James R. Fitzgerald, a pioneer in forensic linguistics, gives UNABOM documents to the Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences at California University of Pennsylvania.
Twenty-five years ago, on April 3, 1996, the FBI arrested Ted Kaczynski, the notorious “Unabomber” whose 17-year string of bombings killed three people and injured 24.
Now the FBI profiler whose analysis of Kaczynski’s writings led to that high-profile arrest will donate his professional papers about the case to the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences at California University of Pennsylvania.
James R. Fitzgerald, a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and a pioneer in the field of forensic linguistics, is donating about 6,000 pages to the center at Cal U.
The trove includes copies of official FBI and Department of Justice files relating to the UNABOM investigation and prosecution, letters Kaczynski wrote to his mother and brother, his 35,000-word handwritten “manifesto,” and an autobiography, journal and notes recovered from Kaczynski’s remote cabin in Lincoln, Mont.
In “six overstuffed boxes,” Fitzgerald said, are copies of “every single thing that Ted Kaczynski wrote up to the time of his arrest.” Also included are Fitzgerald’s “text analysis” reports from the investigation and media accounts of the UNABOM investigation and Kaczynski’s arrest and prosecution.
The donation has its roots in a longstanding connection between Fitzgerald and Cal U criminal justice professor Dr. John Cencich, a retired law enforcement official and former war crimes investigator.
Initially, Cencich enlisted Fitzgerald to create a professional development training module in forensic linguistics, which focuses on oral and written communication as an element of contemporary crime analysis. The training is offered online through the Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences, which Cencich directs.
Several years later, Cencich asked Fitzgerald and his partner, Georgetown University linguistics professor Dr. Natalie Schilling, to help design the forensic linguistics master’s degree at Cal U, a concentration within the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program.
Fitzgerald continues to teach several courses in the graduate program, including “Seminar in Forensic Linguistics” and “Author Profiling and Threat Assessment.”
“I like the faculty I’ve met at Cal U,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been to the campus, and I’ve had some very bright and enthusiastic students. So why not put these (UNABOM) papers at the university where they can be studied, assessed and digitized, so they can be of value to Cal U students and others?”
Fitzgerald said he expects the documents to be viewed by historians, people with an interest in true crime, authors, criminal justice researchers, forensic linguists, members of the media “and others who have an interest in what a very intelligent serial bomber would write, thinking those writings would never see the light of day.”
Cencich expects to house the documents at the center’s office in Watkins Hall until they can be catalogued and digitized. The gift is a testament to the academic quality of Cal U and its programs, he said.
“We are honored to receive these documents, and we intend to make them available for study. The Unabomber case captured the attention of the nation – and it was one of the first high-profile cases to bring forensic linguistics into the mainstream. We expect these documents will be of tremendous interest to researchers, historians and students of criminal justice for years to come.”
Hear James R. Fitzgerald’s Podcast
James R. “Fitz” Fitzgerald is a consultant in forensic linguistic and criminal profiling matters, a media and entertainment advisor, a college professor, and the author of a three-book memoir series, A Journey to the Center of the Mind. His eight-episode podcast, The Fitz Files - Manhunt: Unabomber, was released in March 2021 and is available on Amazon.