While the Unabomber—Ted Kaczynski—got enormous media coverage
in the 1990s, few people know much about his troubled psyche or about the
psychological devastation he has unleashed on his family.
It is a fascinating, but also heart-rending, story, which was told by Ted's
brother, David Kaczynski, at the winter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic
Association (see Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty).
"I think I always knew that my brother, Ted, was different,"
David Kaczynski related, "but in a good way. He was a legend in our
school system." Yet Ted also tended to have no friends, which worried
both David and their parents.
Then, during the 1960s, Ted decided to give up his career as a professor of
mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, to move into a Montana
cabin. During the 1970s, his behavior became more disturbing. He wrote his
parents a letter, saying that they had never loved him. During the 1980s,
David decided to marry a childhood friend, Linda Patrik. David sent Ted a
letter, asking Ted to be his best man. "I don't think we can be brothers
any longer," Ted wrote back.
After they were married, David and Linda received even more bizarre letters
from Ted. Said Linda: "You know, David, your brother is sick." She
persuaded David to take some of Ted's letters to a psychiatrist. The
psychiatrist examined the letters and said that Ted probably had
schizophrenia. Then the psychiatrist and David discussed ways to get Ted into
treatment. Unfortunately, none of their strategies
David Kaczynski: "I had this devastating deep sense of depression.
I was considering that my brother was a serial killer."
Credit: Joan Arehart-Treichel
In 1995 David and Linda read articles in the press about the Unabomber.
There was reason to believe that the Unabomber had something to do with
Berkeley. Linda asked David, "Is there a chance that your brother might
be the Unabomber?"
David and Linda were faced with a terrible dilemma. Should they contact the
police and share their suspicions? On the one hand, if Ted were indeed the
Unabomber, they had to stop him before he killed someone else. On the other
hand, Ted would probably be given the death penalty, and then they would have
that on their conscience.
Nonetheless, in 1996, David decided to turn Ted in. FBI agents found the
Unabomber manifesto in Ted's cabin. There was no doubt that Ted was the
Unabomber, David said.
The prosecution, David reported, hired a well-known forensic psychiatrist
to help them make the case that Ted should get the death penalty. Defense
psychiatrists who evaluated Ted diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.
During 1997 and 1998, Ted went on trial. The prosecutor offered a plea bargain
that would spare his life. Today he is serving a life sentence without
possibility of parole.
But the emotional anguish that David and his parents experienced still
consumes them today. Ted wants nothing to do with them. In fact, "We
don't know whether Ted is receiving any treatment in prison since he has
declined to sign the required consent for prison staff to share information
about him with his family," David said.