Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: None known
Wanted For: Murder, Attempted Murder, Terrorism
Missing Since: June 1996


Details: Starting in 1982, an unidentified figure named by the press as the "Zip-Gun Bomber" began terrorizing New York City with packages mailed to unsuspecting recipients set to shoot off bullets in three different directions. The first victim was fifty-four-year-old high school guidance counselor Joan Betty Kipp. On May 7, 1982, she was preparing to leave the state with her husband for Mother's Day when she got a cookbook in the mail; she thought it was a mother's day gift. However, when she opened it, she was shot by a gun in the booby-trapped cookbook. She was rushed to a local hospital, but died hours later. It would be a decade before the killer would strike again.
He sent four more 'bombs' that were set off between 1993 and 1996. Retired New York City sanitation worker Anthony Lenza and his wife were on vacation in Pennsylvania. On October 15, 1993, their children came to visit and brought their mail. One package had a medallion in it, and when opened, Anthony and two of his family members were shot. Fortunately, none of them were killed. On April 5, 1994, seventy-five-year-old Brooklyn resident Alice Caswell was shot and injured by a bomb that was in a medallion box that was similar to the one used in the Lenza attack. The box was addressed to her brother, Richard McGarrell.
Eighteen-year-old Queens resident Stephanie Gaffney, who was eight months pregnant, was the next victim. On June 27, 1995, she was talking on the phone when she looked in the mail and found a package that appeared to look legitimate. The package was addressed "Gilmore or occupant" (Gilmore is her grandfather's name). Inside the package was a book; when she opened it, she was struck by shrapnel from three bullets. Although her unborn child was not hit, it was in distress and doctors induced labor. Stephanie later gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Stephanie believes that the only reason she survived was because she held the book at an angle away from her.
On June 20, 1996, seventy-seven-year-old Brooklyn retired real estate agent Richard Basile opened a parcel with a video cassette in it that exploded. No one was injured, but the shooting did shatter the Basile's window. Police have not been able to determine if the attacks are random, or if they were specifically chosen by the perpetrator.
Extra Notes: This segment first ran on the January 3, 1997 episode.
Results: Wanted. Sadly, Richard Basile has since passed away. No packages have been sent since 1996, but police have several suspects in the case. One of the suspects was Joan's husband, Harold. Another suspect was her twenty-eight-year-old son, Craig, who was actually charged with his mother's murder three months after her death. A handwriting analyst stated that a threatening note sent with the booby-trapped cookbook was similar to his handwriting. Also, a package-sniffing dog detected his scent on the package. However, the charges were later dropped.
A man named Steven Wavra and a friend of his are also considered suspects. Wavra had been caught creating book devices similar to the bombs. Also, Joan Kipp was his high school guidance counselor. He and his friend also had alleged connections to the other victims. Interestingly, records of his friend were found in each of the victims' local pharmacies. However, Wavra was in prison at the time of Joan's death. Despite this, investigators believe that he may have had his friend create and mail the bombs.
To this day, the Zip Gun bomber remains unidentified.