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40 Years After Tylenol Murders Terrorized The Nation, New Information Shows Case Is Still Being Investigated


This month marks 40the anniversary of the “Tylenol murders,” a case that led to seven deaths in the Chicago area and several others elsewhere.

To this day, it remains unsolved.

It was the fall of 1982 and the mystery gripped the nation with anxiety and fear. Someone poisoned extra-strength Tylenol, America’s best-selling pain reliever, with lethal doses of potassium cyanide.

The person responsible was never arrested and the public faced a wave of fear over the tampering of everyday products in grocery stores.

But investigative reporters for the Chicago Tribune have uncovered new information showing the case is still being actively investigated and some law enforcement officials say there is enough circumstantial evidence to press charges against the prime suspect.

Chicago Tribune investigative reporters Christy Gutowski and Stacy St. Clair conducted a nine-month investigation into the mystery surrounding the murders, interviewing 150 people in multiple states and reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documents.

“It’s an active investigation,” Gutowski said. “Investigators just returned to Illinois (Thursday) from the Boston, Cambridge area and interviewed Jim Lewis, the prime suspect.”

His report reveals that the FBI recorded video of prime suspect James Lewis during an undercover operation.

“We were able to see an undercover FBI video that was recorded in 2007 right here in Chicago at the Sheraton Hotel,” Gutowski said.

The FBI interview indicates that Lewis knew about the Tylenol deaths before they became public.

Lewis was a tax consultant who sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson and said he would stop the killings if the company paid him $1 million. He was convicted of extortion and spent 12 years in prison. But investigators never found strong evidence to link it to the poisonings.

“They went through some of his stuff and found the poison manual,” St. Clair said. “And in the years since, they fingerprinted that book and on page 196, the page that includes information about how much cyanide is needed for a fatal diosis in the average human being, they found Jim Lewis’s fingerprint.”

It’s circumstantial evidence, but law enforcement officials say they will take it to prosecutors in Cook County and DuPage County so they can consider criminal charges 40 years after the Tylenol murders.

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