It all started with a question. "Do you know Jay's connection to the Unabomber?," I asked Brandon Sullivan back in December.
Jay Kohn had told me a couple of years earlier - and now, I always bring it up anytime I can. It's one of the best insider stories I've ever heard. So when Brandon and I realized that April 3rd would mark the 25-year anniversary of Ted Kaczynski's arrest in a remote cabin just outside of Lincoln in Lewis & Clark County, we figured it was time to bring the story to a larger audience.
The idea behind 'Covering Kaczynski' was simple: go back to 1996 to find out what it was like to have the nation's biggest story descend on the doorstep of the Montana Television Network.
Kohn, who has been with MTN for 37 years, was our only focus at the beginning. He was the news director at KXLF in Butte in 1996 and played a prominent role in CBS' report that broke the news of Kaczynski's arrest on the afternoon of April 3. But once we started talking to a few other longtime MTN employees about the project, several other connections jumped out that we knew we had to include.
James Rafferty was having lunch in his Missoula apartment when he saw the special report. The 23-year-old photographer at KPAX dropped everything, drove to the station, and talked his way into the car headed for Lincoln. He'll never forget the 36 hours that followed.
KRTV anchor Shannon Everts was in a news meeting in Great Falls when she heard the news, but her biggest role in the story wouldn't come for another 20 months.
In February, Brandon and I set out to capture all of these stories - and more - in a trip that brought us to the locations once completely obscured from the world which overnight 25 years ago became some of its most famous. We had Kohn sit behind the desk he was at on that fateful morning in Butte; had Rafferty stand on the steps he followed Kaczynski up at the old federal courthouse in Helena; and we drove up the road just south of Lincoln that dozens of FBI agents had taped off as they prepared to arrest the man they believed was responsible for three deaths and dozens of injuries over a span of 17 years.
Watch 'Covering Kaczysnki' on Saturday, April 3, at 9:00 p.m. after the Final Four basketball game on KRTV.
From April 3, 2018: