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 - 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 this coming April would mark the 25-year anniversary of Ted Kaczynski's arrest in a remote cabin just outside Lincoln, Montana, we figured it was time to bring the story to a bigger audience.
The idea behind 'Covering Kaczynski' was simple: go back to 1996 to find out what it was like to have the world's biggest story descend on the Montana Television Network's doorstep.
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 staples 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 following for the rest of his life.
Shannon Everts was in a KRTV rundown meeting when she heard the news, but the Great Falls station's main anchor's 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 very desk he was at on that fateful morning in Butte; had Rafferty stand on the very 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 had led them on a 17-year manhunt that ended in three deaths and numerous other injuries.
Watch 'Covering Kaczysnki' Saturday, April 3 at 9:00 p.m. after the Final Four on your local MTN station. MTN News can be seen in cities across Montana including Q2 Billings, KBZK Bozeman, KXLF Butte, KRTV Great Falls, KXLH Helena, KAJ Kalispell, and KPAX Missoula.