FBI Requests DNA Sample From Unabomber

The FBI has requested a DNA sample from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in connection with the infamous 1982 Tylenol poisonings in Chicago that killed seven and prompted a recall of the painkiller. Kaczynski is serving a life sentence for his part in bombings that killed three people.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, is back in the news today. He was long ago convicted of mailing bombs that he had built in a shack in the Montana wilderness. Now comes word that the FBI has asked him for a DNA sample.

As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, authorities want to know if he took part in another infamous crime, the Tylenol poisonings of 1982.

CARRIE JOHNSON: The man known as the Unabomber says officials at the supermax prison in Colorado approached him a few weeks ago with an unexpected request. They asked Kaczynski to give a DNA sample to federal investigators, still on the hunt for the person who put potassium cyanide in Tylenol capsules.

Those tainted pills killed seven people in the Chicago area back in 1982. The FBI never solved the crime. Cynthia Yates is an FBI spokeswoman.

Ms. CYNTHIA YATES (Spokeswoman, Federal Bureau of Investigation): As part of our reexamination of the evidence that we developed in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, we have attempted to secure DNA samples from numerous individuals, to include Ted Kaczynski.

However, Mr. Kaczynski to date has declined to voluntarily provide any samples.

JOHNSON: The FBI has some of his old DNA on file. But given all the advances in technology, investigators want a sample that seems fresher than one from the Unabomber's arrest, announced by Attorney General Janet Reno 15 years ago.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Ms. JANET RENO (Attorney General): Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Postal Inspection Service began executing a search warrant at the residence of Theodore John Kaczynski near Lincoln, Montana.

JOHNSON: For his part, Kaczynski told the court in a meticulous, handwritten letter that he never touched any potassium cyanide. He says letters and journals from that time, now being auctioned by U.S. marshals to pay his victims, will back him up.

A lawyer for the Unabomber says he thinks the FBI is just trying to rule Kaczynski out in a cold case that's now more than 25 years old.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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