The Tylenol Terrorist BY Rachael Bell Death in a Bottle Extra-Strength Tylenol package On September 29, 1982, 12-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, woke up at dawn and went into her parents' bedroom. She did not feel well and complained of having a sore throat and a runny nose. To ease her discomfort, her parents gave her one Extra-Strength Tylenol capsule. At 7 a.m. they found Mary on the bathroom floor. She was immediately taken to the hospital where she was later pronounced dead. Doctors initially suspected that Mary died from a stroke, but evidence later pointed to a more sinister diagnosis. Mary Kellerman That same day, paramedics were called to the Arlington Heights home of 27-year-old postal worker Adam Janus. When they arrived, they found him lying on the floor. His breathing was labored, his blood pressure was dangerously low and his pupils were fixed and dilated. The paramedics rushed Adam Janus to the emergency room at Northwest Community Hospital, where they attempted to resuscitate him, but it was too late. Adam died shortly after he was brought to the hospital. His death was believed to be the result of a massive heart attack. However, doctors would later learn that his death was anything but natural. On the eve of Adam's death, his aggrieved family gathered at his house to mourn his sudden passing and discuss funeral arrangements. Adam's 25-year old brother Stanley and his 19-yearold bride, Theresa, both suffered from headaches attributed to the stress of losing a family member. To his relief, Stanley found on Adam's kitchen counter a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. He took a capsule from the bottle and then gave one to his wife. Shortly after taking the capsules, both Stanley and his wife collapsed onto the floor. The shocked family members immediately called an ambulance. Once again paramedics rushed to the home of Adam Janus and attempted to resuscitate the young couple. However, Stanley died that day, and his wife died two days later. According to an article by Tamara Kaplan, Dr. Thomas Kim at the Northwest Community Hospital became suspicious following the deaths of the three family members. It was suspected that poisonous gas could have caused the untimely deaths of Adam, Stanley and Theresa. However, after consulting with John B. Sullivan at the Rocky Mountain Poison Center, it was determined that cyanide might be the culprit. Blood samples were taken from the victims and sent to a lab for testing. While the blood samples were being tested for cyanide, two firefighters in another location of the Chicago suburbs discussed the four bizarre deaths that had recently taken place in the neighboring area. Arlington Heights firefighter Philip Cappitelli talked with his friend Richard Keyworth from the Elk Grove firehouse about Mary Kellerman and the fact that she had taken Tylenol before she died. Keyworth suggested that all the deaths could have been related to the medicine. Following his friend's suggestion, Cappitelli called the paramedics who worked on the Janus family and asked if they too had taken Tylenol. To both the men's surprise, they discovered all three Janus family members had ingested the popular pain reliever. The police were immediately sent to the Kellerman and Janus homes to retrieve the suspicious bottles. The following day, Keyworth, Sullivan and Kim's hunches were confirmed. Cook County's chief toxicologist, Michael Shaffer, examined the capsules and discovered that they were filled with approximately 65 milligrams of deadly cyanide, 10,000 times more than the amount needed to kill the average person. Moreover, the blood samples of all the victims further confirmed the belief that they were all poisoned. McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson and the maker of Extra Strength Tylenol, was immediately alerted to the deaths. An October 1982 Newsweek article reported that the company began a massive recall of their product and warned doctors, hospitals and wholesalers of the potential dangers. However, by then it was too late for three more victims of the deadly poison-laced Tylenol capsules. Twenty-seven-year-old Mary Reiner of Winfield, Illinois, was recovering after the birth of her son when she unsuspectingly ingested the Tylenol laced with cyanide. She died a short time later. That same day, 35-year-old Paula Prince, a United Airlines stewardess, was found dead in her suburban Chicago apartment. Cyanide-filled Tylenol capsules were also found in her home. The seventh known victim of the Tylenol poisonings was 35-year-old Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois. Soon after the national news stories on the tragic deaths from the tainted Tylenol, widespread fear swept throughout the country, especially in Chicago and its suburbs. The police drove through the city using loudspeakers to warn citizens about the potential dangers of Tylenol, which further compounded the people's fears. Citizens across the country literally ran home to dispose of their bottles of Tylenol. According to a Time article by Susan Tifft, hospitals in the Chicago area were flooded with telephone calls concerning Tylenol and fears of poisoning. Jason Manning's article titled The Tylenol Murders stated that the growing nationwide panic prompted the head of Seattle's Poison Control Center to inform citizens that if they had indeed been poisoned with cyanide, they would be dead before they were even able to make a telephone call to a hospital or the police. Nevertheless, hospitals around the country admitted many patients under the suspicion of cyanide poisoning from Tylenol. The rapid influx of patients was mostly due to mixed signals from the health authorities concerning the threat and symptoms and the ensuing panic of people who really believed that they might have fallen victim to poisoning from the tainted capsules. However, although there were no new cases of poisoning related to Tylenol except for the seven known deaths, many states and retailers took drastic measures to assure that it remained that way. In response to the deaths, Johnson and Johnson immediately issued a nationwide alert to the public, doctors and distributors of the drug. According to an article by Jeremy Cooke, they also issued a massive recall of 31 million Tylenol bottles, costing approximately $125 million. J&J also established a crisis hotline, so that consumers could obtain the latest information about the poisonings, safety measures and any other information concerning the drug. Around the same time, the company inspected the factories where the tainted bottles were produced to see if the cyanide was somehow put into the capsules during production. Following inspections, the company determined that the cyanide was not introduced into the bottles at the factory, which left only one other possibility. The FBI, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and law enforcement agencies realized that someone had methodically taken the Tylenol bottles off the shelves at the stores where they were sold, filled the capsules with cyanide and returned them back to the shelves at a later period. Investigators had no evidence as to who might have committed the heinous crime and there was continuing fear that more deaths might occur unless they caught the Tylenol terrorist. On October 2, 1982, another contaminated Tylenol bottle was discovered by police from a batch of bottles removed from a drug store in the Chicago suburbs. Thousands of other bottles were undergoing testing for traces of cyanide. Investigators had no idea how many other bottles might have been tampered with. In an effort to put an end to the senseless deaths, J&J offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the terrorist. Investigators discovered that the cyanide-laced capsules were placed in six Chicago area stores: Jewel Foods in Arlington Heights, Jewel Foods in Grove Village, Osco Drug Store in Schaumburg, Walgreen Drug Store in Chicago, Frank's Finer Foods in Winfield and another undisclosed retail outlet. Each store contained one tampered bottle with approximately three to ten tainted capsules, except for Osco Drug Store where two cyanide laced bottles were recovered. It was suggested by the police that the bottles were randomly placed. However there was also a possibility that the terrorist may have purposely chosen those specific locations for unknown reasons. Some speculated that the terrorist could have held a grudge against the producers of Tylenol, society in general or even the stores in which the tainted bottles were found. It was further suggested that the killer many have lived within the vicinity of the drug stores, where the tampered bottles were placed. On November 11, 1982, J&J held a news conference stating that they were going to reintroduce the Tylenol products that were temporarily pulled off the market. However, this time the bottles were wrapped in new safety packaging. In an effort to restore consumer confidence, the new Tylenol bottles contained a triple-seal tamper resistant package. Johnson and Johnson spent heavily to advertise the new packaging and offered consumers a $2.50 coupon towards the purchase of any Tylenol product. It took less than two months before consumer confidence was restored. As a direct consequence of the Tylenol murders, Congress approved in May 1983 a new "Tylenol Bill" that made the malicious tampering of consumer products a federal offense. In 1989, the FDA set national requirements for all over the counter products to be tamper-resistant. Steven Fink summed up the feeling of the nation when he stated that, "whatever innocence we still had in the summer of 1982 was quickly shattered by the fall." Americans had to think twice about the purchase of consumer products after the poisonings that year. Furthermore, even though the new bill strengthened sentencing of product terrorists and the FDA required increased safety measures, there was still no guarantee that any product was 100% safe. As a nation we learned that we could no longer protect ourselves completely from even the most harmless of products. A number of copycat attacks involving Tylenol and other products also took place. In 1986, Excedrin capsules in Washington state were tampered with, resulting in the deaths of Susan Snow and Bruce Nickell from cyanide poisoning and the eventual arrest and conviction of Bruce's wife Stella of crimes connected to both deaths. That same year, Procter & Gamble's Encaprin was recalled after a spiking hoax in Chicago and Detroit that resulted in a precipitous sales drop and a withdrawal of the pain reliever from the market Many of the product-tampering cases that have resulted in death have, for the most part, led to the successful conviction of the perpetrator. However, the one case that brought product tampering to the forefront of America's consciousness has never been solved. To date, the $1,000 reward offered by Johnson and Johnson remains unclaimed because no one person has been found guilty of the horrific crime that ended the lives of seven individuals. Despite the lack of evidence and the disintegration of leads over time, hope remains that the Tylenol terrorist may one day be brought to justice. Until then, his or her identity will remain a mystery.