Nearly 30 years ago, someone in the Chicago area laced bottles of Tylenol pain and flu medicine with cyanide, killing seven people. Years later, Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, was arrested at his remote cabin in Montana, charged with killing three people and injuring 23 others in an 18-year bombing campaign.
Is there a link between Mr. Kaczynski and the Tylenol poisonings – one of the most important unsolved crimes in recent US history?
The FBI wants to know, and it’s seeking a fresh DNA sample from Kaczynski as part of its investigation.
"As part of our re-examination of the evidence developed in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, we have attempted to secure DNA samples from numerous individuals, including Ted Kaczynski," the Chicago office of the FBI acknowledged in a statement Thursday.
Kaczynski, who is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole at a supermax federal prison in Colorado, denies any involvement in the Tylenol case.
News that the FBI wanted Kaczynski’s DNA as part of its Tylenol poisoning investigation came from Kaczynski himself.
He’s trying to halt the auction of his property – part of the effort to raise the $15 million in restitution that he owes the victims of his bombings. The online auction began this week.
He contends that documents and other items now warehoused in Atlanta could show his whereabouts and activity at the time of the Tylenol poisoning – perhaps proving his innocence in that case.
Among the 58 items being auctioned are hatchets and knives, bows and arrows, a portable typewriter, a hand-written copy of his 35,000-word "manifesto," the hooded sweatshirt and aviator sunglasses pictured in his wanted poster, and Kaczynski’s diplomas from Harvard University and the University of Michigan (where he earned a PhD in mathematics).
Also up for auction are personal letters to his parents and his brother. It was his brother David Kaczynski who saw the similarities between Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto and earlier writings, and who alerted authorities searching for the Unabomber.
The juxtaposition – an Internet auction for the possessions of a modern-day Luddite – is not lost on authorities.
"Not only are we helping out the victims and their families," governmental auction administrator Shyam Reddy told the Sacramento Bee, "we're also using the very technology that the Unabomber railed against in his 18-year bombing campaign."
Last year, the 1.4-acre Montana plot, on which Kaczynski’s 10-by-12 foot cabin stood, went on the market for $69,500. The cabin itself had been removed as evidence and shipped to California for his 1998 trial. In 2008, the FBI loaned it to the Newseum in Washington as part of an exhibit.
The unsolved Tylenol poisoning case, which cost the manufacturer more than $100 million, resulted in a mass recall of the drug, plus the use of tamper-proof packaging for many food and drug items.