Year
1989
Month Day
December 16

A terrorist bomber begins his deadly rampage

Federal Judge Robert Vance is instantly killed by a powerful explosion after opening a package mailed to his housenear Birmingham, Alabama. Two days later, a mail bomb killed Robert Robinson, an attorney in Savannah, Georgia, in his office. Two other bomb packages, sent to the federal courthouse in Atlanta and to the Jacksonville, Florida office of the NAACP, were intercepted before their intended victims opened them.

The FBI immediately assigned a task force to find the terrorist, naming their operation VANPAC (for Vance package bomb). The investigators used nearly every forensic method available: DNA profiles were made from the saliva on the stamps, and both the paint on the boxes and the nails that acted as the bomb’s shrapnel were traced back to the manufacturer. Finally, an FBI agent remembered that Walter LeRoy Moody had been convicted in 1972 for setting off a pipe bomb with a similar design to that of the 1989 bombs. A search of Moody’s home failed to turn up evidence linking him to the VANPAC bombs, but bomb experts compared his 1972 bomb to the VANPAC explosives and determined that there was little doubt that the same man had made them all. Purportedly, Moody was upset by the judicial system.

In June 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody on charges related to the bombings and sentenced him to seven life terms plus 400 years in prison. In 1997, an Alabama judge sentenced Moody to die in the electric chair for Vance’s murder.

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