Unmasking the Unabomber

The private family drama the media missed


| November-December 1998



In 1995, when Ted Kaczynski's brother David revealed to authorities that his family believed Ted was the Unabomber, the media quickly seized on the story of brother versus brother. But, in the process, the truth of how the Kaczynski family solved the mystery was lost. In August, for instance, when the federal government turned over a $1 million reward to David for his role in providing information in the arrest and conviction of his brother, the media ignored the role that David's wife, Linda Patrik, played in the drama. When the Unabomber manifesto first appeared in the Washington Post on September 19, 1995, Patrik, a philosophy professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York, connected what she had learned about Ted from her husband and the characteristics of the Unabomber as portrayed in the newspapers. In this interview with Ellen Becker and Tom McPheeters of the Journal of Family Life, Linda and David reveal for the first time the real story of how the Unabomber was caught.—The Editors 

Linda Patrik: It took me a month or two to convince David to take the possibility that Ted was the Unabomber seriously. I had gone to Paris in the summer of 1995, and because there had recently been bombings in the Paris subways, the Parisians were fascinated with the Unabomber and there were newspaper articles on him every day. It was a time when the FBI was releasing more information to the public: about his woodworking ability, about the cities he had lived in, and the fact that he was now considered to be a loner rather than part of a revolutionary group.

Ellen Becker: Considering what you went through, you must have experienced a lot of fear.

Patrik: I was completely wrapped up in fear. But I knew I had to tell David about this as soon as he arrived in Paris, after he recovered from jet lag. I was very scared, to the point of having paranoid fantasies about people planting newspaper stories or people following me in Paris because I was so absorbed in the suspicion that Ted was the Unabomber.

At first David thought I was nuts and didn't take it seriously. But I couldn't drop it, so we discussed the situation intensely for a couple of days.

Becker: Did you have any doubts in that period, or were you pretty convinced that Ted was the Unabomber?