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1982 Chicago Tylenol murders

1982 Chicago Tylenol murders

Overview
The Chicago Tylenol murders occurred when seven people died after taking pain-relief medicine capsules that had been poisoned. The poisonings, code-named TYMURS by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

, took place in late 1982 in the Chicago area of the United States.

These poisonings involved Extra-Strength Tylenol
Tylenol
Tylenol is a North American brand of drugs advertised for reducing pain, reducing fever, and relieving the symptoms of allergies, cold, cough, and flu. The active ingredient of its original, flagship product, paracetamol , is marketed as an analgesic and antipyretic...

 capsules, manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare
McNeil Laboratories
McNeil Consumer Healthcare is a medicals products company belonging to the Johnson & Johnson healthcare products group.-History:The company was founded on March 16, 1879 by 23-year-old Robert McNeil, who paid $167 for a drugstore complete with fixtures, inventory and soda fountain, as a retail...

, which had been laced with potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula KCN. This colorless crystalline compound, similar in appearance to sugar, is highly soluble in water. Most KCN is used in gold mining, organic synthesis, and electroplating. Smaller applications include jewelry for chemical gilding and...

. The incidents led to reforms in the packaging of over-the-counter substances and to federal anti-tampering laws.
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The Chicago Tylenol murders occurred when seven people died after taking pain-relief medicine capsules that had been poisoned. The poisonings, code-named TYMURS by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

, took place in late 1982 in the Chicago area of the United States.

These poisonings involved Extra-Strength Tylenol
Tylenol
Tylenol is a North American brand of drugs advertised for reducing pain, reducing fever, and relieving the symptoms of allergies, cold, cough, and flu. The active ingredient of its original, flagship product, paracetamol , is marketed as an analgesic and antipyretic...

 capsules, manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare
McNeil Laboratories
McNeil Consumer Healthcare is a medicals products company belonging to the Johnson & Johnson healthcare products group.-History:The company was founded on March 16, 1879 by 23-year-old Robert McNeil, who paid $167 for a drugstore complete with fixtures, inventory and soda fountain, as a retail...

, which had been laced with potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula KCN. This colorless crystalline compound, similar in appearance to sugar, is highly soluble in water. Most KCN is used in gold mining, organic synthesis, and electroplating. Smaller applications include jewelry for chemical gilding and...

. The incidents led to reforms in the packaging of over-the-counter substances and to federal anti-tampering laws. The case remains unsolved and no suspects have been charged. A $100,000 reward, offered by Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. Its common stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the company is listed among the Fortune 500....

, McNeil's parent company, for the capture and conviction of the "Tylenol Killer", has never been claimed.

The incidents


On the morning of September 29, 1982, twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village
Elk Grove Village, Illinois
Elk Grove Village is a municipality located in northeastern Illinois adjacent to O'Hare International Airport and the City of Chicago. Elk Grove Village encompasses in land area with located in Cook County and located in DuPage County, Illinois. The population was 32,745 at the 2010 census...

, Illinois, died after taking a capsule of Extra-Strength Tylenol. Adam Janus of Arlington Heights
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Arlington Heights is a village in Cook and Lake counties in the U.S. state of Illinois. A suburb of Chicago, it lies about 25 miles northwest of the city's downtown. The population was 75,101 at the 2010 census....

, Illinois, died in the hospital shortly thereafter. Adam's brother Stanley of Lisle
Lisle, Illinois
Lisle is a village in DuPage County, Illinois, United States. The population was 22,930 at the 2011 census, and estimated to be 23,135 as of 2008. It is part of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor...

, Illinois, and sister-in-law Theresa died after gathering to mourn his death, having taken pills from the same bottle. Soon afterward, Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois
Elmhurst, Illinois
Elmhurst is a suburb of Chicago in DuPage and Cook Counties, Illinois. The population is 46,013 as of the 2008 US Census population estimate.-History:...

, Paula Prince of Chicago, and Mary Reiner of Winfield
Winfield, Illinois
Winfield is an incorporated village located in Milton and Winfield Townships, DuPage County, Illinois, United States. The population was 8,718 at the 2000 census, and estimated to be 9,984 in 2008....

, also died in similar incidents. Investigators soon discovered the Tylenol link. Urgent warnings were broadcast, and police drove through Chicago neighborhoods issuing warnings over loudspeakers.

As the tampered-with bottles came from different factories, and the seven deaths had all occurred in the Chicago area, the possibility of sabotage during production was ruled out. Instead, the culprit was believed to have entered various supermarket
Supermarket
A supermarket, a form of grocery store, is a self-service store offering a wide variety of food and household merchandise, organized into departments...

s and drug stores over a period of weeks, removed packages of Tylenol from the shelves, adulterated their contents with solid cyanide
Cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

 compound at another location, and then replaced the bottles. In addition to the five bottles which led to the victims' deaths, three other tampered-with bottles were discovered.

Johnson & Johnson distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. On October 5, 1982, it issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products; an estimated 31 million bottles were in circulation, with a retail value of over US$100 million. The company also advertised in the national media for individuals not to consume any products that contained acetaminophen. When it was determined that only capsules were tampered with, they offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules already purchased by the public with solid tablets.

Suspects


During the initial investigations, a man named James W. Lewis sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million to stop the cyanide-induced murders. Police were unable to link him with the crimes, as he and his wife were living in New York City at the time. He was convicted of extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

, served thirteen years of a twenty-year sentence, and was released in 1995 on parole. WCVB Channel 5 of Boston reported that court documents, released in early 2009, "show Department of Justice
United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

 investigators concluded suspect James W. Lewis, who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, was responsible for the poisonings, despite the fact that they did not have enough evidence to charge him." Lewis continues to deny responsibility for the poisonings.

A second man, Roger Arnold, was investigated and cleared of the killings. He had a nervous breakdown
Nervous breakdown
Mental breakdown is a non-medical term used to describe an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that presents primarily with features of depression or anxiety.-Definition:...

 due to the media attention, which he blamed on Marty Sinclair, a bar owner. In the summer of 1983, Arnold shot and killed John Stanisha, whom he mistook for Sinclair. Stanisha was an innocent man who did not know Arnold. Arnold was convicted in January 1984 and served fifteen years of a thirty-year sentence for second-degree murder. He died in June 2008.

Laurie Dann
Laurie Dann
Laurie Dann was an American murderer who shot and killed a boy, and wounded two girls and three boys, in a Winnetka, Illinois, elementary school, then took a family hostage and shot a man before killing herself.-Early life:Dann was born into a Jewish family in Chicago and grew up in Glencoe, an...

, who poisoned and shot victims in a May 1988 rampage in and around Winnetka
Winnetka, Illinois
Winnetka is an affluent North Shore village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. Winnetka was featured on the list of America's 25 top-earning towns and "one of the best places to live" by CNN Money in 2011...

, Illinois, was briefly considered as a suspect, but no direct connection was found.

On May 19, 2011, the FBI requested DNA samples from Ted Kaczynski, known as the "Unabomber", as part of its investigation into the killings.

Aftermath


The media gave Johnson & Johnson much positive coverage for its handling of the crisis; for example, an article in The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

said, "Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster." The article further stated that "this is no Three Mile Island accident
Three Mile Island accident
The Three Mile Island accident was a core meltdown in Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979....

 in which the company's response did more damage than the original incident," and applauded the company for being honest with the public. In addition to issuing the recall, the company established relations with the Chicago Police Department
Chicago Police Department
The Chicago Police Department, also known as the CPD, is the principal law enforcement agency of Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, under the jurisdiction of the Mayor of Chicago. It is the largest police department in the Midwest and the second largest local law enforcement agency in the...

, the FBI, and the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

. This way it could have a part in searching for the person who laced the capsules and they could help prevent further tamperings. While at the time of the scare the company's market share collapsed from thirty-five percent to eight percent, it rebounded in less than a year, a move credited to the company's prompt and aggressive reaction. In November, it reintroduced capsules but in a new, triple-sealed package, coupled with heavy price promotions and within several years, Tylenol had become the most popular over-the-counter analgesic
Analgesic
An analgesic is any member of the group of drugs used to relieve pain . The word analgesic derives from Greek an- and algos ....

 in the U.S.

A number of copycat
Copycat crimes
A copycat crime is a criminal act that is modelled or inspired by a previous crime that has been reported in the media or described in fiction.-Copycat effect:...

 attacks involving Tylenol and other products (see Stella Nickell
Stella Nickell
Stella Maudine Nickell is a Seattle-area woman who was sentenced to 90 years in prison for product tampering after she allegedly poisoned Excedrin capsules with lethal cyanide, which resulted in the deaths of her husband Bruce and of Susan Chapman Snow...

 for information on the 1986 Excedrin tampering murders)
ensued during the following years. One of these incidents occurred in the Chicago area; unlike Tylenol, it actually forced the end of the product affected by the hoax, Encaprin
Encaprin
Encaprin is a now-defunct brand of ibuprofen-based drug manufactured by Procter & Gamble in the mid-1980s.-Contamination hoax:In 1986 a hoax was started by an anonymous source, after an unidentified caller phoned Procter & Gamble claiming he had placed cyanide-filled capsules of Encaprin in...

, from Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio and manufactures a wide range of consumer goods....

. The incident inspired the pharmaceutical, food, and consumer product industries to develop tamper-resistant packaging, such as induction seals and improved quality control
Quality control
Quality control, or QC for short, is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. This approach places an emphasis on three aspects:...

 methods. Moreover, product tampering was made a federal crime.

Additionally, the tragedy prompted the pharmaceutical industry to move away from capsules, which were easy to contaminate as a foreign substance could be placed inside without obvious signs of tampering. Within the year, the FDA introduced more stringent regulations to avoid product tampering. This led to the eventual replacement of the capsule with the solid "caplet", a tablet made in the shape of a capsule, as a drug delivery form and with the addition of tamper-evident
Tamper-evident
Tamper-evident describes a device or process that makes unauthorized access to the protected object easily detected. Seals, markings or other techniques may be tamper indicating.-Tampering:...

 safety-seals to bottles of many sorts.

Ongoing investigations


In early January 2009, Illinois authorities renewed the investigation. Federal agents searched the home of Lewis in Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, and seized a number of items. In Chicago, an FBI spokesman declined to comment but said "we'll have something to release later possibly." Law enforcement officials have received a number of tips related to the case coinciding with its anniversary. In a written statement, the FBI explained,


This review was prompted, in part, by the recent 25th anniversary of this crime and the resulting publicity. Further, given the many recent advances in forensic technology, it was only natural that a second look be taken at the case and recovered evidence.


In January 2010, both Lewis and his wife submitted DNA samples and fingerprints to authorities. Lewis stated "if the FBI plays it fair, I have nothing to worry about."

On May 19, 2011, the FBI requested DNA samples from 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski in connection to the Tylenol murders. Kaczynski denied having ever possessed potassium cyanide. The investigation is still under way. The first four Unabomber crimes happened in Chicago and its suburbs from 1978 to 1980, and Kaczynski's parents had a suburban Chicago home in Lombard, Illinois in 1982, where he stayed occasionally.

External links