Tylenol Murders Remain Unsolved After 36 Years

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL — It has now been 36 years since seven people in the Chicagoland area died suddenly minutes after ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. In a case that shocked the nation, the Tylenol Murders were the basis for numerous “copycat” crimes in the years after the deaths. But while many of the “copycats” were caught, no one has ever been charged with the original crimes.

The case remains an open investigation handled by the Arlington Heights Police Department. It was in Arlington Heights that three of the victims, all members of the Janus family, died in the final days of September 1982.

Arlington Heights Deputy Police Chief Nathan Hayes says there haven’t been any new developments from a year ago, when then Deputy Chief Miguel Hernandez said the case remains an “active” investigation with multiple suspects.

“We are exploring a few new angles, but we are at a similar point to where we were last year,” said Hayes, who continues to be optimistic about an eventual arrest in the case.

“The case is still open,” he said. “We are hoping to make an arrest and bring justice to the victims and their families.”

Hernandez said last year that the task force investigating the crimes that killed Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Paula Prince of Chicago, Mary Reiner of Winfield and Adam, Stanley and Theresa Janus of Arlington Heights includes police from Cook County, Du Page County, Elk Grove Village, Lombard, Schaumburg, Chicago, Winfield and the Illinois State Police.

All seven victims died between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, 1982 after taking Tylenol capsules that were likely stolen, tampered with, laced with potassium cyanide and returned to grocery store shelves at various, apparently random, locations in Chicagoland.

The FBI handled the case for years. And although a man named James Lewis spent 13 years in prison for extortion in connection with the crimes, no one has ever been charged in the deaths themselves. A few years ago, the FBI sent the Tylenol case back to Arlington Heights police.

“This is an open, active investigation,” Hernandez said last September.


Retired Arlington Heights village nurse Helen Jensen was the first to notice the Tylenol connection in the deaths of all seven victims. She told Patch in an interview last year that the case is considered by many to be the moment in time “when we lost our innocence.”

Believed to be the first case of over-the-counter product tampering that resulted in multiple deaths, the Tylenol Murders were the basis for federal product-tampering laws that were put into effect and the reason why over-the-counter products today all have tamper-proof seals.

Photo via Tim Moran / Patch

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