‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski diagnosed with cancer one month before killing himself in prison last year, autopsy reveals

Kaczynski was reportedly depressed for approximately a month before he died by suicide in North Carolina

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 18 April 2024 18:33 BST
Related video: ‘Unabomber’ dies in US prison at age 81

Ted Kaczynski, otherwise known as the Unabomber, had been diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2021, just two years before he died by suicide in prison, according to a new report.

Kaczynski was 81 when he died in June 2023. At the time, law enforcement officials said they did not know the type or severity of his cancer.

The report, which was obtained via FOIA by NBC News, shines a light on Kaczynski's mental health in his final days, noting that he had been "depressed and sent for psychiatric evaluation" before his death.

Kaczynski was eventually caught in 1996 after a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three people and wounded 23.

His targets were nearly always civilians, often academics, scientists, or businessmen. He explained in a 35,000-word manifesto his desire to see the modern world crumble, arguing that society gives “politicians, corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and bureaucrats” power over “the life-and-death issues of one’s existence".

It was those injustices that he felt justified his bombings, claiming that the attacks got “our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression".

A new autopsy report detailing the death of ‘the Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski found his was suffering from rectal cancer and depression before his death (AP1996)

The former math teacher spent much of his time living in a tiny, primitive cabin in Montana building bombs and sending them through the mail to his victims.

During his trial, expert witness psychologists suggested his writings might be indicative of schizophrenia, setting the stage for an insanity defence by his attorneys, the New York Times reports.

He ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

After more than two decades in prison — and approximately two years after his cancer diagnosis — Kaczynski died by suicide in his cell at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina listed Kaczynski's cause of death as hanging, with a shoelace used to restrict his airflow.

The infamous FBI sketch depicting the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who died by suicide in prison in 2023

It was not immediately clear if Kaczynski's reported depression had triggered a suicide watch.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has declined to comment about the case for "safety and security reasons," according to NBC News.

It did say that it follows a protocol to preserve and document evidence for later investigations and that it has guidelines and training for suicide prevention at its facilities.

The autopsy report also revealed that Kaczynski's cancer had progressed to stage 4 and that he was experiencing depression in the last month of his life.

“At around midnight on June 10, 2023, he was found to have hung himself from a handicap rail in his room with shoelaces,” the report says. “He was initially pulseless, and resuscitation was initiated.”

The report said he was not on any medication and had not reported suicidal ideation before the incident.

“The decedent was not on any prescription medications and had no prior suicidal ideations or attempts,” the report stated. “Federal Law Enforcement had no concern for foul play.”

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