Illinois · Newspaper clippings · Serial Killers

The first victims of the Chicago Tylenol Murders

September 29, 1982
Chicago, Illinois
The first two victims of the Chicago Tylenol Murders are killed

Beginning on September 29, random victims began dying after ingesting potassium cyanide-laced extra-strength Tylenol pills. The first victim was 12-year-old Mary Kellerman; six more would follow her to the grave.

During investigations, it was determined each tainted bottle had been tampered with and had come from multiple manufacturers, eliminating the theory of tampering during production. It was later speculated the killer or killers had purchased the pill bottles from grocery stores and pharmacies over several weeks, added potassium cyanide to the capsules, then returned them to store shelves.

In the wake of the murders, stored removed Tylenol and other acetaminophen from their shelves while Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s parent company, issued a nation-wide recall.

Though several suspects were investigated, none led to an arrest or conviction. One such suspect was James William Lewis, who demanded $1 million from Johnson & Johnson to “stop the killings.” He was found to have been living in New York City at the time and was unable to be linked to the murders. Lewis was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 20 years in prison, 13 of which were served before he was released on parole. An investigation against Lewis was re-opened in 2009, though at this time he has not been charged, nor has anyone else. The case remains unsolved, has inspired copycat killers, and prompted companies to employ tamper-evident packaging to prevent further incidents or copycats.

The Chicago Tribune. October 1, 1982

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