CBS 2 Vault: The Tylenol Poisonings, 30 Years Later

CHICAGO (CBS) — On today 30 years in the past, a 12-year-old Elk Grove Village lady collapsed and died after taking two Tylenol capsules earlier than going to highschool that morning, and 6 extra individuals would die within the days to come back.

The case stays unsolved, and stays probably the most notorious in Chicago historical past. Here is a glance again at a few of CBS 2’s protection of the Tylenol murders.

On Sept. 29, 1982, Mary Kellerman, 12, collapsed and died after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol for a head chilly. A short while afterward, postal employee Adam Janus, of Arlington Heights, died within the hospital after taking the identical drug.

Adam Janus’ brother, Stanley, and sister-in-law, Theresa, who had gathered in Arlington Heights to mourn their beloved one, took Tylenol from the identical bottle and each died.

In the times afterward, new mom Mary Reiner, 27, of Winfield; Lombard telephone heart worker Mary McFarland, 31; and flight attendant Paula Jean Prince, 35, of the Old Town neighborhood additionally died.

A reporter for the City News Bureau found that each one the victims had taken Tylenol, and a panic ensued when that hyperlink was made public.

As the late Phil Walters reported for CBS 2, it turned out that each one the Tylenol had come from one batch – Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules, 50-capsule dimension, Lot No. MC2880, expiration date April 1987. Officials suggested everybody to destroy any Tylenol bottles that they had marked that method, and producer Johnson & Johnson ordered retailer homeowners to clear their cabinets.

In a midnight information convention on Oct. 1, Mayor Jane Byrne banned Tylenol within the metropolis, and implored Chicagoans to show in all their Tylenol merchandise. Meanwhile, calls got here into the duty pressure investigating the deaths because the demise depend mounted, to the purpose the place telephone traces had been nearly consistently jammed.

Poison management facilities had been additionally deluged with calls from individuals who had been afraid that they had taken tainted Tylenol, CBS 2 Health and Science Editor Roger Field reported.

“We were just swamped with calls,” Jack Lipscomb, the director of the Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Poison Control Center, mentioned within the Oct. 1, 1982, report. “The majority the time, all three of our lines were busy at once, for almost the entire day. We did have some problems with people with other poisonings trying to get through and were not able to.”

But the supply of the contaminated drug could not be pinpointed to at least one retailer or one supply. It was traced shops close to the residences of all of the victims—Jewel shops in Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights, a retailer in Winfield, and the Walgreens retailer at North Avenue and Wells Street in Chicago. Poisoned Tylenol was additionally discovered nonetheless on the shelf at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

On Oct. 5, 1982, Johnson & Johnson ordered a nationwide recall of all Tylenol merchandise, and there have been questions whether or not poisoning circumstances in different elements of the nation had been associated. Johnson & Johnson additionally suggested customers to not take any merchandise containing acetaminophen in any respect.

The following day, Mayor Byrne launched an ordinance to the City Council to require all over-the-counter medication offered in Chicago to be sealed. At the time, most weren’t.

And whereas no extra deaths had been attributed to tainted Tylenol after Oct. 2, worries in regards to the drug even ruined Halloween for many individuals – significantly as unrelated circumstances of meals tampering had been reported in Illinois and across the nation. West suburban Bensenville went as far as to ban out of doors trick-or-treating.

It was not till late November that town allowed Tylenol merchandise again on Chicago cabinets, and regardless of three layers of tamper-resistant packaging, a number of clients informed CBS 2 reporter I.J. Hudson they might not purchase Tylenol capsules even then.

Ultimately, the case completely modified trade practices for the advertising and marketing and packaging of over-the-counter medication. But 30 years later, the case stays unsolved.

One man, James Lewis, was arrested after sending a letter to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million for him to “stop the killing.” But whereas Lewis was convicted of extortion and despatched to jail, he was by no means charged with the Tylenol murders.

Lewis was again within the information simply three years in the past, when the FBI confiscated bins and a computer from his house in Cambridge, Mass. But no costs towards him had been introduced forth.

Last year, authorities confirmed they were seeking DNA samples from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in connection with the poisonings. But Kaczynski mentioned he has by no means even possessed any potassium cyanide, the poison used within the Tylenol case.


Earlier this week, FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Ross Rice told WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding that he hopes the evolution of technology will bring a resolution to the Tylenol case.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding studies


“There are usable DNA samples that were obtained to the original investigation,” Rice mentioned. “We now have a means to analyze those DNA samples and compare them with known offenders in the Illinois database.”

A particular job pressure was fashioned 4 years in the past to reinvestigate the Tylenol murders.

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