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This man changed your life

I, for one, was happy to read last week that the FBI has reopened the case against James William Lewis. You may have never heard of Lewis but you deal with the fallout of his alleged crime on a daily basis. Although he has never been charged with murder, Lewis is the prime suspect in the 1982 horror story in which seven people died after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide. Tylenol packages had been tampered with in Chicago area stores which led to nationwide fear of death. Sales of Tylenol were hammered, too. Lewis was convicted of attempting to extort $1 million from the manufacturer of the over the counter pain reliever and fever reducer after writing a letter and offering to ‘stop the killing’. That killing began on September 29, 1982 when 12-year-old Mary Kellerman downed two Tylenols to fight off a head cold before leaving for school. She was dead in minutes. That same morning, Adam Janus, Mary Reiner and Mary McFarland also died after taking Tylenol. That evening Janus’ grieving brother and sister-in-law died after taking Tylenol at Janus’ house. Relatives watched in horror as the family suffered its second and third deaths in the same day. Later, flight attendant Paula Jean Prince was found dead in her apartment. She, too, had taken the tainted drug. A task force was formed to solve the case. It failed despite being assigned over 100 investigators who followed up over 6500 leads, identified 400 possible suspects and generated 20,000 pages of reports. Lewis has always been and always will be the prime suspect. Here’s hoping new technology will be able to hang the murders around his neck so he can enjoy some poisoning for himself. How did this case impact you, you ask? The Tylenol murders prompted the wrapping of everything from eye drops to Barbie dolls in multiple layers of sealed plastic. That plastic is difficult to remove and clogs up landfills worldwide. So, the next time you struggle with such a seal, you know who to curse under your breath.

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