Ted Kaczynski, the Notorious Unabomber, Dies in Prison at 81

The domestic terrorist killed three people and injured 23 others in a nationwide mail bombing attack

Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber who killed three people and injured 23 others via bombs sent through the mail, was found dead Saturday in his federal prison medical center cell in Butner, North Carolina. He was 81.

The cause of death was not immediately known, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Widely considered America’s most prolific bomber, Kaczynski admitted to committing 16 bombings, which were either placed or mailed, throughout the period between 1978 and 1995.

In 1995, Kaczynski pressured The Washington Post and The New York Times to publish his 35,000-word manuscript in their publications, saying that the killings would continue unless they did so. At the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney General and the FBI director at the time, the newspapers published Kaczynski’s manifesto, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” which elaborated that technology would lead to the downfall of society.

While the manuscript maintained his anonymity, it ultimately led to his eventual capture as Kaczynski’s brother, David, and his sister-in-law, Linda Patrik, recognized the sentiment of the article and informed the FBI of their suspicions.

By April 1996, nearly 20 years after the violent acts began, a SWAT team composed of nine officers located and captured Kaczynski from a small cabin nearby Lincoln, Montana. In his residence, authorities found a live bomb, explosive components, along with “40,000 handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of Unabomber crimes,” according to the FBI.

In 2019, the government-seized cabin was transferred to the Newseum, a Washington, D.C., museum for a “Inside Today’s FBI” exhibit.

By the time Kaczynski, who attended Harvard and graduated from the University of Michigan with Ph.D. in math, went on trial in Sacramento, California, he resented his lawyer’s idea to present an insanity defense and instead opting to plead guilty to murder rather than be seen as mentally ill.

He was held in Colorado’s maximum security facility, the federal Supermax prison, from May 1998 after being sentenced to four life sentences and an additional 30 years following his 17-year bombing campaign. He was transferred to the prison medical facility in 2021 due to poor health.