Tylenol isn't only case in which Unabomber is suspected
In the court of blogs and hashtags, Theodore John "Ted" "the Unabomber" Kaczynski has more nicknames than a hunched-over Chicago mob boss.
Since Kaczynski was arrested 15 years ago for sending bombs to people with university and airline connections, Internet-based sleuths and amateur criminologists have constructed elaborate conspirasites on the web that concluded he also committed two other, unsolved, high-profile murder sprees.
They call him "the Zodiac Killer" and "The Tylenol Killer."
The armchair CSI crowd has become so convinced of Kaczynski's multi-criminal talents that there is even a UNAZOD website aimed at linking him to the seven Zodiac murders and college term papers for sale that make the case he's the Tylenol killer of seven people in Chicago and the suburbs.
Now, though, one of those crime theories that has been lingering on the fringes of reality (along with JFK, Elvis and -- lately -- Osama still being alive) has been given a shot of credibility.
The FBI wants some Kaczynski DNA to compare with small amounts believed to have been left behind on bottles of poisoned Tylenol back in 1982.
Many of the same state and federal investigators worked on both the Tylenol and Unabomber cases because they were focused on metro Chicago and occurred in the same time period. Unabomber Kaczynski, serving a life sentence for the string of mail bomb attacks, didn't just appear on the FBI's radar this month and prompt them to request his DNA. Since Kaczynski was arrested 15 years ago, his life and the cabin where he lived have been dissected by evidence technicians.
Nothing in his personal history or in the one-room Montana cabin where he was arrested directly linked him to the Tylenol poisonings, even though there were meticulous records of his Unabomber crimes, the materials used to construct bombs and the tools used to make them.
There are numerous anecdotal similarities between the mysterious crimes but they elicit the same response as the fact that President Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and President Lincoln had one named Kennedy. So what?
The most common theme cited by those who have long believed both crime sprees were committed by the same man is wood. The Unabomber selected his victims by their wood-associated names, addresses or businesses. Lake FOREST victim Percy WOOD, then-president of United Airlines, is a notable example. Wood was injured by a Kaczynski mail bomb in 1980. He was among 23 injured by the Unabomber's attacks. Three people died during the 20-year odyssey. In the Tylenol cases, the Tylenol sale locations all had wood, tree or nature-related names. WOODFIELD Shopping Center. WalGREENS. Elk GROVE Village.
Conspiracy theorists also point to the location of Kaczynski's parent's home in Lombard as central to the crimes in both cases and construct a timeline that could put Kaczynski in suburban Chicago when the cyanide-poisoned pills were put on store shelves.
While the FBI acknowledged last week that they had asked for Kaczynski's DNA, authorities did not explain why. It was only Kaczynski who reported in a court motion that his DNA was requested in connection with the Tylenol poisoning deaths. After all, federal authorities for years have considered convicted Tylenol extortionist James Lewis to be the prime suspect in the poisoning murders.
So the Kaczynski conspiracy theorists were giddy at the thought that federal authorities actually wanted DNA to pin the Zodiac killings on him. Their Internet gavel had already fallen on Kaczynski, finding him guilty in their minds of murdering young couples in the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early '70s. The Zodiac killer taunted police by sending them handwritten cards and coded letters.
Besides the cat-and-mouse aspects of both murder sprees, UNAZOD believers point to Kaczynski having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s, the Zodiac's promise to begin bomb attacks and Kaczynski's well-honed ability to construct bombs, the communications with both news media and police after committing murderous acts and the use of intricate coded records of the crimes.
There are just two problems with the sudden optimism of those who see Kaczynski as Zodiac.
First, the FBI isn't planning to use his DNA for that case.
"No, we are only interested in the Tylenol murders," FBI Special Agent Ross Rice told me over the weekend -- verifying for the first time that there is
no wider investigative plan. "If we do get a DNA sample from him, that is what it will be used for."
Second problem with the UNAZOD theory: Zodiac fingerprint evidence and expert handwriting analysis ruled out Kaczynski years ago, along with travel records that place Kaczynski away from California on several of the key crime dates.
There is nothing publicly stated that makes the FBI believe Ted Kaczynski actually is the Tylenol killer.
But as long as his DNA could rule him out, they figure why not go for it.
After all, unless he is suddenly awarded the new nickname "Escaper," Kaczynski isn't going anywhere.
• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie.