Authorities have made another attempt to solve the 1982 Tylenol murders, seven fatal poisonings that terrorized the Chicago area and remained unsolved forty years later.
“There was cyanide in the Tylenol and the public had to be warned about that because once you took the pill, you died,” former Cook County medical examiner Edmund Donoghue said during an interview about the case last year. He was one of many to sound the alarm in the fall of 1982, when victim after victim took cyanide-laced Tylenol and died.
For years, researchers focused on James Lewis, now 76 and living in Massachusetts. Lewis admitted to sending a letter to Tylenol’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, demanding a $1 million ransom to stop the murders. He was convicted of racketeering and spent years in prison, but was never charged with the murders.
The Chicago Tribune reports that investigators traveled to the Boston area this week to attempt to interview Lewis, who has long maintained his innocence.
“They are barking at the wrong tree and as long as they keep doing this it absolutely guarantees they will never solve the Tylenol murders,” he said in an interview from prison years ago.
An Illinois state police spokesperson said Thursday, “We are involved in the most recent follow-up investigations, but cannot comment further as it is an ongoing investigation.”
ISP confirmed that these efforts recently included meetings this summer involving the agency’s director and other law enforcement officials.
In September 1982, residents of Chicago and its suburbs began living in a nightmare. Someone put cyanide in Extra Strength Tylenol capsules and put the bottles back on store shelves. In the course of just a few days, seven people were found dead. In this episode of “Big Chicago Stories,” NBC 5’s Phil Rogers returns to that…
Police in Arlington Heights – where three were killed – said last year they held everything in the case: pills, bottles, boxes and more.
“We’re still receiving tips that are being evaluated and investigated. We’re also still — we’re looking at emerging forensic technology,” Sgt. Joe Murphy said in an interview last year, noting that the case is an “active murder investigation.”
“We have been working with multiple agencies for years with the ultimate goal of solving this case,” Murphy said Thursday.
The attorneys for the DuPage and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement that they spent 40 years “working tirelessly” on the case.
“We have interviewed dozens of witnesses, poured over thousands of documents and spent countless man-hours on this pursuit and continue to do so. This case remains an open and active investigation and will remain so until justice is served,” the statement read. .
Former federal prosecutor Jeremy Margolis was assigned to the case from day one.
“Those of us involved in this were absolutely consumed with a relentless sense of mission to find out who did this, how we can stop them, and then bring them justice,” he said last year. “Every imaginable theory, every imaginable motive, virtually every possibility that could conjure one’s imagination was considered.”
“I am hopeful that one day someone – name not mentioned here – will be brought to justice for this series of terrible murders,” he said in 2021.
The murders not only caused panic in the Chicago area and the US, but forever changed the way we consume medicine, leading to the introduction of sealed pill boxes.
Note: Thursday at 8 p.m., NBC 5 News will host a special screening of its documentary about the Tylenol Peacock murders. It can be viewed by downloading the free Peacock app, clicking the “Channels” tab and scrolling to NBC Chicago News.