Condolences to David Kaczynski


In my news feed, I read that the guy identified as the Unabomber, who conducted a bombing spree that spanned nearly two decades, killing three people and injuring 23. had died, apparently by suicide. I immediately thought about his very decent brother, David Kaczynski.

The first time I saw David was about a quarter-century ago at my current church. He was the person who turned in his brother Ted to the authorities.

This 2003 article in the Cornell Daily Sun captured a similar gathering that David had brought together. “Gary Wright… was hit with 200 pieces of shrapnel in February of 1997 by one of [Ted] Kaczynski’s bombs…”

“Bill Babbitt talked about his brother, Manny Babbitt, [the Vietnam vet] who was executed in 1999 for the murder of Leah Schendel” after Bill turned in HIS brother. He believed Manny would be “spared a death sentence — a promise the police” couldn’t keep.

For me, the most compelling speaker was Bud Welch. His “23-year-old daughter, Julie… was killed on April 19, 1995, in the Oklahoma City Bombing… In the days following the crime, Welch said he saw no need for a trial at all. Now, he says he was ‘temporarily insane’ for eight or nine months… He said his views changed slowly, and he realized that [executing] Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would be an act of vengeance.”

Moreover, Bud Welch became friends with Timothy McVeigh’s father and realized the elder McVeigh, too, was a victim of the heinous crime. I wrote about Bud a few years ago.

Tragedies united these seemingly disparate gentlemen in a common cause: to fight the death penalty. It was a remarkable evening.

Radio silence

From The Business Insider: “In 1995, The Washington Post published a 35,000-word manifesto written by the Unabomber, whose real identity at the time remained unknown, about how technology was destroying humanity.

“The time following the manifesto’s publication was emotionally taxing for David. ‘We never found anything conclusive,’ he stated, ‘for me, it was like a roller coaster. I thought, ‘Am I crazy? A suspicion does not make him the Unabomber.'”

David “remembered Ted as a loving, caring, older brother figure, not a terrorist. He recalled telling himself, ‘I grew up with this man; is it possible I grew up with evil in my own family but was too blind to see who he truly was?'” Ultimately, David made the agonizing decision to turn Ted over to the FBI.

Wikipedia: His brother’s confrontation with the death penalty later motivated David Kaczynski to become an anti-death-penalty activist. In 2001, Kaczynski was named executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty [now, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty].

“While the mission of NYADP originally focused only on ending the death penalty, under Kaczynski’s guidance in 2008, it broadened its mission to address the unmet needs of all those affected by violence, including victims and their families.”

David’s “decision prompted Ted to cease all communication with his family, including rejecting all of David’s attempted correspondence during his imprisonment.” So I can imagine that David is mourning Ted’s passing because Ted was his big brother, not just the Unabomber.

Unabomber Auction QUESTIONS

And what does one DO with a handwritten copy of the Unabomber manifesto?

As you may know, “Per a Court Order…, the government has been ordered to conduct a ‘well-publicized’ Internet sale of [Theodore John] Kaczynski’s seized property to be sold to the general public in the effort to pay off a $15 million restitution order to the victims and their families. Unlike other sales, neither the U.S. Marshals Service nor GSA will receive any revenue from this sale. Please click here [PDF] for more details about the auctions.” The auction run from May 18 through June 2.

Ted’s brother David, who famously turned in his brother to the authorities, and is now the head of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (of which I have been a member), wrote a column in which he said:
Now, my brother lived in poverty. The value of his possessions derives almost entirely from public fascination with his crimes. They represent what is commonly called “murderabilia” – souvenirs culled from the careers of famous criminals.

In effect, our federal government is pandering to a sick market that treats high-profile killers like celebrities and rock stars. What is wrong with this picture?

The goal of the auction is entirely worthy. If there is no other way to compensate the victims of the Unabomber, then let the auction go forward. I will look away…and I hope it raises a ton of money.

But couldn’t we, to the extent we really care about victims, find a better way?

Meanwhile, “Theodore Kaczynski …imprisoned for life, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants his DNA to determine if he was responsible for the 1982 Tylenol poisonings…CNN says Kaczynski filed a handwritten motion in federal court to stop the online auction of the items authorities seized from his Montana cabin when they arrested him in 1996 in which he agrees to give the DNA sample if they stop the auction.” The so-called Unabomber’s lawyer believes the government wants his client’s DNA to rule him out as a suspect for a crime that has never been solved.

What do you think of the auction? Is it restitution for crimes, ghoulish “murderabilia”, perhaps both? And what would one DO with a handwritten copy of the Unabomber manifesto? An article in The Atlantic suggests that the auction is not doing so well thus far because there’s no mystery over whether Ted Kaczinski actually was the guilty party.


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