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A look back at the ‘Tylenol Murders’ 40 yrs later


CHICAGO – 40 years ago today, what would become known as the “Tylenol Murders” started to tragically unfold in Chicagoland.

Over the span of three days seven people died from poisoning after ingesting cyanide-laced capsules of Extra -Strength Tylenol bought in local drugstores.

The case terrified Chicagoans, gripped the nation, and led drug companies to create safety-seal packaging for their products.

Police believe someone took bottles of Tylenol capsules from several grocery and drug stores in the area, filled them with the cyanide pills then put the tampered bottles back on the shelves.

The killer was never caught, and the case remains unsolved to this day.

In 1983, James W. Lewis, a former Chicago resident, was convicted of attempting to extort Johnson & Johnson, after he sent them a letter saying he would stop the Tylenol killings in exchange for $1 million.

A Chicago Tribune investigation has uncovered new information linking Lewis, now 76, to the murders, and you can hear more on their podcast here.

Below are the names of the victims who died from taking laced capsules between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, 1982.

  • Mary Kellerman, 12, Elk Grove Village
  • Adam Janus, 27, Arlington Heights
  • Stanley Janus, 25, Lisle
  • Theresa Janus, 19, Lisle
  • Mary McFarland, 31, Elmhurst
  • Paula Prince, 35, Chicago
  • Mary Reiner, 27, Winfield

WGN was there when the case played out and here’s a look at some of that coverage.

WGN’s Larry Roderick reports on the first victims

WGN’s Larry Roderick reports on possible suspects and another victim

WGN’s Don Harris reports on the removal of tylenol from store shelves

WGN’S Don Harris reports doctors confirm cyanide tampering and police issue warning to residents

WGN reports on police door-to-door in search for tylenol, and psychiatrist gives profile of suspect

WGN’s Don Harris reports on lab testing and source of contamination

WGN’s Larry Roderick reports on what it takes to test bottles of tylenol

WGN’s Don Harris reports on the arrest of LeAnn Lewis in connection with an extortion letter

WGN’s Muriel Clair reports on James Lewis court appearance

WGN’s Don Harris reports on Mayor Jane Byrne’s order that all over the counter drugs, cosmetics and some foods be sealed


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