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Unabomber investigative papers donated to Cal U.

When Theodore Kaczynski was dragged out of his remote Montana cabin 25 years ago today and brought into the spotlight as the “Unabomber” who had terrorized academics and technology professionals since 1978, it turned out that what finally led investigators to the one-time mathematics professor was not DNA or some minor slip-up that blew his cover.

It was his own words.

Seven months before he was captured, The New York Times and The Washington Post printed Kaczynski’s 35,000-word manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future” after the still-anonymous Unabomber promised that the bombings that had already killed three people and injured 23 more would stop. To an extent, it turned out to be a win-win – Kaczynski was able to vent his spleen, and his long-winded diatribe about the evils of technology provided investigators with a bonanza of clues that eventually led to Kaczynski’s door.

First, investigators determined the Unabomber was someone who had an academic background and had dipped into a philosophy book a time or two over the years. But, more precisely, investigators were able to use sophisticated forensic analysis of the language, style and punctuation within the essay, and they determined that “Industrial Society and Its Future” had been penned by someone familiar with Chicago-area newspapers from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Bingo. Kaczynski was a Chicago native.

“It was a treasure trove of language evidence,” said James R. Fitzgerald, an instructor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Psychology at California University of Pennsylvania who has taught courses on forensic linguistics and author profiling. Fitzgerald is considered a pioneer in the field of forensic linguistics and was a member of the UNABOM Task Force that brought Kaczynski to justice.

To mark the 25th anniversary of Kaczynski’s arrest, Fitzgerald has decided to donate the papers he accumulated in the course of the investigation to the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences at Cal U. The six overstuffed boxes of papers, totaling about 6,000 pages, are now in his New Jersey home, and includes all of Kaczynski’s writings, down to letters he wrote to his brother and mother, and Fitzgerald’s analysis of them. The material will most likely be housed at Cal U.’s Watkins Hall until they can be catalogued and digitized.

The donation of the papers came about due to the connection between Fitzgerald and Dr. John Cencich, a Cal U. criminal justice professor and former war crimes investigator.

“I just said, ‘Hey, would you guys be interested in having these?” Fitzgerald explained in a phone interview last week.

According to Cencich, “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.”

Along with donating the papers to Cal U., Fitzgerald recently launched an eight-episode podcast, “The Fitz Files – Manhunt: Unabomber,” which is available through Amazon. In addition, he has authored a three-book memoir series, “A Journey to the Center of the Mind.” Fitzgerald never spoke with Kaczynski, though he did set up an appointment to interview him at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Kaczynski backed out, claiming he was busy that day.

In fact, Fitzgerald only saw Kaczynski once, on the day Kaczynski was sentenced. Fitzgerald remembers Kaczynski looking at him with a long, deep unsettling stare, and Fitzgerald doesn’t doubt “if he had had a bombing device available, he would have used it.”

The Unabomber case is the most high-profile case that Fitzgerald has investigated, but he was also involved in uncovering the identity of an assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans who was using the online comments section of the city’s Times-Picayune newspaper to rail about public figures and cases. The words that did in the loquacious prosecutor? “Dubiety,” “redoubt,” “altar of” and “coil,” all from an 1869 Robert Browning poem, and all words used by the prosecutor in legal documents.

“We pretty much ruled out Robert Browning,” Fitzgerald joked.

There are software programs available that explore writing, such as those used by scholars to determine the Elizabethan playwrights who might have collaborated with Shakespeare on his plays. Algorithms look at word choices and how frequently certain words are used. Software programs can also detect plagiarism in term papers and essays. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald believes software can’t fully replace human beings who can notice subtleties and things like sarcasm or irony.

“It still needs to have a human eye,” Fitzgerald said.

Local churches balance worship, safety as in-person Easter celebrations resume

The COVID-19 pandemic kept Christians from gathering in person to celebrate Easter last year.

On Sunday, churches throughout the region will hold Easter services, and for many, it will be the first Easter worship since 2019.

“I think we’re all really excited,” said the Rev. Erik Hoeke, pastor of Avery United Methodist Church in Washington. “I remember last year around this time we were a few weeks into worshiping virtually, and at that time we didn’t know how long it was going to be. It was really, really hard for us last year to decide Easter was going to be online only, but it was the right decision.”

At Faith United Presbyterian Church in South Strabane Township, the Rev. Jason Hefner will lead his congregation in two Easter services, at 8:30 and 11 a.m.

Offering two worship services will help reduce the numbers in attendance and provide an opportunity to sanitize between services.

Hefner said COVID-19 vaccine distributions have eased some parishioners’ concerns.

“We’re seeing people slowly come back as vaccines are made available, and that’s good,” said Hefner.

Hefner said the church is following state and church guidelines to make in-person worship as safe as possible, including requiring face masks and social distancing.

At Faith United, chairs are arranged in small clusters of two to four, to accommodate couples and families.

The pandemic, Hefner said, “has really caused me and our congregation members to appreciate more deeply the community aspect of being in a church.

“We are not taking that for granted, and we’re very happy to be seeing people who are vaccinated, or comfortable to be in church in a safe way, come to worship,” said Hefner.

Several churches are requiring people to register ahead of time to attend Easter services. Other churches are offering outdoor services.

“Our plan for Easter is to go outside, and to continue outside worship through spring and summer because it’s the safest option and, to be honest, people love it,” said Avery United’s Hoeke. “There are some who will stay away, but this will be the best chance for us to have the majority of our congregation together for the first time in over a year. It will be nice to feel the energy that comes from a majority of us gathering. “

Some churches are offering a drive-in worship service so that people can tune in from the safety of their cars.

For those who feel uncomfortable gathering in-person or who can’t get out to worship, churches are offering livestream options.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is offering both in-person and online services for Holy Week and Easter observances.

Starting on Palm Sunday, parishes within the diocese increased occupancy to 75% of capacity while still maintaining six feet of social distancing.

“We are beginning to reclaim our community celebration,” Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said. “We thank God and our health-care workers for progress against the virus.”

Also beginning on Palm Sunday, clergy, liturgical ministers and cantors who can maintain social distancing are permitted to remove their masks while speaking or singing. They are required to put their masks back on when they finish.

“We’re very, very excited,” said the Rev. M. John Lynam, pastor of St. James Parish in Washington. “We’re starting to get larger crowds every week as more people are getting their vaccines. We look forward to worshiping together at Easter – especially some of our older parishioners, who were heartbroken that they couldn’t worship in-person over the past year.”

Dr. Thomas Corkery, Chief Medical Officer for Allegheny Health Network Canonsburg Hospital, said health officials suggest following U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines, and recommended avoiding large crowds and keeping Easter gatherings small.

“It’s important to know that the emotional toll and social isolation COVID has taken on people is real. Remote gatherings aren’t the same as in-person,” said Corkery. “But I would stress a lot of caution. People are so tired of (the pandemic) and they’re getting a little lax, but the reality is our numbers are picking up in the hospitals. People are still dying and people are still being hospitalized. We’re not beyond this yet. There’s a happy medium that people can find. You have to be sensible, and you have to consider each individual case, based on who’s vaccinated and who’s at high risk.”

At Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown, Easter service will be held in-person at 11 a.m., and church members can also follow on Facebook or listen on WMBS.

“It’s an important Christian holiday, and it’s important that we’re able to do this in-person this year,” said the Rev. Jim Gear, pastor of Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown. “We’re taking all the precautions, using masks, following social distancing, and we are not gathering in large groups that are not separated.”

Faith United’s Hefner said it’s up to each church member to determine their “sense of risk management,” noting the other options available have enabled the church to stay connected.

“We’ve been getting through it, and there is cautious optimism that in the next few months more people will be able to come to church in person,” said Hefner. “We’ve relied on people’s judgment and their consideration of each other. I’m really proud of my church and the way (the members) have shown love to each other by making everyone feel comfortable and safe, and protecting each other.”

Man rams car into 2 Capitol police; 1 officer, driver killed

WASHINGTON – A Capitol Police officer was killed Friday after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife. It was the second line-of-duty death this year for a department still struggling to heal from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Video shows the driver of the crashed car emerging with a knife in his hand and starting to run at the pair of officers, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters. Authorities shot the suspect, who died at a hospital.

“I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers,” Pittman said. “This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of Jan. 6 and now the events that have occurred here today.”

Police identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit.

Two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that investigators initially believed the suspect stabbed one of the officers, but it was later unclear whether the knife actually made contact, in part because vehicle struck the officers with such force. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Authorities said there wasn’t an ongoing threat, though the Capitol was put on lockdown for a time as a precaution. There was also no immediate connection apparent between Friday’s crash and the Jan. 6 riot.

Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 25-year-old Noah Green. Investigators were digging into his background and examining whether he had any mental health history as they tried to discern a motive. They were working to obtain warrants to access his online accounts.

Pittman said the suspect did not appear to have been on the police’s radar. But the attack underscored that the building and campus – and the officers charged with protecting them – remain potential targets for violence.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that he and his wife were heartbroken to learn of the attack and expressed condolences to Evans’ family. He directed flags at the White House to be lowered to half staff.

The crash and shooting happened at a security checkpoint near the Capitol typically used by senators and staff on weekdays, though most were away from the building for the current recess. The attack occurred about 100 yards from the entrance of the building on the Senate side of the Capitol. One witness, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, said he was finishing a Good Friday service nearby when he heard three shots ring out.

The Washington region remains on edge nearly three months after a mob of insurrectionists loyal to former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Biden’s presidential win.

Five people died in the Jan. 6 riot, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was among a badly outnumbered force trying to fight off the intruders seeking to overturn the election. Authorities installed a tall perimeter fence around the Capitol and for months restricted traffic along the roads closest to the building, but they had begun pulling back some of the emergency measures. Fencing that prevented vehicular traffic near that area was only recently removed.

Evans was the seventh Capitol Police member to die in the line of duty in the department’s history, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks deaths of law enforcement. In addition, two officers, one from Capitol Police and another from Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, died by suicide following the Jan. 6 attack.

Almost 140 Capitol Police officers were wounded in that attack, including officers not issued helmets who sustained head injuries and one with cracked ribs, according to the officers’ union. It took hours for the National Guard to arrive, a delay that has driven months of finger-pointing between that day’s key decision makers.

Capitol Police and National Guard troops were called upon soon afterward to secure the Capitol during Biden’s inauguration and faced another potential threat in early March linked to conspiracy theories falsely claiming Trump would retake the presidency.

“Today, once again, these heroes risked their lives to protect our Capitol and our country, with the same extraordinary selflessness and spirit of service seen on January 6,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire House, we are profoundly grateful.”

The U.S. Capitol complex was placed on lockdown for a time after Friday’s shooting, and staffers were told they could not enter or exit buildings. Video showed Guard troops mobilizing near the area of the crash.

Video posted online showed a dark colored sedan crashed against a vehicle barrier and a police K-9 dog inspecting the vehicle. Law enforcement and paramedics could be seen caring for at least one unidentified individual.