Ted Kaczynski, known as ‘The Unabomber,’ who led a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23 others, has died by suicide, The Associated Press has been told four people familiar with the matter.
Kaczynski, who was 81 and suffering from terminal cancer, was found unconscious in his cell at Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina at around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Emergency responders performed CPR and resuscitated him before he was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead later Saturday morning, the people told the AP. They were not authorized to publicly discuss Kaczynski’s death and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Kaczynski’s death comes as the Federal Bureau of Prisons has come under increased scrutiny in recent years following the death of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, who also died by suicide in federal prison in 2019.
Kaczynski had been held in the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, since May 1998, when he was sentenced to four life terms plus 30 years for a campaign of terror that left universities nationwide end. He admitted to carrying out 16 bombings between 1978 and 1995, permanently maiming several of his victims.
In 2021, he was transferred to the North Carolina Federal Medical Center, a facility that treats prisoners with serious medical conditions. Bernie Madoff, the infamous mastermind of the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, died at a facility of natural causes the same year.
A Harvard-trained mathematician, Kaczynski lived reclusively in a seedy cabin in rural Montana, where he led a series of lone bombings that changed the way Americans sent packages and boarded planes.
His targets included academics and airlines, the owner of a computer rental store, an advertising executive and a timer industry lobbyist. In 1993, a Californian geneticist and a computer expert from Yale University were maimed by bombs in the space of two days.
Two years later, he used the threat of continued violence to convince The New York Times and The Washington Post to publish his manifesto, a 35,000-word screed against modern life and technology, and environmental damage. .
The tone of the treaty was recognized by his brother, David, and David’s wife, Linda Patrik, who tipped off the FBI, which had been searching for the Unabomber for years in the longest and most expensive manhunt from the country.
In April 1996, authorities found him in a small plywood and tar paper shack outside of Lincoln, Montana that was filled with newspapers, a coded log, explosive ingredients and two bombs finished.
While awaiting trial, in 1998 Kaczynski attempted to hang himself with a pair of underwear. Although he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as paranoid schizophrenic, he was adamant that he was not mentally ill. He ultimately pleaded guilty rather than allowing his lawyers to present an insanity defense.
Growing up in Chicago, Kaczynski skipped two grades before going to Harvard at age 16, where he published in prestigious math journals.
Its explosives have been thoroughly tested and come in wooden boxes that are meticulously handcrafted and sanded to remove any fingerprints. Later bombs bore the signature “FC” for “Freedom Club”.
The FBI called him the “Unabomber” because his first targets seemed to be universities and airlines. An altitude-triggered bomb he mailed in 1979 detonated as planned aboard an American Airlines flight; about ten people on board suffered from smoke inhalation.
During his decades in prison, Kaczynski maintained regular correspondence with the outside world, becoming an object of fascination – and even reverence – among opponents of modern civilization.
“He’s become an iconic figure on the far right and the far left,” said Daryl Johnson, a domestic terrorism expert at the New Lines Institute, a nonprofit think tank. “He definitely stands out from the rest of the pack in terms of his level of education, the meticulous nature with which he went about designing his bombs.”
This story corrects the expert’s last name in the last paragraph to Johnson.
Balsamo reported from Miami.