Ted Kaczynski, known as the “Unabomber,” who carried out a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23, died by suicide, four people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Kaczynski, who was born in Chicago, is 81 years old and has terminal cancer. He was found unresponsive in his cell at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, at around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. Emergency responders performed CPR and revived him before he was taken to hospital, where he was declared dead Saturday morning, 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 faced increased scrutiny in recent years following the death of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, who also died by suicide in federal custody in 2019.
Kaczynski has been held at Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, since May 1998, when he was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years for a campaign of terror that threatened universities across the country. He confessed to carrying out 16 bombings from 1978 to 1995, permanently injuring some of his victims.
In 2021, he was transferred to a federal medical center in North Carolina, a facility that treats inmates suffering from serious health problems. Bernie Madoff, the infamous mastermind of the largest Ponzi scheme ever, died in a natural causes facility that same year.
Kaczynski, a Harvard-educated mathematician, lived as a recluse in a cabin in rural Montana, where he carried out a bombing campaign that changed the way Americans delivered packages and boarded planes.
Targets include academics and airlines, computer rental shop owners, advertising executives, and lumber industry lobbyists. In 1993, a California geneticist and Yale University computer scientist were injured by a bomb in the span of two days.
Two years later, he used continued threats of violence to convince The New York Times and The Washington Post to publish his manifesto, a 35,000 word fight against modern life and technology, and environmental degradation.
The tone of the minutes was recognized by his brother, David, and David's wife, Linda Patrik, who alerted the FBI, which has been searching for the Unabomber for years in the country's longest and most expensive manhunt.
Authorities in April 1996 found him in a small plywood and tarpaulin cabin outside Lincoln, Montana, containing a journal, a coded diary, explosives, and two made-up bombs.
While awaiting trial, in 1998, Kaczynski attempted to hang himself. Although he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as a paranoid schizophrenic, he insisted that he was not mentally ill. He eventually pleaded guilty rather than allow his lawyer to enter a plea for insanity.
Growing up in Chicago, Kaczynski missed two classes before attending Harvard at the age of 16, where he published papers in prestigious mathematics journals.
The explosives have been carefully tested and come in a carefully made wooden case, sanded to remove any possible fingerprints. Subsequent bombs read “FC” for “Freedom Club”.
The FBI called him the “Unabomber” because his initial targets were universities and airlines. An altitude trigger bomb he sent in 1979 exploded as planned on an American Airlines flight; the dozen or so 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 veneration—among those who opposed modern civilization.
“He's turned into an iconic figure for both the far right and the far left,” said Daryl Johnson, an expert on domestic terrorism at the New Lines Institute, a nonprofit think tank. “He really stood out from the rest as far as his level of education, the meticulous nature with which he designed his bombs.”