Candice DeLong On The 'Worst Date She's Ever Been On' — With The Unabomber
“He had real long hair, unkempt. It looked like a bomb went off in his hair, maybe one of his own.”
Former FBI agent and profiler Candice DeLong, host of Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women and Facing Evil With Candice DeLong, worked a lot of cases in her 20-year career, including the frighteningly random Tylenol poisoning case.
But perhaps the most iconic case DeLong worked was that of the Unabomber — who was eventually, after a 17-year manhunt, found to be the reclusive former math professor Ted Kaczynski.
CrimeFeed spoke with DeLong about what it was like working the case, how Kaczynski was captured, and cooking tips from the Unabomber.
CrimeFeed: How did you decide that profiling was the field you wanted to pursue?
Candice DeLong: When I was going through the Academy as a new agent trainee — this was in 1980 — some of our classes were in behavioral sciences, and the early profilers, the ones that founded the department — John Douglas, Roy Hazelwood — presented some lectures. They would put a crime scene up on the screen and start telling the class, based on what they were looking at and the various things that the offender did to the victim, about how that offender led his life, or what he was all about — a psychological, a behavioral profile. Lifestyle and things like that of the offender — age, race, where he might likely live in relation to the victim, were they strangers, did they know each other, that kind of thing. I was just fascinated because I had been a psychiatric nurse for 10 years.
Then in 1984, after I’d been an agent for four years, the Behavioral Science Unit put out the word to all the field divisions that they wanted one person from each office trained by the Behavioral Science Unit to work in that agent’s office. In my case it was Chicago, as liaison to the Behavioral Science Unit at Quantico, and I got that position. It was over the next several years that I got a lot of training in different aspects of criminal behavior — murder, sex crimes, crimes against children, things like that.
Do you have any opinion on the theory that the perpetrator of the Tylenol crimes was also the Unabomber?
Oh, it’s absolutely not factual at all. We have very, very good reason, compelling reasons, to believe we know who did it — James W. Lewis. We couldn’t get him on the murders, but he was convicted of trying to extort Johnson & Johnson. We were unable to find the evidence to charge him with murder. He did serve 15 years on a 20-year sentence, and he was paroled. Since then, he’s written a book called Poison!
In terms of the crimes being similar, in a way they are. Putting potassium cyanide or any other toxic substance in a bottle of over-the-counter medicine, several bottles, and spreading them all over, that’s a bomb in a sense…. Anyway, Ted Kaczynski was much brighter than the person that did the Tylenol murders.
He was an evil genius. He had a genius IQ. He was a math professor at Berkeley. One of my brothers was a student in the math department at Berkeley at the time.
Oh, really? Oh, that’s so strange.
Yeah. He doesn’t remember him, but a lot of people don’t remember him because he only was there for two years, and he was not particularly good at relating to students, and so he left.
How did the FBI get involved in the Unabomber case?
[The first incidents had random targets], but after those, Kaczynski started targeting specific individuals. He targeted United Airlines and the President of United Airlines. The first cases I think went to ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives).
Then he mailed a bomb that got onto a plane, and it was fortunately not a good bomb. It was supposed to detonate at 5,000 feet, but instead it just smoldered in a bag of mail. That smoked up the plane, and they had an emergency landing.
That got the FBI into the case, because that’s a Federal violation — crime on an airplane. Technically, the case started for the FBI right there.
It was handled out of the Chicago division for many, many years. But then, during the placement of one of the devices, he was seen. A woman looked out her window and saw a guy in a hooded sweatshirt with aviator sunglasses. She just looked out her window right after he placed the device in the parking lot. He stood up, and she looked right at him. Then he walked away. That’s where that famous composite sketch comes from. But because of that, he kind of went underground. He didn’t do any more activity for maybe five to six years, and so the case went cold, and Chicago closed down the case, figuring, well, he’s dead or whatever.
Then, he re-emerged. He made two bombs. He took a bus to San Francisco from Helena, Montana, and he mailed two letter bombs right near the San Francisco FBI office … the San Francisco division of the FBI reopened the case, and they became the lead office.
I was transferred from Chicago to San Francisco — at my own request, but the Unabomber did help me get my wish. San Francisco needed so much help, and I’m from there. I wanted to be there anyway, and I’d had my name on the wishlist for San Francisco.
So that worked out great.
Yeah. I should send Kaczynski a fruit basket!
What was your first impression of Kaczynski when you saw him?
I was waiting with some other agents in a neighbor’s cabin that we had secured to hold Kaczynski during the search. We couldn’t arrest Kaczynski. We didn’t have an arrest warrant — we had a search warrant. We had 24 hours to find what we named in the search warrant that we were looking for in his cabin…. I looked up and he was about … 50 feet away, being brought down a road, and we had heard yelling before.
There were three agents who lured him out of his cabin. My boss, Max; a local forestry agent named Jerry, U.S. Forestry; and another agent from the Helena, Montana, office, who is a real big guy. We’d heard all this yelling, then they brought him down to the cabin where I was, and I’m looking at him. He’s about 15 feet away. I thought, “Oh my gosh, he’s so small.”
I knew his height and weight, but to see it was different. He was five nine, weighed 140 — very wiry. He had real long hair, unkempt. It looked like a bomb went off in his hair, maybe one of his own. He was covered with sweat. He was wearing a threadbare T-shirt and torn jeans. When he was 50 feet away, I said to [my partner] John, “Oh, my gosh, he must have really put up a fight. His pants are all torn.” Then as he got closer, and I’m giving him the once over. I realized his pants weren’t torn — they were rotting off of his body.
He hadn’t had a bath. He took a bath a couple of times a year, and he’d usually take it in a cold stream. He looked right at me. We were about two feet apart — he had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, and he smelled like wet dirt.
When we were in the cabin — it’s a cabin maybe 15 feet by 15 feet. It had a pine table with some chairs in the middle of it. No heat…. We, of course, identified ourselves as Federal agents…. He looked at my boss, Max, and said, “Well, they say if you’re ever in serious trouble you shouldn’t say anything without a lawyer, so I want a lawyer.” And that was that.
ELAINE THOMPSON/AP Photo
FILE--Materials used by the FBI in its search of Theordore Kaczynski's mountain cabin in Lincoln, Mont., sit outside the cabin's door in this April 1996 file photo. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
In a roundabout way, he admitted he knew he was in serious trouble, right?
Well, when you’re surrounded by FBI agents and you’re handcuffed, you’re in trouble. He was a smart guy. He didn’t try to sit there and BS us. Once somebody invokes their right to an attorney, then you can’t talk to them about it, because anything they say could be thrown out. So for the rest of the afternoon, agents were in and out of the cabin.
I remember sitting across from him at one point, and he was trembling. By this time we had a pretty good fire going in the stove, and I had taken off my ski parka it was so warm — actually it was my son’s ski parka, mostly black with a bright red and blue stripe and a big red collar. I had taken it off and hung it over a chair. I’m watching him, and he’s watching me, and so I said, “So, what’s it like living off the land?” As if I cared, really.
Right. You had to come up with something to talk about with him that wasn’t the case.
Exactly. I couldn’t say, “Why’d you kill those people? How’d you do it.” Eventually the subject got around to cooking, and of course I knew he only had a wood stove and lived an extremely spartan lifestyle. He proceeded to tell me how to cook turnips — boil turnips on an open stove. All I could think was, first of all, this guy doesn’t know that a boiled turnip will never cross these lips, and number two, this is like the worst date I’ve ever been on!
Then I noticed he had a big wet stain on his T-shirt, and I reached across and I put my hand on his chest, and I thought, “Whoa, he’s sweating.” He wasn’t shivering because he was cold. He was sweating because he was nervous. He was frightened. He was scared out of his mind probably. I really did take a guilty pleasure in knowing that here was this guy that caused so much death and destruction, and now here he was trembling. So I gave him my parka and put it over his shoulders.
While all this is going on, the bomb technicians were searching his cabin. [After about four hours] the bosses came in. Max, my boss, who’s the supervisor of one of the Unabomb squads in San Francisco, and the agent from Helena stood Kaczynski up and said, “Mr. Kaczynski you’re under arrest for the murder of three people and putting down explosive devices.”
They took him out and took him to the Helena jail, and there’s that famous picture that a University of Montana student took of Kaczynski being led into the Helena jail with an FBI agent on either side of him, wearing my son’s ski parka. Even though he had never actually worn the jacket, he just had it draped over his shoulders, when I got the jacket back, it had three horizontal rows of dirt on this big collar.
Oh, my God.
I put it away. I never washed it. It has official Unabomber dirt on it, and the rest is history.
Learn more of Candice DeLong’s insider info on the Unabomber case and her FBI career in her book Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines As A Woman in the FBI.