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  • Wednesday September 29, 1982 12 year old Mary Kellerman woke up not feeling

  • well; she had a runny nose and sore throat.

  • Her parents allowed her to stay home from school, they suggested that she take Tylenol

  • and go back to bed.

  • A while later, Mary went into the bathroom and collapsed.

  • From another room, Mary's Dad heard a loud thump, as if something heavy had fallen.

  • He knocked on the bathroom door asking if Mary needed help, but she didn't answer.

  • He forced the door open and found Mary sprawled unconscious on the floor.

  • Worried, her parents called for an ambulance.

  • The EMTs were unable to revive her, neither were the doctors in the ER when she arrived

  • at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago.

  • By 9:30 am Mary had been pronounced dead.

  • The doctors thought it was a stroke, but were going to run some tests since this was an

  • unusual death for a healthy preteen girl.

  • In Arlington Heights, Illinois, 27 year old postal worker Adam Janus was feeling awful,

  • so he decided to take the day off work.

  • He took some Tylenol and lay down for a nap.

  • Later his wife came to check on him and found him unresponsive.

  • Adama was dead by the time the ambulance delivered him to the ER at Northwest Community Hospital.

  • Initially Adam was thought to have had a massive heart attack.

  • But the diagnosis didn't sit well with Dr. Kim, as Adam was young, healthy and had no

  • history of heart trouble.

  • Dr. Kim talked to several members of the Janus family who had rushed to the hospital.

  • That evening Adam's devastated family gathered at his home to make arrangements.

  • Adam's younger brother 25 year old Stanley and his wife 19 year old Theresa had headaches

  • from the events of the day.

  • Both took Tylenol.

  • On his way outside to have a cigarette, Stanley collapsed.

  • They called for an ambulance.

  • While the paramedics were loading her husband on a stretcher, Theresa fell unconscious too.

  • Suspecting that the family had been exposed to poison, possibly carbon monoxide, the rest

  • of the Janus family was taken to hospital for observation.

  • They were given their last rites, just in case.

  • At the hospital Dr. Kim was shocked to learn that two members of the Janus family that

  • had been perfectly fine hours before, were now in comas.

  • Sadly, Stanley would die later on that night and two days later, Thereesa would be removed

  • from life support.

  • Meanwhile a team consisting of police, a nurse from the public health office and an inspector

  • visited Adam's house to find the contaminant.

  • They didn't find anything unusual, but Nurse Jensen, realizing that all three members of

  • the family had taken the same medication, collected the Tylenol bottle.

  • Back at the hospital Dr. Kim was trying to find a link between the illnesses of all three

  • family members.

  • When Nurse Jensen suggested Tylenol, several officials were skeptical.

  • Meanwhile two firefighters, Richard Keyworth and Phillip Cappitelli chatted about the strange

  • calls their departments had received that day.

  • They realized the similarities between Mary Kellerman's death and the Janus deaths.

  • Richard said to his friendThis is a wild stab, but maybe it's the Tylenol."

  • They ended up contacting Dr. Kim and the police tracked down the Kellerman's bottle of Tylenol.

  • Both Tylenol bottles had the same control number: MC2880.

  • Upon first inspection, they seemed normal, but when capsules were opened the distinctive

  • cyanide scent of bitter almonds filled the air.

  • Cyanide is a poison that kills rapidly by inhibiting the body's ability to use oxygen.

  • Upon testing, each of the Tylenol capsules proved to be laced with enough potassium cyanide

  • to kill thousands.

  • Sadly within 2 days, three more victims passed away: 27 year old Mary Reiner, who had recently

  • given birth to her fourth child and was experiencing aches and pains, and 30 year old Mary McFarland

  • who felt a headache coming on during a busy shift at the Illinois Bell Phone Center.

  • After taking Tylenol in the break room, Mary staggered out into the office and collapsed

  • to the horror of her coworkers.

  • The final victim was Paula Prince, a 35-year-old Chicago flight attendant.

  • Exhausted after arriving late from a Las Vegas run, she bought Tylenol around 9 PM at a Walgreens

  • near her apartment.

  • Paula went home, got ready for bed, took some capsules, and collapsed.

  • Her body was discovered two days later, when her sister came to check on her after not

  • being able to reach her by phone.

  • On September 30th, the day after Mary Kellerman's death, Dr. Kim confirmed cyanide in the toxicology

  • results and immediately notified the federal government.

  • Johnson & Johnson was also alerted.

  • The public health department held a press conference warning residents of Greater Chicago

  • that Tylenol bottles had been tampered with and cyanide had been found.

  • At this point in time, closed items at stores just came with a top, and maybe cotton packing

  • if it was medicine.

  • There were no elaborate seals to prevent anyone from tampering with the product.

  • By 3pm that afternoon Johnson & Johnson had issued a recall for all Tylenol from lot MC2880.

  • When news of the poisonings broke, there was panic across greater Chicago.

  • Deaths and warnings about Tylenol dominated the press.

  • Police drove up and down streets and issued warnings against using Tylenol through loudspeakers.

  • They handed out flyers in several different languages.

  • The medication was pulled from store shelves.

  • People turned up at local hospitals, convinced they were suffering from cyanide poisoning,

  • when it was an unrelated illness.

  • Over the next few days Johnson & Johnson halts production of Tylenol capsules.

  • The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] tests over 1 million capsules and finds no poisonings

  • outside of Chicago.

  • After Mary Reiner's and Paula's deaths the authorities realized their Tylenol had a different

  • control number.

  • Mayor Jane Bryne bans sales of Tylenol in Chicago.

  • The FDA issues warning to consumers nationwide not to take any Tylenol in capsules.

  • Several states began to take action on their own and banned sales of Tylenol.

  • Then on October 5th, about a week after the first death Johnson & Johnson recalls all

  • Tylenol products nationwide.

  • This is around 31 million bottles valued at more than $100 million.

  • Consumers are urged to return the medication for a full refund.

  • The company establishes a 1-800 phone number to directly handle calls from a panicked public,

  • and a media line for communication with reporters.

  • They offer $100,000 as a reward to anyone who can identify a suspect.

  • Meanwhile, a taskforce drawn from 15 federal, state and local agencies consisting of 140

  • people to track down the killer has been convened.

  • They trace the path of Tylenol sold in Chicago through manufacturing, distribution and retail,

  • talking to hundreds of workers along the way.

  • Authorities even question store cashiers about any "strange persons" who might have lingered

  • in stores or bought multiple boxes of Tylenol.

  • The victims' bottles contain both safe and poisoned capsules, which suggested tampering

  • with the individual bottle.

  • This and checks at the manufacturing plants quickly ruled out the possibility of a manufacturing

  • defect in the Tylenol.

  • The most prominent theory was of a lone wolf murderer.

  • The killer visited each store and paid for the Tylenol, not wanting to risk a shoplifting

  • arrest.

  • They then emptied a handful of capsules, replaced the acetaminophen with potassium cyanide,

  • reassembled the capsules, sprinkled a few on top of each bottle to insure quick ingestion,

  • and returned the box to its shelf sometime around September 28th.

  • In 1982, store surveillance cameras and scanner databases just were beginning to come into

  • widespread use.

  • So it would be entirely possible for an individual to slip boxes back on the shelves and not

  • be detected.

  • When their search with retailers didn't turn up anything unusual, investigators widened

  • their probe.

  • They checked for a possible manipulation of Johnson & Johnson stock prices by an imagined

  • white-collar crime syndicate.

  • They examined the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN.

  • The victim's families were intensively interviewed.

  • Previously arrested shoplifters in Chicago got a second look and on and on.

  • On October 6th, Johnson & Johnson received an extortion letter demanding $1 million to

  • "stop the killings."

  • The unsigned letter provided a bank account to deposit the money into.

  • Upon investigation, the authorities determined that the bank account belonged to Frederick

  • Miller McCahey and the letter had been stamped by the postage meter machine at Frederick's

  • now defunct travel agency.

  • Chicago authorities grilled Frederick and were able to rule him out.

  • Then they asked if he had any enemies who would make trouble for him.

  • Frederick came up with the names Robert and Nancy Richardson.

  • When his business Lakeside Travel went belly-up, the final wage checks bounced.

  • Several employees had sued Frederick for wages, but the judge dismissed their claim.

  • Robert Richardson, the husband of his former employee Nancy had been especially bitter

  • over how things had played out.

  • A subsequent investigation identified Richard and Nancy as James and LeAnn Lewis.

  • The couple had previously been involved in several questionable check writing and tax

  • fraud scams but always managed to skip town and stay ahead of the law.

  • Also James had been charged with the 1978 Kansas City murder of one of his former clients.

  • However the charges were dropped after a judge ruled that the police search of Lewis' home

  • was illegal.

  • Unfortunately, the Lewis' current whereabouts were unknown.

  • A national manhunt ensued and James' face was plastered all over the news.

  • He wrote several letters to various newspapers proclaiming his innocence, but they finally

  • caught him in New York.

  • Shortly after her was taken into custody LeAnn surrendered.

  • James was questioned intensively, but the authorities were never able to link him to

  • the Tylenol tamperings.

  • It seems he had written the extortion letter as revenge in the hopes that Frederick Miller

  • McCahey would be investigated.

  • James Lewis was convicted of attempting to extort $1 million from Johnson & Johnson after

  • the fact and sentenced to 20 years.

  • Another prominent suspect was a 48 year-old dockhand named Roger Arnold.

  • At the Lincoln Park taverns one evening, Roger explained how he would go about committing

  • the Tylenol murders.

  • Another patron reported him.

  • Officers arrested him on a four-month-old assault complaint and used the opportunity

  • to interrogate him about the poisonings.

  • As it turns out, a series of coincidences further implicated Roger.

  • He worked at a Jewel supermarket warehouse with the father of victim Mary Reiner.

  • A search of his home revealed several unlicensed guns, how-to crime manuals, a bag of chemical

  • powder, and beakers and funnels.

  • But the powder turned out to be potassium carbonate, not cyanide.

  • Other than saying it was for nothing illegal, Roger refused to explain why he had the powder.

  • Roger was charged with assault and weapons violations, and released on $6,000 bond.

  • Resentful of the situation, he came to believe tavern owner Marty Sinclair was the one who

  • ratted him out.

  • On June 18, 1983, Roger shot 46 year old computer consultant John Stanisha, but it was a case

  • of mistaken identity for Marty.

  • He was convicted in 1984 for second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years.

  • Despite all the interviews and tips from the public, the investigation went nowhere.

  • Only 100 days into investigation, the 140-person team was whittled down to 20 detectives.

  • Over the next year, the team would slowly grow smaller until the unit was disbanded.

  • Investigators collected 15,000 pages of documents and interviewed 400 persons of interest out

  • of a pool of 20,000.

  • Today, more than 35 years later, the case remains unsolved.

  • Ultimately, Johnson & Johnson ended up testing 1.5 million bottles of Tylenol and finding

  • three unopened bottles contaminated with cyanide for a total of 10 bottles that had been tampered.

  • The company took a major hit.

  • In 1981 Tylenol was the No. 1 non prescription painkiller in the US and accounted for 17%

  • of the Johnson & Johnson net income.

  • After the recall, Johnson & Johnson share's of the $1.2 billion painkiller industry plunged

  • from 37% to 7%.

  • Many in the financial industry thought that Johnson & Johnson would never recover.

  • Two months later, Johnson & Johnson relaunched Tylenol in tamper proof packaging amid an

  • extensive media campaign.

  • The company also introduced price reductions and a new version of their pills: thecaplet

  • — a tablet coated with slick, easy-to-swallow gelatin that would be hard to tamper with.

  • Within a few years, the company had completely bounced back and gained a good reputation

  • as the company had chosen customer welfare over business.

  • Johnson & Johnson's tamper proof packaging soon became an industry standard.

  • The same year, the FDA issued its first regulations for tamper-resistant packaging of over-the-counter

  • drugs.

  • Also in 1983, Congress passed a bill that made it a federal crime to tamper with medications

  • and other consumer goods, previously it had only been a misdemeanor.

  • The families of the victims sued Johnson & Johnson asserting that the pharmaceutical company

  • should have been prepared for product tampering.

  • In 1991, the families of all 7 victims agreed to a settlement for an undisclosed sum.

  • One of the provisions of the settlement was that annuities be created to pay the college

  • costs of the victims' eight children.

  • James Lewis was paroled in October 1995 after serving a bit more than half of his 20-year

  • sentence.

  • Over the years he has had several provocative interviews with authorities, explaining that

  • during his years in prison, he had a lot of time to think about the crime and has some

  • insights as to how it may have been committed.

  • In 2009, the FBI reopened the Tylenol case.

  • They searched James Lewis's home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and seized several items including

  • an old Macintosh computer.

  • In 2010, James was ordered to provide fingerprint and DNA samples to authorities.

  • In 2011, federal investigators requested a DNA sample from the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski,

  • who lived in the Chicagoland area at the time of the murders.

  • Some critics think investigating James Lewis and Ted Kaczynski are just distractions to

  • keep the public focused on the lone wolf theory and protect Johnson & Johnson from liability.

  • As long as the FBI has the case open, access to evidence and documents is limited.

  • Some people have come to believe that the tampering occurred in the distribution channel

  • of the Tylenol manufacturer.

  • At the time, little was reported on a strange incident the occurred the day before the first

  • murder.

  • Around 2:30 am on September 28, 1982 two Kane County Sheriff Deputies, Al Swanson and Joseph

  • Chavez stopped at Howard & Johnson's hotel and diner in a suburb of greater Chicago to

  • grab a bite to eat.

  • On a grassy strip near the parking lot they noticed two boxes marked with the wordsEXTRA-STRENGTH

  • TYLENOL CAPSULES”.

  • Hundreds of capsules were scattered on the ground, as well as a pile of white powder.

  • The deputies scraped up some of the powder and rubbed it between their fingers.

  • They assumed a drug dealer cutting illegal drugs had dumped the suspicious items.

  • Not aware of any particular crime, they simply left the boxes.

  • No long after eating, both men became sick.

  • Al had extreme nausea, dizziness and vomiting, and Joseph noticed pain and swelling in his

  • arm.

  • They rushed away without making a connection with the symptoms and the packages.

  • Al couldn't finish his shift.

  • Joseph finished his shift with the arm pain continuing.

  • The next morning both were hospitalized.

  • It wasn't until a few days later, they realized the implications.Authorities returned to the

  • parking lot, but by that time most of the evidence was gone.