KATHLEEN PUCKETT (RET.), FBI BEHAVIORAL EXPERT: He was only 16 when he went to Harvard. He came from a very modest background. And in Harvard, that's a snobby kind of environment. And he was also socially mal adjusted so it was a disaster for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: At Harvard, Kaczynski was one of 22 volunteers picked to take part in a personality study of gifted undergraduates. What the participants didn't know was the study was allegedly part of a secret program funded by the CIA and military intelligence.
PUCKETT: What they did was essentially interview these kids and put them up against someone who ridiculed them mercilessly. Now, that was something that if you do that to someone who's not socially confident anyway, it's going to be very, at the least, difficult to deal with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Some experts later surmised that the Harvard experiments might have played a role in Kaczynski's emotional problems.
QUIN DENVIR, KACZYNSKI'S PUBLIC DEFENDER: I think they took advantage of a young, very vulnerable person as a subject. And they really treated him badly. I mean, they really, you know, played games with their mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Kaczynski graduated from Harvard in 1962. He enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where he earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at age 24. In 1967, he became an assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley teaching undergrad courses in Calculus and Geometry. He was the youngest professor ever hired by the university. But Kaczynski was not popular with his students.
PUCKETT: You can get very good ratings as a teacher in Berkeley. He was very uninvolved with his students. Rather contemptuous of them and their macular intellect compared to his own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: During this time, Kaczynski was growing increasingly disillusioned with contemporary society.
BRIAN LEVIN, CRIMINAL JUSTICE COURSE PROFESSOR, This was somebody who was deeply disturbed. And if you can't deal with society as it is or people as they are, how are you going to deal with the society that's changing?
PUCKETT: It was when he was at Ann Arbor that he started fantasizing about killing people who were tools of the industrial society. But by the time he went to Berkeley, he was already determining that he was going to work for a couple of years, save up money, and then go move out to the woods and just drop out of society altogether.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: In 1969, Kaczynski abruptly resigned his teaching position. He later bought land in a rural area near Lincoln, Montana and hand built a new home. This ten by twelve foot cabin without electricity or running water. He soon realized, however, that even in the wilderness, he could not avoid society.
DENVIR: It would infuriate him when he'd be out in his wilderness area and people would come through on snow mobiles. It would infuriate him planes would fly over. He would take his .22 and try to shoot at a plane in about 40,000 feet because it's like he couldn't get away from society and technical things like that. And so, I think all those things are what drove him to kind of retaliate against society which wouldn't leave him alone.
RESNICK: Mr. Kaczynski was alienated from society, and once he made up his mind to start killing people, he used all his intelligence to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Kaczynski started his bombing campaign in 1978. His first devices were somewhat crude and ineffectual. Over the years, he perfected his techniques. Kaczynski kept meticulous notes and apparently followed his own exploits through newspaper accounts producing a chilling account of a man obsessed by killing.
In reference to the primitive bomb left on campus at Northwestern University, he wrote, I hoped that a student would pick it up and would blow his hands off or get killed. After his second bomb caused minor injuries, he complained, I had hoped that the victim would be blinded or have his hands blown off or be otherwise maimed. I wish I knew how to get hold of some dynamite.
TURCHIE: As you go through some of the writings he had written over the years, he makes it very clear that my ambition is to kill a scientist, a businessman. I would even like to kill a government official or a communist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: He complained again after the 1982 bomb that injured the secretary at Vanderbilt. No indication that she was permanently disabled. Frustrating that I can't seem to make a lethal bomb.
Finally after the attack that killed computer rental store owner Hugh Skruten, Kaczynski wrote in triumph, excellent. Humane way to eliminate somebody. He probably never felt a thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: For nine years, the Unabomber had evaded capture, outwitting law enforcement by using low tech methods and staying off the grid. But after he was spotted in the Salt Lake City parking lot in 1987, he seemed to vanish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a year since the Unabomber left his angry mark of death.
TURCHIE: After he committed that bombing and that composite was circulated in 1987, he dropped out of sight for six years.
DELGADILLO: He could have been incarcerated. He could have had health issues. But you know, you also have to realize it was the first time ever since 1978 he had ever been seen placing a device. So it could have been because he was fearful that he would be caught.
PUCKETT: The Unabomber from 1987 to 1993 did nothing. People thought he was dead. But what he was doing, he was really learning how to build better bombs.
TURCHIE: Wasn't until June of 1993 that the Unabomber surfaced again sending a letter to "The New York Times" saying we're the terrorist group FC, we have more to say and we'll get back to you later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: FC, apparently stood for Freedom Club. Theodore Kaczynski's assertion that it was a terrorist group was another misdirection. FC would now take responsibility for renewed wave of attacks. That same month the Unabomber finally struck again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Package bomb blew as Dr. Charles Epstein opened his mail at his home late Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Charles Epstein was a geneticist from the University of California, San Francisco.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Epstein is recovering from four hours of surgery to his hands, arms, and face. UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: News of the bombing hit hard for previous victim Gary Wright.
WRIGHT: I came home from work, the news was on, and he was back. It unglued me. It was just devastating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Two days later and 3,000 miles away, another bomb arrived at the office of David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale university.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard a very loud explosion and then we heard a man screaming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Gelernter survived but was seriously injured.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would anyone want to blow up a professor who specializes in a language as used to program computers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The Unabomber was back in action, and investigators were no closer to finding him than they'd been when they started 15 years earlier.
TURCHIE: The Unabomber, he was obsessed with ensuring that he threw us off the trail forensically. So he would do a number of things. The return addresses on the unabomb devices were real names of real people at real addresses of, say, their home or place of business. Others were a location that actually existed, but actually a phony address. There was no such business at that particular address. And still others were meant to mock the FBI. For example, on one of the letters the Unabomber sent, the address was 9th and Pennsylvania avenue northwest in Washington, D.C. which, of course, is the address of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building. In one of the letters, he said the FBI is a joke. The FBI will not be catching us any time soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The FBI, of course, had no idea about the Unabomber's hit or whereabouts. And Ted Kaczynski took great pains to make sure he didn't leave a single clue.
TURCHIE: He would take files and he would file everything down after he built something so that he could ensure that he was getting rid of fingerprints. He was obsessed about leaving fingerprint evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Kaczynski also placed false clues to throw investigators off the trail.
TURCHIE: He went to a bathroom at the bus station in Missoula, Montana, and he actually took hairs off the floor of the restroom. And then in subsequent bombs, he would take those hairs and put them in between layers of tape. And the whole idea was when the subsequent bombs exploded at a crime scene, we would think that hair might have something to do with the Unabomber.
When he was out on a run to collect information or to collect components for his bombs, he would make sure he had a disguise. He put cotton up his nose so his nostrils would look bigger. He had a fake mustache that he had worn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: For another 18 months, everything was quiet. Then on December 10th, 1994, the Unabomber claimed his second fatality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The latest victim was advertising executive Thomas Mosser. In all 16 bombs in 17 years in locations all over the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Thomas Mosser was killed by a mail bomb sent to his home in North Caldwell, New Jersey. As it turned out, Mosser had been targeted because Kaczynski mistakenly believed he had helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Just over three months later, the Unabomber's reign of terror was overshadowed by a more destructive blast.
TURCHIE: On the morning of April 19th, we all get the call there's been a terrible bombing in Oklahoma city. So we're really focused on this at this point, because everybody's going to be asking is this the Unabomber. And we gave our best assessment then that we didn't think it was. Because these are different personalities. These are different types of bombings. One is specific targeted, the other is a mass murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Any thought the Unabomber was responsible for Oklahoma city was quickly erased when Timothy McVeigh was arrested two days after the blast. Ted Kaczynski, it seems, had his own agenda and his own timetable.
PUCKETT: When the Oklahoma city bombing was happening, Theodore Kaczynski was already on a bus on his way to deliver the package for sending to his next victim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: On April 24th, just five days after Oklahoma city, a mail bomb killed Gilbert Murray, president of the California forest re-association, a timber in this free lobby group.
In an earlier incarnation, the group had been targeted by radical environmentalist.
TURCHIE: The bomb that was sent to the forestry association was actually sent to his predecessor, a man named William Denison. But he had retired and Mr. Murray had replaced him. The Unabomber was very proud of himself. It didn't matter that his bomb had killed the wrong man. They were engaged in the same kind of work, which is anti- environment in his opinion and so it was OK.
DELGADILLO: I had been to a number of bomb scenes over my career, and the last one in Sacramento was probably one of the more horrific. The shrapnel is usually what maims or kills the victim. Most of the cases, nails, staples, and screws were used. That's used to maim or kill.
TURCHIE: When you go to those crime scenes or when you see the devastation that was left behind and then you read about what he says and how he felt about those bombs, it's really chilling. It's chilling that someone can think like that, behave like that, and do that kind of thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: By now, the Unabomber had been at large for almost 17 years.
PARSONS: We talk about lone actors a lot, how difficult they are to catch. The Unabomber was the lone Wolf in the most classic sense.
PUCKETT: Socially he defined himself as a social cripple. But technologically, ironically because he was so anti-technology, he absolutely had utmost confidence in his ability to keep from blowing himself up. Nobody has seen anybody like Theodore Kaczynski.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: By the time the Unabomber claims his third fatality, his bombs have become more effective. And investigators still have no idea who is responsible. But with the death of Gilbert Murray of the California forestry association, the case suddenly takes a surprising turn.
TURCHIE: Within days, the Unabomber sent letters to several people and claimed credit for the Murray bombing and started talking about the notion that the terrorist group FC is going to send out a manifesto. And wants "The New York Times" or "the Washington Post" to publish that manifesto. And if in fact they do, the FC terrorist can be will desist from committing terrorist acts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Two months later, the Unabomber sends a 35,000 word manuscript to "The New York Times," "the Washington Post", and Bob Guchion at "Penthouse" magazine among others, titled industrial society and its future. The SC becomes known as the Unabomber manifesto.
TURCHIE: There were many people that thought the Unabomber manifesto was a red herring. I had a couple of agents come to my office saying we're wasting too much time. We need a manifesto, we need to stick with forensics, we need and known facts.
PUCKETT: Most people in the FBI never even read the manifesto. The popular opinion was that it was nonsense, it was just scribbling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The media and the FBI are faced with a dilemma. Publishing the manifesto could be seen as giving in to terrorist demands.
TURCHIE: The last thing we wanted to do was set a precedent that we would be blackmailed into publishing terrorist manifestos. Because every terrorist could decide this is nice, we'll try this too.
PUCKETT: Attorney general Janet Reno called us to a meeting. Essentially what we said to her is the reason you should publish this is somebody out there has seen these words before and they're going to recognize him by his words. UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: "The Washington Post" publishes the manifesto on September 19th, 1995.
TURCHIE: After the publication of the Unabomber manifesto, we received almost 55,000 calls. We had wives turning in their husbands. We had girlfriends turning in their boyfriends. We had all kinds of people submitting written samples of people's work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Among the thousands of people who believed they recognized the style of the writer is Linda Patrick, the wife of Ted Kaczynski's brother, David.
PUCKETT: David Kaczynski's wife was on sabbatical in Paris and saw excerpts from the manifesto. She recognized the phrasing because David told her about Ted's preoccupations.
LINDA PATRICK (KACZYNSKI), KACZYNSKI'S SISTER IN-LAW: I think it's partly that the voice in the manifesto is a Chicago voice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The Kaczynski brothers have been estranged for several years. When David reads the manifesto, he must confront a sobering realization.
PUCKETT: David recognized in the manifesto echoes of his brother's wording. David said the one thing that really struck him was seeing the term cool headed magicians. He said that's directly out of Ted's mouth. There was a strain of Ted's philosophy in every paragraph. So, it was becoming impossible for them to not push it further.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Through her lawyer, David Kaczynski contacts the FBI. He submits the copy of an essay that Ted had written in 1971 to compare to the manifesto.
PUCKETT: It was very clear to me by the third paragraph when the hair in the back of my neck stood up. What I was reading which was a 1971 essay was identical in many ways to the manifesto. The biggest problem for David was he was afraid that if the government came to suspect Ted Kaczynski on their own, they would storm the cabin and Ted would be killed in the encounter. He wanted to prevent more violence. He didn't want anybody else to die.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: David's information leads authorities to Ted's Montana cabin which is put under surveillance. The FBI proceeds with caution to ensure that any evidence they obtain is admissible in court. But they are also in a race against time.
TURCHIE: Now there was some real urgency, because we knew this is the primary time over the years the Unabomber would hit the road and mailing devices. Still we were very concern and while we were trying to put all this together, he could actually get out, get on a bus, and go and deliver another bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Then just as the task force is putting its plan in place, word leaks out and kicks the operation into overdrive. PUCKETT: Dan Rather called Louie Free (ph), her is the director of the FBI and said we have information about who your unabomb suspect is. It's a guy in Montana in a cabin. And Louis said wait, give us 24 hours.
TURCHIE: CBS News told the FBI director we had planned on going to the air tonight with this information. They said we could hold off unless the competition finds out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: With the clock ticking, the authorities close in on Kaczynski and when the news breaks, it's on the FBI's terms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Few hours ago, law enforcement agents took into custody a Montana man suspected of being the mysterious Unabomber.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: April 2nd, 1996. While the Unabomb task force scrambles to obtain a search warrant on Ted Kaczynski's cabin, dozens of agents descend upon Lincoln, Montana.
TURCHIE: Between noon on April 2nd and midnight on April 2nd, we flew about 150 people from San Francisco into Montana on the last two flights out and got everybody in position. We had show some members of our team to do work in the mountains to cut off any places where Kaczynski might run.
PUCKETT: We were worried there would be nothing in the evidence and therefore be back at square one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: By the next morning, the arrest team is ready to move in. With the help of a local forestry agent, Kaczynski is lured from his cabin and taken into custody without incident. After 16 attacks, 26 victims, and almost 18 years, the hunt for the Unabomber is finally over.
PUCKETT: Theodore Kaczynski never expected any law enforcement would get anywhere near his cabin in Montana. And it's a good thing he didn't, because he would have booby-trapped that thing and blown it sky high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Investigators carefully begin to search the cabin.
TURCHIE: The cabin smelled inside. He had a bathroom that he literally had to dig into the floor of the cabin. There was no running water. There was no electricity. Theodore Kaczynski himself smelled terribly and probably hadn't take an shower for a long, long time. And that probably not his since last bombing run because there was no place to take a shower. This was not your (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Inside the tiny ten by twelve foot structure lies a treasure-trove of evidence. TURCHIE: The cabin was a bomb factory. There were all kinds of containers. And in those containers he had essentially handmade bomb components. In one container he had extra switches those hickory switches, some of which we found in crime scenes. He had containers that had formulas on them. And we came to find out later these were mixtures of where he had experimented.
And there were a number of notebooks. Those notebooks contained what came to be over 30,000 pages of handwritten notes. Because all of those years he had spent in the cabin, he had been keeping journals. He had been keeping copious notes of all he'd done and all his bomb experiments. But he threw us a curve because when we went through the notes, several hundred pages of them were written in a mathematical code. When we sent all these facts to the FBI lab, they said this mathematical code is probably more complicated than anything we have seen since the height of the cold war from the KGB itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: During the search of his cabin, investigators discover that Kaczynski had no intention of stopping his campaign of terror.
PUCKETT: We found a live device underneath his bunk. It turned out that he, as we had surmised, was not going to honor his promise not to send any more bombs. This thing was ready to go. All it needed was the address and postage, and it would have been gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: A federal grand jury indicts Kaczynski on multiple counts of illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs. The government will also seek the death penalty for the murders of Hugh Skruten, Thomas Mosser, and Gilbert Murray. Faced with overwhelming evidence tying him to the Unabomber crimes, Kaczynski's court appointed lawyers attempt to enter an insanity defense to save him from execution. Kaczynski adamantly objects.
DENVIR: He distress any mental health professional. HE thinks that they have mind control. And he is proud of his rational reasoning ability and the idea that he is any way affected with any kind of mental illness would go just to the heart of who he was.
RESNICK: Mr. Kaczynski had a very strong belief that he did not want to be labeled mentally ill. Number one he did not believe he was mentally ill. And number two, he did not want to taint his philosophical view where he was trying to influence the public as being discarded as the ravings of a madman. He would prefer the death penalty rather than being labeled mentally ill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: As his trial date approaches, Kaczynski tries to get his court appointed lawyers dismissed.
RESNICK: The judge said no, I will not let you have different attorneys. Because it would take at least three months for new attorneys to get up to speed. We have already impaneled the jury, we brought witnesses in from around the country, we brought victims in. So then Kaczynski said in that case, I will defend myself per se. And I don't need three months to get up to speed. And at that point, the judge said no, I won't allow it. Kaczynski that night attempted to hang himself in his jail cell with his underpants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The suicide attempt along with other factors prompts the judge to order an examination by forensic psychiatrist Sally Johnson. Dr. Johnson diagnoses Kaczynski as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but declares him competent to stand trial.
RESNICK: The defendant's expert and Sally Johnson who was neutral but no ax to grind concluded that he actually was psychotic. And her diagnosis of him being psychotic allowed cause the government to be willing to allow him to plead guilty and take the death penalty off the table.
DENVIR: He had two chases. Either took the plea bargain. Or we went ahead with the trial and we felt we were required to and were going to present evidence of mental condition. And the idea of that was so devastating to him that he would rather plead guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: In January 1998, Kaczynski agrees to a plea agreement. Under which he pleads guilty and is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
RESNICK: He was willing to accept the death penalty rather than to besmirch his philosophy. But given the choice of pleading guilty and avoiding the death penalty, he chose to take it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: On January 22nd, 1998, Theodore Kaczynski a.k.a. the Unabomber is sentenced to life without parole. During the sentencing hearing, some of his victims were allowed to address him directly.
WRIGHT: I didn't see any contrition or any sort guilt on his face. I only saw shock on his face that I forgave him. And then that was the point I knew that I had him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Designated a domestic terrorist by the FBI, Ted Kaczynski is currently incarcerated at the super max facility in Fremont County, Colorado.
DENVIR: In some ways he probably does a lot better there in that extremely structured environment than he ever did when he was living up in the wilderness in Montana. And he always had problems dealing with other people. The fact he is isolated from there was probably not as difficult for him as it would be for a lot of other people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Kaczynski's cabin was seized as evidence and removed from the property. It is now on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
On August 10th, 2006, Judge Garlin Peril Junior (ph) ordered that the personal items confiscated from the cabin be sold at auction and that the proceeds go to the bombing victims. The auction raised over $232,000. Ted Kaczynski's brother David received the $1 million reward for the Unabomber's capture. After paying his legal expenses, he donated the rest of the reward money to the families of his brother's victims.
WRIGHT: He said I know I could have had my brother's blood on my hands through an execution, but I couldn't have innocent people's bloods on my hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: After the trial, Gary Wright and David developed a close friendship. They had appeared together at numerous speaking engagements.
WRIGHT: We speak on justice issues. We speak on healing and forgiveness and stuff like that. People are always saying that's an unlikely friendship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: David Kaczynski no longer speaks publicly about his brother's crimes. He is currently the executive director of a Tibet monastery in upstate New York.
Three people were killed outright by Kaczynski's bombs, 23 other people were injured, some severely maimed. But investigators never discovered a definitive pattern to the Unabomber's victims.
DELGADILLO: You never really fully come to terms with understanding why he would do this, why he would pick such random victims in some respects and you know, and do the things he did. You and I would never think that way.
LEVIN: Ted Kaczynski like Timothy McVeigh was a game changer with respect to terrorism. If we go to a federal office building or we get our mail, these are places where we expect safety. And, indeed, the postal service changed their methods for accepting and transporting packages and mail due to Ted Kaczynski.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: Chief among the changes in postal security is The requirement that packages weighing more than 13 ounces be mailed in person at a post office rather than placed in a mailbox. But beyond the security measures, the biggest impact of Kaczynski's campaign of terror has been on the victims. In the years since the bombings, at least four have died of natural causes. But others still bear the scars both physical and emotional.
WRIGHT: You will never be the same. You accept it. You will never have closure. There is no such a word as closure. Closure does not exist. Life is different. Now you get to choose what you're going to do with it. You can be bitter, you can be angry, or you can be happy. Those are your choices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: While some of Ted Kaczynski's victims have managed to move on, it seems that Kaczynski himself never will.
PUCKETT: Ted Kaczynski has absolutely no feelings of remorse or sympathy or regret or anything for any of his victims. They were all soldiers of the technological society as far as he was concerned. He had a higher purpose, and they were immaterial to him.