1. Archive

Is he the Unabomber? // So far, mail-bomb suspect faces only 1 felony charge

Theodore Kaczynski, the onetime university professor taken into custody Wednesday as a suspect in the Unabom case, was arraigned in Helena on Thursday on a single felony charge of possessing bomb components. He was held without bail.

The arraignment followed a search in which federal authorities said they found evidence that Kaczynski had turned his one-room mountain shack into a virtual bomb laboratory.

When the 53-year-old suspect was brought into the Lewis and Clark County jail on Wednesday evening, his hair was matted and his stained jeans were badly torn, as if from a scuffle.

By Thursday morning, at his arraignment, he was dressed in orange jailhouse overalls, and he seemed confident, a bit of a smirk on his face as he glanced around the courtroom.

As Kaczynski was taken into the federal courthouse, he ignored shouted questions on whether he was the Unabomber, the mail-bomb terrorist who has killed 3 people and injured 23 others in the last 18 years.

If, as some federal officials have asserted, Kaczynski matches the criminal profile of one of the most elusive fugitives from justice in modern times, they made no mention of it in court or in the FBI affidavit that was the basis of the charge brought against him Thursday.

But the affidavit did list an extensive array of bomb parts, manuals and weapons that federal agents said had been found in his 10-by-12-foot cabin, 50 miles northwest of Helena.

And officials said Thursday night that the bomb materials recovered from the cabin matched fragments from the Unabomber's explosions almost precisely in terms of chemicals and techniques.

Government officials also said they had discovered the manual typewriter they believe was used to type the Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto, published last year, a rambling tract that called for the destruction of the nation's post-industrial system.

Officials said that Kaczynski would probably be transferred soon to California _ either to San Francisco, where the task force that has tracked him for years is based, or to Sacramento, where the latest fatal Unabomber attack occurred. They said it could be weeks before a grand jury charged him with the actual explosions.

Federal agents scrambled around the country as probable answers began to emerge to the many mysteries remaining in the case. One official said that investigators now believe that Kaczynski had traveled by bus to California, where a number of the Unabomber's packages were postmarked, to mail some bombs.

Other agents searched homeless shelters in Salt Lake City, where a man was injured by a bomb in 1987, hoping to determine whether the bomber had used the relative anonymity of the shelters to keep a low profile on such trips.

During his 15-minute court appearance Thursday, the pale, thin Kaczynski did not enter a plea. Answering a series of questions in a clear, matter-of-fact tone, he said that he was mentally competent and that he was indigent.

"Quite correct," Kaczynski said in response to the judge's assumption that he was without enough money to hire a lawyer. He was assigned as counsel Michael Donahoe, a federal public defender.

Kaczynski held out the possibility that he might ask for a preliminary hearing in which the federal prosecutors would have to prove that they have probable cause to charge Kaczynski.

U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell, who conducted the arraignment, said he will decide by noon today if there will be a probable cause hearing next week.

When the judge asked him about the charge, Kaczynski said he would need a few minutes to read the complaint. He was arrested, Lovell told him, on a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Through Thursday night, members of the national Unabomber task force continued to search the one-room, plywood cabin in the shadow of the Continental Divide that has been Kaczynski's home for more than 20 years.

Neighbors said Kaczynski was a polite hermit, living on land that he bought with his brother in 1971, according to a county record.

But his simple, back-to-nature life was plagued by rabbits and deer. They ate his carefully tended organic garden.

"He had a war going with those rabbits because they were eating his garden," said Dan Rundell, a local deputy sheriff who gave Kaczynski the battered old bicycle that became his main transportation. "The rabbits were gaining."

Shaggy-bearded and eccentric, Kaczynski passed almost unnoticed in this rugged mountain town of loggers, ranchers and outdoors enthusiasts, many of whom get by on odd jobs like trapping and guiding snowmobile tours.

In many ways, he was as little noticed as the tough-looking FBI agents who have been stalking him through juniper groves and snowy ravines for five weeks.

"I can understand his wanting to be private," said Karen Potter, owner of the Blackfoot Market where Kaczynski sometimes stopped for cans of Spam and tunafish and packets of stone-ground flour. "He's not the only recluse we have who is strange. There are people stranger than him."

Dick Lundberg, who delivered Kaczynski's mail until he retired this year, was, like most residents of Lincoln, stunned by the news of Kaczynski's arrest.

"We find it awful hard to believe," Lundberg said, "but like everybody else, we didn't know him."

Some people recall there were times when Kaczynski would go out of town, although no one knew for sure how he traveled. He did not have a car and was usually seen around town either on foot or riding his bicycle. But there is a bus west to Missoula and another east to Great Falls every day, departing from the curb in front of the Rainbow Cafe, on the town's only paved street.

Dick Jenest, a neighbor, said Kaczynski told him he would time the three-mile walk to town to arrive in time for the bus.