September 29, 1982: Cyanide-Laced Tylenol Capsules Leads To 7 Deaths

A perpetrator was never caught.

By Eric Shorey

This Day in Crime History is a flash briefing available on Amazon Alexa. Just search OXYGEN to enable.

On September 29, 1982, cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules led to the deaths of seven people. A perpetrator was never caught.

After several people had perished from the tainted painkillers, warnings were issued to citizens to avoid the product until the matter could be investigated and resolved. A nationwide recall was eventually issued.

Police were able to rule out that the manufacturers were at fault for the incident. It was thought that the perpetrator carefully returned the laced pills to various individual stores rather than tampering with the production line.

James William Lewis was seen as a suspect after it was discovered that he had sent a letter demanding $1 million from Johnson and Johnson to stop the spread of the poisoned pills. Most of the deaths had occurred in Chicago, but Lewis lived in New York, and police ruled him out as being behind the crime. He was never charged.

Copycat criminals recreated the incident several times, leading to the deaths of several more.

The scandal caused a crackdown on product packaging, leading to new laws that would make it harder to sell tampered-with material.

Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, was also considered a suspect in the deaths at one point.

Pictured above: David Clare, president of Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, warned the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee that there is no such thing as a "tamper proof" package to prevent tragedies as the the recent poisoning of a New York woman by cyanide laced Tylenol.

[Getty Images]

Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content. 

You May Also Like...
Recommended by Zergnet