In the fall of 1982, seven people in Chicago died after taking Tylenol that was laced with cyanide. A 12-year old girl who complained of a cold and was given Tylenol by her parents became one of the first victims. Another victim, Adam Janus, died after taking the pill for his chest pains, and while his younger brother and sister-in-law grieved, they took some of Adam’s Tylenol and also died. Needless to say, the city of Chicago was in a panicked frenzy and police pulled the product from the shelves. This particular incident inspired fear, copycat crimes and hoaxes – yet, incredibly, pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson successfully bounced back from the consequent huge drop in their market share due to their honesty with the public and their cooperation with the FBI and the FDA.
Culprits behind the Tylenol poisonings have never been identified, but investigation are ongoing with advances in technology making a break in the case look slightly more likely. Between 2009 and 2011, the house of a James Lewis was searched in relation to the investigation, and Theodore John “Ted” Kaczynski – a mathematical genius, Harvard graduate and serial killer who’s known for opposing industrialism – is also under investigation. It was this horrifying incident that led the the creation of those tamper-proof caps we find on so many medications, foods and drinks.
Early on in the investigations, a man named James William Lewis sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million dollars to stop the murders. He was never linked to the killings, as he was living in New York City, but was arrested for extortion, serving 13 years of a 20 year sentence before being released in 1995.
The Chicago Tylenol murder case has still yet to be solved. In 2011, the FBI looked into the possibility of a link between the murders and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Despite the fact that Kacynski frequently lived in Illinois, conclusive evidence has been able to implicate him.