For nearly two decades between 1978 and 1996, it was the case that terrorized and shocked an entire nation. The Unabomber, a.k.a Theodore “Ted” John Kaczynski, was a loner genius with an IQ of 167 whose crimes left law enforcement officials across the country scratching their heads for 18 years…until his brother David Kaczynski turned him in.
But who is David Kaczynski? Why did he turn in his own brother? Keep reading to learn some interesting facts about the Unabomber’s brother.
1. David Kaczynski Was a Teacher & a Writer
While studying for his B.A. in English Language and Literature/Letters at Columbia University in 1966-1970, David Kaczynski wrote 10 articles for the Columbia Daily Spectator. He was promoted to the paper’s associate news board in 1967.
After graduation, David worked as a supervisor at Cushion-Pak in Illinois, a rubber foam factory, and as a schoolteacher in Lisbon, Iowa.
RETURN (by David Kaczynski)
Hard to believe
that the past is
completely gone, not
a closed room that
we might one day
the same way we
came in before.
Then how can we
fail to experience
the room’s emptiness,
the lack of walls,
David first wrote about his relationship with his brother in an essay, published in 2009 in an essay collection titled, Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry.
In 2010, he published a collection of poetry, A Dream Named You.
In 2016, David published his most extensive work yet, a memoir about his family and relationship with his infamous brother, Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and His Family.
2. David Had to Fire His Brother Once
In 1978, Ted Kaczynski moved back to Illinois and got a job at the Cushion-Pak factory, where David Kaczynski was a supervisor. Their father, Theodore R. Kaczynski, also worked there.
According to David, Ted went on some dates with a female co-worker. But when she decided she just wanted to be friends, things went sour. He then harassed the co-worker by writing insulting limericks about her that he posted at the workplace.
David warned Ted to stop the harassment. When he refused, Ted had to fire his older brother.
3. David Tried to Follow His Brother’s Example
According to the Netflix doc series, Unabomber – In His Own Words, David idolized his older brother and followed in his footsteps in one way, or at least attempted to.
Ted Kaczynski had a passion for nature and living off the grid, which ultimately led to him living a solo existence in the wilds of Montana. But apparently David shared these interests. Or maybe he just wanted to be like his much-admired older brother.
David emulated Ted by building his own cabin on some rural land he purchased, living off the grid as well for a time. At least until he met his future wife, Linda Patrik.
4. David Is a Buddhist
David Kaczynski seems to be a very philosophical, empathetic, and thoughtful man. Perhaps this is why Buddhism appealed to him so much. He learned much of the religion through his Buddhist teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
David served as the executive director of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Woodstock, New York, called Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, from August 2012 until September 2015. He and Linda also left their home in Schenectady, NY to live at the monastery.
According to David, it’s helped him deal with the reality of his brother being the Unabomber.
“It’s certainly helped me to understand that my suffering, Ted’s suffering, the suffering of our parents and of Ted’s victims is not unique; that we have an opportunity to transform our own suffering into empathy for others,” he told Cultural Weekly interviewer and friend Bunkong Tuon.
5. Ted Was Angry about David’s Engagement
According to the book, Hunting the Unabomber, by Lis Wiehl, Ted Kaczynski did not at all approve of his younger brother’s involvement with Linda Patrik.
After he learned of the engagement in 1986, he sent angry letters to David criticizing Patrik, telling him to call it off or he’d cut him out of his life. Apparently, he felt that David had betrayed their anti-conservative beliefs, including the decision to remain virgins, and had succumbed to the social norms he distained.
When David married Patrik, Ted cut ties with his brother.
6. Their Father Killed Himself
Ted and David’s father, Theodore Richard Kaczynski, committed suicide in the fall of 1990.
After learning he had terminal cancer, Theodore shot himself with a .22 caliber rifle. Both his wife Wanda and his son David were home at the time. They found him in the bedroom in a pool of blood after they heard what turned out to be a gunshot. Theodore left no suicide note.
Ted and David’s mother, Wanda Kaczynksi, died on September 16, 2011. David tried to reach out to his older brother in prison while Wanda was dying, but Ted refused to reply.
7. David & His Wife Helped Solve the Unabomber Case
After terrorizing the nation for almost two decades, killing three people and seriously injuring more than 20 others, the man the media dubbed the “Unabomber” demanded that at least one media outlet publish his 35,000-word manifesto entitled, Industrial Society and Its Future. He promised that once the manifesto was published, he’d cease and desist any future bombings.
Two newspapers obliged: The Washington Post and The New York Times.
In the manifesto, Ted outlined the downfall of society and the human race as we know it if human beings were to continue to allow their lives to be controlled by technological advancement.
David Kaczynski’s wife, Linda Patrik, was the one who first suspected that her reclusive genius brother-in-law, whom she’d never even met, may have been the Unabomber.
In 1995, she’d seen tidbits of information released to the press by the FBI during the investigation and thought that a lot of the ideas and writing style expressed in the manifesto aligned with ideas and language that Ted had used in letters he’d written to David. When she convinced David to read the manifesto, he was also convinced that the Unabomber was his brother.
“If you think of the dilemma,” said David, “We were in a position where any decision we made could lead to somebody’s death. If we did nothing, we might wake up someday and realize ‘Hey, somebody died because we had failed to act.’”
Through a lawyer, the couple let the authorities know the information they had linking the Unabomber case to Ted Kaczynski and gave them samples of Ted’s writing. The FBI determined his writing to be a match to the Unabomber’s manifesto.
Ted Kaczynski was arrested on April 3, 1996, hiding out at his remote cabin in Montana.
David believes that if he and Linda hadn’t turned his brother in, then they were just as accountable as Ted and they’d have “the blood of innocent people on [their] hands.”
Ted Kaczynski was convicted of 10 counts of the transportation, mailing, and use of bombs, along with three counts of murder.
8. David Suspected His Brother Suffered from Mental Illness
Throughout Ted Kaczynski’s life, his family suspected that he may have been suffering from some form of mental illness.
The neighbors and his classmates at school always viewed him as slightly odd, a bit of a loner, or just a walking brain.
“It’s pretty clear that by the time he was a graduate at the University of Michigan, he was suffering from some pretty serious delusions,” David Kaczynski said during an ABC News interview in 2016.
According to David, Ted was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. That was David’s main defense for his brother against receiving the death penalty.
The objective of the trial following Ted’s arrest wasn’t to figure out whether or not he’d committed the crimes he was accused of, but to determine whether or not he was clinically and legally insane.
Ted’s court-appointed attorneys had advised him to plead insanity in order to avoid the death penalty, but he refused.
Instead, Ted Kaczynski made a plea agreement with the court. In exchange for taking the death penalty off the table, he pleaded guilty to all charges with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Following the hearing and the verdict announcement, David Kaczynski gave the following statement to the press with his mother by his side: “I would like to say that our reaction to today’s plea agreement is one of deep relief. Most important, my mother and I wish to reiterate to the surviving victims our deep sorrow and regret, to express our wish to reach out to you in whatever way possible.”
9. David Kaczynski Became an Advocate
In one positive twist on the Unabomber case, David Kaczynski ended up becoming an advocate for criminal rehabilitation.
He contacted Ted Kaczynski’s 12th victim, Gary Wright, who was a computer store owner in the 1980s.
According to one of Wright’s employees, a man—presumably Ted—had dropped off a mysterious package outside of the store. Wright went to see what it was; when he opened it, a bomb exploded, propelling him nearly 20 feet backwards. Luckily, he only suffered minor injuries from the explosion.
Since the trial, Gary Wright and David Kaczynski have gotten to know each other quite well.
They now travel the country together to speak out against the death penalty, advocating instead for criminal rehabilitation and reconciliation within the justice system.
“I think on some level, whether we recognize it or not in ourselves, there is this hunger for reconciliation that, you know, violence not be the last word,” said David.
As a practicing Buddhist and vegetarian, David has a great respect for human and animal lives and believes that people are capable of changing for the better.
So, since Ted Kaczynski’s trial, David Kaczynski has been working tirelessly to advocate for anti-death penalty causes and nonviolent resolutions.
In 2001, he became the executive director of an organization called New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty (NYADP), now known as New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Initially, the objective of the organization was to abolish the death penalty altogether. But David worked to expand upon that objective by also focusing on the needs of victims of violence and their families.
He retired from the NYADP in 2012.
David is currently listed as an activist/board member for an organization dedicated to healing through reconciliation and the opposition of the death penalty, Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing. The board is headed by the family members of murder victims.
10. David’s a Man with a Sense of Responsibility
When he was just seven years old, David Kaczynski got a strange request from his mother, Wanda Kaczynski.
Recognizing that Ted, who was seven and a half years older than him, didn’t have many school friends, David asked his mother why his older brother spent a lot of time alone.
Wanda told David that Ted had a fear of abandonment. She asked him to promise to always look out for his older brother and never abandon him.
In a way, David felt that’s exactly what he did during his older brother’s trial, by fighting so hard for him to plead insanity. David knew that if his brother were to be found insane, he could escape the death penalty.
David spent some time working as an assistant director at the Equinox homeless youth shelter in Albany, New York. This provided him with experience in handling difficult familial and mental health-related situations.
But, even though he knows he and his wife did the right thing in turning Ted in, David does have some regret. He misses his older brother.
“I do wish my brother would forgive me. Not because his forgiveness would lift a burden of guilt from me, but because it would mean that I could have my brother back again—that our relationship as brothers could be healed and restored. What my brother’s forgiveness would mean to me in very practical terms is the restoration of a relationship that I miss terribly,” said David.
11. David Did Something Unexpected with the FBI Reward
Despite the fact that it was his wife, Linda Patrik, who convinced David Kaczynski to turn his brother in to the FBI, he still loves her more than anything.
“I don’t know if Linda understands how grateful I am to her,” he said. “Linda saved lives, she saved our family’s honor and self-respect, and ultimately, perhaps contributed to saving Ted’s life, too.”
Over the years, David and Linda have both faced massive backlash from those who support and advocate for Ted’s manifesto. Many people agree that a lot of the predictions Ted prophesied regarding technology taking over our lives through artificial intelligence and computer advancements have come true.
Some even view David and Linda as traitors, saying that they betrayed Ted for monetary gain.
At the time of the Unabomber investigation, the FBI was offering a $1.0-million reward—one of the largest monetary awards issued in a federal domestic case of this magnitude at the time—to anyone who could provide information regarding the identity and whereabouts of the Unabomber.
When David and Linda provided the necessary information, they were awarded the compensation in 1998, after the trial was over.
But David promised to give away the majority of the funds to the bombings victims and their families to help them heal.
There’s no doubt that the story of the Unabomber and the Kaczynski brothers has a lot of complicated twists and turns. All these years later, after countless TV specials, books, movies, and documentaries have been made about this very intriguing case, the public is still thirsty for more.
On Friday, February 28, 2020, Discovery is airing a 4-part docuseries called Unabomber: In His Own Words featuring never-before-seen-or-heard interviews from the Unabomber himself, Ted Kaczynski, and the people who know him, such as the Unabomber’s brother, David Kaczynski.