Chicago Tylenol Murders


On October 5, 1982, the Johnson and Johnson Corporation recalled 31 millions bottles of Tylenol after the deaths of several consumers in Chicago. On September 29th a woman in Chicago died of cyanide poisoning. Within the next few days six more cyanide deaths occur. As several of these deaths were from the same households, investigators were able to determine that they all were the result of poisoned Tylenol capsules.

Local officials engaged in a frantic scramble to warn the public. This included TV and newspaper ads as well as loudspeaker patrol warning the public. When a Tylenol bottles was laced with strychnine in California (the work of a copycat) Johnson and Johnson declared a national recall of all Tylenol capsules. Unfortunately there were several copycat incidents that caused deaths and injuries around the country including a Seattle man who tried to kill his wife with cyanide laced Sudafed.

Investigators were able to determine that the bottles were tampered with at the individual stores and not a packaging issue. Unfortunately this is where the case went cold. Several suspects were identified, including a Massachusetts man who attempted to extort Johnson and Johnson claiming to be the perp. Several other suspects didn’t pan out. The FBI began grasping at straws, even requesting a DNA sample from the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, after his capture because his parents owned a home in suburban Chicago. The case remains unsolved to this day, which is, of course, a bitter pill to swallow.


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