By Michael Balsamo and Lindsay Whitehurst - The Associated Press
Theodore Ted Kaczynski, the Harvard-educated mathematician who retired to a shabby shack in the Montana desert and led a 17-year campaign of terrorist attacks that killed three people and wounded 23 others, died Saturday at age 81.
Kaczynski, described by the FBI as the Unabomber, died at the medical center at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, Kristie Breshears, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told The Associated Press. He was found unconscious in his cell Saturday morning and pronounced dead around 8 a.m. The cause of death is unknown.
Prior to his transfer to the prison's medical center, he had been held at Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, since May 1998, when he was sentenced to four life terms plus 30 years for a terror campaign that put universities across the country on edge. He admitted to committing 16 bombings between 1978 and 1995, permanently maiming several of his victims.
Theodore Kaczynski looks around as the U.S. Marshals prepare to take him down the steps of the federal courthouse to a waiting vehicle on June 21, 1996, in Helena, Mont.Elaine Thompson/AP
Years before the September 11 attacks and the anthrax shipment, the deadly homemade bombs of the Unabomber changed the way Americans mailed packages and boarded planes, even bringing air travel on the West Coast to a virtual standstill in July 1995.
In September 1995 he forced The Washington Post, in collaboration with The New York Times, to make the agonizing decision to publish his 35,000-word manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, in which he claimed that modern society and technology led to a sense of powerlessness and alienation.
But it was his downfall. Kaczynski's brother, David, and his wife, Linda Patrik, recognized the tone of the treaty and alerted the FBI, which had been searching for the Unabomber for years in the nation's longest and most expensive manhunt.
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In April 1996, authorities found him in a 10-by-14-foot plywood and tarry cabin outside Lincoln, Montana, filled with newspapers, a coded newspaper, explosive ingredients and two finished bombs.
As an elusive criminal mastermind, the Unabomber earned his share of sympathizers and comparisons to Daniel Boone, Edward Abbey and Henry David Thoreau.
But once revealed as a wild-eyed, long-haired, bearded hermit who endured Montana winters in a one-room cabin, Kaczynski seemed to many more of a pathetic loner than a romantic antihero.
Even in his own diaries, Kaczynski appeared not as a committed revolutionary, but as a vengeful hermit moved by petty grievances.
"I do not pretend to be altruistic or act for the 'good' (whatever that is) of the human race," he wrote on April 6, 1971. "I act simply out of a desire for revenge."
A psychiatrist who interviewed Kaczynski in prison diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. "Mr. Kaczynski's efforts are mostly persecutory in nature," Sally Johnson wrote in a 47-page report. "The core issues involve his belief that he is being defamed and harassed by members of his family and modern society."