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FBI Special Agent & Unabomber Investigator James Fitzgerald Presents To College Of HHD

Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development welcomed former FBI special agent James Fitzgerald to present “A Journey to the Center of the Mind” Thursday night in the BBH Building.

Fitzgerald, a forensic linguistics expert, was a supervisory special agent and key member of the investigation teams for numerous high profile cases, including Anthrax, the Washington D.C. Sniper, and most prominently, Ted Kaczynski, “The Unabomber.” Fitzgerald was portrayed by Sam Worthington in last year’s mini-series about the Unabomber case titled “Manhunt: Unabomber.”

Fitzgerald began his speech to a packed Ruth Pike Auditorium reminiscing about his college days at Penn State. Fitzgerald, who graduated in 1975 with a degree in law enforcement and corrections, joked that he and his roommates’ partying was the reason Penn Tower now has room numbers on its balconies.

He then began sharing pictures of him behind the scenes on set of “Manhunt: Unabomber,” and pointing out various differences between the actual investigation and what was portrayed on screen, including the fact that he never had the sit-down conversation with the Unabomber that was portrayed in the show.

“It’s Hollywood — they had to get the two top billed actors in a scene together,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald then gave a brief history of his law enforcement career, citing his interest as a child in the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping case as why he chose his career path. After graduating college, working security at a retail store in Philly, and 11 years with the Bensalem (PA) Police Department, Fitzgerald joined the FBI.

Fitzgerald spent the last ten minutes of his speech talking about the Unabomber case, and how he used clues from Ted Kaczynski’s writings to deduce personality attributes about him.

Fitzgerald humorously admitted to recognizing a code he found in Kaczynski’s writings, the phrase “Dad It is I” hidden as the first letter in each line of a paragraph, because it was a tactic he used himself when he wrote to people he disliked.

“The guy was a master wordsmith and would leave clues in his writing, as well as many red herrings,” including a social security number that Fitzgerald traced to an inmate in a California prison, who had no affiliation with Kaczynski.

After Kaczynski published an anonymous manifesto as the Unabomber through the New York Times and the Washington Post, his brother David recognized his writing style, and sent Ted’s pre-Unabomber writings to the FBI.

Fitzgerald read Kaczynski’s writings and connected various writing styles, opinions, and phrases to the Unabomber’s manifesto and deduced that Kaczynski was, in fact, the Unabomber.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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