Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unabomber Still Elusive Despite Multitude of Tips

SACRAMENTO, California -- Each day the tips flow in, a hundred of them, sometimes more. They come from Sacramento, San Francisco and places far beyond -- from people who believe they know the crafty U.S. serial bomber who has killed three people and wounded 23 more.


Despite the extraordinary outpouring, authorities said last week that there is no prime suspect in the 17-year-old Unabom case. But with the promise of a $1.1 million reward for the killer's capture, there have been possibilities galore.


For a time, federal agents zeroed in on a suspicious sailor, only to learn he was at sea during one of the bombings. On another occasion, a handyman in Salt Lake City became a tantalizing target, but he too had an alibi. Authorities also scrutinized a career criminal in Northern California, because his Social Security number matches a code the bomber uses to identify himself in letters. But he was in prison at the time of two bombings in 1993.


One potential suspect on the FBI's list is James William Kilgore, 48, a fugitive from justice who went underground on a bomb-related charge in 1976 and has not been seen since. Kilgore is best known for his links to the Symbionese Liberation Army -- the terrorist group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst more than two decades ago.


Some of those familiar with the Kilgore case see parallels with the Unabomber. The height and general appearance are about right. So is the timing: the bomber started mailing his deadly packages in 1978, not long after Kilgore disappeared, vowing to attack the U.S. government.


But the FBI has not pressed hard to find him, much to the frustration of some critics of the Unabomb probe: "He is the only fugitive wanted for bombing and hiding for 18 years -- and they can't find him?'' said one law enforcement source. "At least if they find him, they can find out whether he is the guy.''


Officially, Kilgore remains "a potential suspect, as much as anybody else who hasn't been fully cleared, since he is still a fugitive,'' said the FBI's Sacramento spokesman, Tom Griffin.


The theory that Kilgore might be the Unabomber was "looked at with a fine-tooth comb," said one federal source. "Although he hasn't been totally eliminated, it doesn't strike any of [the investigators] as a juicy thing.''


Those who knew Kilgore before he turned fugitive say he is an unlikely serial killer. He is a nice guy among radicals, they say, an idealist to the core.


Apart from Kilgore, investigators have checked out hundreds of suspects. Because of his targets, which have included airline executives and college professors, agents have focused much of their energy on employees of airlines and universities, as well as disgruntled graduate students.


This year, when the bomber killed a Sacramento timber lobbyist and threatened to blow up a plane at Los Angeles International Airport, agents received a new flurry of tips to a special 24-hour hot line. Many calls have been wildly improbable, fingering ex-husbands who have not provided child-support payments and a variety of apparently harmless eccentrics, including a hermit living in the northern Sierra.