A wave of copycat tamperings occurred afterwards: Lipton Cup-A-Soup in 1986, Exedrin in 1986, Tylenol again in 1986, Sudafed in 1991, and Goody's Headache Powder in 1992. Deaths resulted in these cases. Prior to 1982, tamper-proof capsules and tamper-proof packaging were essentially unknown. The technology evolved rapidly in response to the threat, and today such packaging is a familiar sight to all. Although copycat product tamperings have tapered off, probably as a direct result of improved packaging, cases continue to occur sporadically to this day. Incidents have occurred throughout the country, but with a surprising number in the Chicago area. Some 53 threats of product tampering have, in fact, been received by the FBI with a Gary, Indiana or south Chicago area postmark. Gary, of course, is a part of the Greater Chicago area. Cases of tampering, including the use of cyanide, have occurred in North Chicago, Lombard, Chicago proper and outlying areas. One unsolved cyanide poisoning occurred in Detroit, and another in Tennessee.
|The Tylenol killer has never been caught. Many believe he never will be caught. A somewhat bumbling suspect who attempted to cash in on the unprecedented publicity was arrested and charged with extortion, but not with the murders. The police concluded he was merely an opportunistic extortionist, and could not be the murderer. Although some believed he should have been tried for the murders, too many details and circumstances suggested he could not be the poisoner. James Lewis was released in 1995, after serving 13 years of a 20 year sentence.|
The lot numbers of the tainted tylenol capsules were MD 1910, MC 2880, MA 1801, and MB 2738. Evidently they were taken from different stores over a period of weeks or months, prior to being poisoned and placed back on the shelves of five different Chicago area stores. One package was placed in each store, except that two bottles were recovered from the Woodfield Osco. Also, two bottles were recovered from one other retail outlet that was not identified. Some of the packages had 5 or less poisoned capsules. One had 10 poisoned capsules.
|STORES WHERE POISONED TYLENOL WAS PLACED|
|Jewel Foods, 122 N. Vail, Arlington Heights|
|Jewel Foods, 948 Grove Mall, Elk Grove Village|
|Osco Drug Store, Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg|
|Walgreen Drug Store, 1601 N. Wells, Chicago|
|Frank's Finer Foods, 0N040 Winfield Rd, Winfield|
|(one unidentified retail outlet)|
Quite possibly, the killer arrived on a plane at O'Hare airport in the morning, rented a car and drove the roughly circular route back to the airport, returning home the same day. Airline records, if they still exist, might show a very limited number of people who arrived and left within 24 hours, and did not use a hotel but did rent a car. Mileage on the car, if the records still exist, might corroborate the route. This would also suggest the killer was well-employed, perhaps in the very competitive pharmaceutical industry. If he took a single day off work (returning to work inconspicuously the next day) then he could not be from the West Coast, but more likely the East Coast, where the pharmaceutical industry is centered (i.e. New Jersey). Company records (at the competitor's main office) would show this man missed a day of work the day before the killings.
The specific form of cyanide used in the poisonings has been reported to be potassium cyanide, according to then Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner, in an article in the Chicago Tribune dated Oct. 3, 1982. The level of purity was not publicly reported, but in the 1986 incident, which also involved potassium cyanide, the purity was reported as 90%. Potassium cyanide is commonly used in the metal electroplating, metal extraction, photographic and cinematographic film processing industries. It also is used in animal pharmacology, where purity levels are generally higher, and some equestrian applications.
The killer completely emptied each of some 20 or 30 capsules, and then refilled them with the grayish crystalline potassium cyanide. The capsules that were recovered all appeared deformed or bulky. This crude, clumsy work would have been obvious to a careful eye, but such a cruel and pusillanimous act could not have been anticipated in 1982.
The rather imprecise work indicates an amateur criminal. This man was no chemist, no biologist, no computer programmer, no precise technical professional of any sort, but more likely a facile business manager or PR man.
The quantities used in this crime also suggest that he had anonymous access to no insignificant quantity of potassium cyanide, in amounts that were not missed. Only a complete theory is lacking to tie it all together, and what a theory requires for completeness is a motive.
If this was about money then it looks like an attempt to damage J&J's immensely successful Tylenol brand. If it wasn't about money then he may have had some vendetta against J&J. In either of these cases, it looks like he may have been an employee of a competitor. J&J had two or three major competitors but only one that had suffered a serious sales reduction due to the competition with Tylenol, and it is this company's employees that should have been investigated.
Whatever the motivation of the killer, it would seem his objective was unrealized. Having become a murderer and a failure, it is possible that this man committed suicide some years after the incident. Surely the suicide of a manager at a major pharmaceutical firm would not go unnoticed by fellow employees?
Many people believe the Tylenol Killer will never be caught, and that this was an unsolvable crime. There is still hope of solving this crime, because someone, somewhere, knows something.