1980s |

Terrorist Bomber Begins His Deadly Rampage - 12/17/1989

On this fateful day in 1989, Robert Vance, who is a judge, was sitting with his wife in the kitchen of their home when he opened a package addressed to him that exploded and killed him immediately. The same day, another mailed bomb killed an attorney, Robert Robinson, in his office in Savannah, Georgia. Two days later, bomb packages were sent to the federal courthouse in Atlanta and to the Jacksonville, Mississippi office of the NAACP. If not for the timely intervention of the police, the NAACP vice-president would have suffered the same fate as Robert Vance. In addition, Robert Vance is one of the few judges in American history to have been killed as the result of his judicial service.

Immediately, the FBI assigned a team to find the terrorist, naming their operation VANPAC (for Vance package bomb). The team utilized almost every forensic technique accessible: from DNA profiles were made using the spit on the stamps and both the paint on the containers and the nails used in building the bomb were traced back to the manufacturer. Initially, the investigators thought it was the handy work of a white supremacist campaign, but when no group claimed responsibility, they began to suspect it was the work of a loner.

Later, an FBI agent recalled that Walter LeRoy Moody had been convicted in 1972 for setting off a pipe bomb with a similar pattern to that of the 1989 bombs. Searching Moody's home there was no evidence that linked to the VANPAC bombs, however bomb specialists compared his 1972 bomb with the VANPAC explosives and verified that there was little uncertainty that a similar man had made them all. Roy Moody was a loner filled with grudge against the judicial system for sentencing him to five years in prison for setting off a bomb that caused a first and second degree burns on his wife. A ruling he tried appealing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals but was unsuccessful.

A federal jury found Moody guilty on charges relating to bombing and in June of 1991, he was sentenced to seven life terms plus 400 years in prison. The murder case was finally arranged after his second wife agreed to testify against her husband. She explained in detail about the room she was not allowed to enter, how she disguised in order to buy bomb ingredients for him and how she helped him mail packages that she was not allowed to check. In 1997, an Alabama judge sentenced Moody to the electric chair for Vance's murder.

Share On Facebook

Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.