Milt Jones is waiting for the Unabomber to tell him whether his theory was right.
Not unlike the Tulane University law student in "The Pelican Brief," the Springville resident submitted to the FBI three years ago a paper theorizing the method to Theodore Kaczynski's deadly madness. Call it "The Literary Unabomber Brief."Jones, a graduate student in American literature at Brigham Young University at the time, recognized some apparent connections between the Unabomber's message and themes in literature. He concluded the Unabomber was using a literary device known as juxtaposition.
"Seemingly, I had this bond with the Unabomber," Jones said. "He had sent a message and it seemed perfectly clear to me what it was."
When the Unabomber made an explosive, he contrasted nature or the environment with technology. All the bombs contained various wooden components, including one that had twigs glued to it. The explosion sent a symbolic message: Technology destroys both nature and itself, Jones concluded.
The Unabomber also used his victims to juxtapose technology and nature. By mailing a bomb to a person named Wood or someone living in Forest Glen whose work was related to computers or modern civilization, the Unabomber was saying technology destroys nature.
Jones' Jan. 18, 1995, eight-page paper included a profile of the "Literary Unabomber" describing him as an intellectual, a conservationist, a nonconformist, an idealist, a scholar, a hunted victim and possibly a college teacher. The Unabomber "sees himself engaged in a war to save the world," he wrote.
The FBI initially didn't respond to the paper and a follow-up paper a week later suggesting the Una-bomber was familiar with the work of British author Joseph Conrad, particularly his 1907 novel "The Secret Agent." Conrad novels often portray conflicting influences such as sympathy and greed or idealism and cynicism.
"I was bouncing off the ceiling trying to get them to listen," he said. But Jones knew what he had so he let it ride.
Through a relative, Jones, 44, eventually received a call from Ken Crook, an FBI agent assigned to the Unabomber case in Salt Lake City. Crook was interested in the literary connection. After The New York Times published the Unabomber's 3,000-word letter in April 1995 outlining his idealogy and demanding future writings be published or bombings would continue, things started to fall into place.
"Milt, you were right. Are you nervous?" Jones recalls Crook telling him.
"I said, `A little.' I think (the question) was just to see what my reaction would be," Jones said.
Jones was suddenly thrust into what he calls "the great American mystery," albeit on a tight string. "I was in but not in," he said, adding he had daily contact with investigators for months thereafter.
The FBI asked him to analyze the Unabomber's manifesto as it did scholars nationwide, including BYU political science professor Noel B. Reynolds, who scanned the writing but didn't proffer an analysis.
The student-turned-detective became consumed with exploring the Unabomber's links to literature. Jones surmised that the Unabomber knew environmental anarchist Edward Abbey, who died in 1989. He assembled a bombing chronology and compared it to British, European and worldwide anarchist activity.
A Feb. 20, 1987, bombing at a Salt Lake computer store, for example, matches a Feb. 20, 1894, bombing in Paris. Jones devised a list of the Unabomber's favorite months (May and June).
Jones, an adjunct English professor at Utah Valley State College, explored connections to Henry David Thoreau, American playwright Eugene O'Neill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes stories. He also deduced a highly technical mathematical structure the Unabomber used to address his explosive packages.
Although the Unabomber left no traceable evidence, Jones con-clud-ed in one missive to the FBI that "he has purposefully left plenty of `symbolic forensics' or `symbolic signatures.' "
"It was quite an experience. I'm not particularly interested in law enforcement or mystery novels, but this for some reason seized me," said Jones, who manages Collegiate Group, an Orem Web-site design firm.
The one thing Jones, who wasn't paid for his work, couldn't provide the FBI was a name. And all he received after Kaczynksi's arrest was a thank-you note.
The FBI asked Jones not to talk publicly about his theories until the case came to a conclusion. Kaczynski, a 55-year-old recluse and former math teacher, confessed earlier this year to all 16 Unabomber attacks between 1978 and 1995. He was sentenced last week to four life sentences plus 30 years for killing three men and maiming others.
Crook, citing FBI policy, declined Wednesday to comment on Jones' theories. "I would love to respond to your question, but I can't," he said.
Jones' stint as an armchair detective began while he watched a "Nightline" report on the still unsolved Unabomber in January 1995. He only had a faint notion of the Unabomber and didn't even know what the word meant at the time. His research began with a computer search of newspaper articles. Jones was surprised to learn that BYU electrical and computer engineer Leroy Bearnson, whose name appeared on the return address of a letter bomb intended for Vanderbilt University's Patrick Fischer, has the middle name Wood.
"I fell into it serendipitously, I suppose. Part of it is the nature of my mind, which is very analytical," he said.
Jones wrote his first paper a few days after the "Nightline" broadcast and also incorporated the Unabomber, including the manifesto, into his master's thesis later that year. He expects to complete a book on his experience in the next few weeks. There's also talk of a film or movie, he said.
This past February, Jones sent Kaczynski a letter asking him to confirm whether his theories are correct. Kaczynski didn't reply. Jones followed up with a fax to the Unabomber's attorney last week.
"I don't have any great expectation that he will answer," he said.