Wednesday, September 29, 1982

6:30 a.m.

Mary Kellerman, a 12-year-old from Schaumburg, wakes up feeling sick. Her parents keep her home from school, and she takes some Tylenol.

Dennis Kellerman
Mary’s father [to the Chicago Tribune]
I heard her go into the bathroom. I heard the door close. Then I heard something drop. I went to the bathroom door. I called, “Mary, are you OK?” There was no answer. I called again: “Mary, are you OK?” There was still no answer. So I opened the bathroom door, and my little girl was on the floor unconscious. She was still in her pajamas.

Richard Keyworth
Firefighter/inspector with the Elk Grove Village Fire Department
One of the paramedics on the call with the Kellerman girl was Dave Spung. Dave was one of the best paramedics I had ever met. He threw everything in that drug box at this young lady, and nothing made a difference.

9:56 a.m.

Mary Kellerman is pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.

Edmund Donoghue
Deputy chief medical examiner for Cook County
She was the first victim. Our office was notified, but there wasn’t anything too suspicious about that death. She was ordered into the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy because of her age and circumstances.

Nick Pishos
Investigator with Cook County’s medical examiner’s office
Basically, the investigator did a phone investigation. He interviewed the father, and the police go to the house and make sure it’s the same story.

Firefighter Keyworth
In what we call the ambulance report, the medications were listed as Tylenol. Well, everybody in the world took Tylenol. That didn’t seem out of order.


Adam Janus, a 27-year-old postal worker in Arlington Heights, had taken a sick day.

Helen Jensen
Public health nurse for Arlington Heights
He had stayed home from work because he had felt like he was getting a cold. And then he went to pick up his kids from preschool and stopped at the Jewel to get some Tylenol. He came home and they had some lunch, and he said, “I’m going to take two Tylenol and lie down.” And a couple of minutes later, he came staggering into the kitchen and collapsed.

3:15 p.m.

Thomas Kim
Medical director of Northwest Community Hospital’s intensive care unit
Our first job is to resuscitate, and we couldn’t even do that. His heart just would not resuscitate. I signed [Janus] out as probably cardiac death. I was talking to his family, explaining—trying to explain—what had happened. It’s hard even if you know the diagnosis. I was trying to tell them we didn’t know why. Adam’s wife, Teresa, was there. His parents were there, and a whole slew of other people. And they didn’t go back to their home; they went back to [Janus’s] house in Arlington Heights.

3:45 p.m.

Mary “Lynn” Reiner, 27, is at home in Winfield. She had recently given birth to her fourth child. Not feeling well, she takes some Tylenol and collapses.

Ed Reiner
Mary’s husband
We were together for a long time. She was an excellent mother. We had four children. The baby was a week old. I came home right after she had fallen on the floor. An ambulance came [and rushed her to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield]. I’m not gonna say a whole lot more than that.

5 p.m.

Nurse Jensen
The [Janus] family was all at Adam’s house, planning the funeral and mourning together. Adam’s younger brother, Stanley [Janus], had some chronic back pain. And he asked his wife—they had been married just a little while, and her name was also Theresa—to get him some Tylenol. And she came out and gave him two Tylenol, and then she took two Tylenol. And then he went down. And then she went down.

Charles Kramer
Lieutenant with the Arlington Heights Fire Department [to the Daily Herald]
When I arrived at the house, there were cars and people everywhere. All eight of my men were working, four on one man and four on a woman. Everything that would happen to the man happened to the woman a few minutes later.

Dr. Kim
As I was putting on my blue blazer to leave, around 5:30, a nurse told me that they were bringing the Janus family back. And I said, “Well, it’s probably the parents,” because they were feeble and they might have been very upset. And the nurse said, “No, it’s his brother.” I had been talking to this six-foot healthy guy. And I said, “Well, what happened? Did he faint?” And she said, “They are doing CPR—and they are working on his wife too.” That’s when I took my blazer off.

Nurse Jensen
I got a phone call in the middle of dinner from Chuck Kramer [of the Arlington Heights Fire Department], and he said, “There’s something going on here. We had a death this morning, and now we brought in two more from the same house. And they want a public health person here, and you’re the only public health person I know.” So I dropped everything and went to the hospital.

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
At the time, I lived two blocks away from the medical examiner’s office, and I just happened to come back to pick something up. I walked through the investigations area, and one of the guys said, “Doctor, we’ve got something unusual going on. We had this family in Arlington Heights where one person died, and then the brother and sister-in-law came over, and now the brother is dead and the sister-in-law is in very serious condition and not expected to live.”

Nurse Jensen
There was this poor lonely lady standing off in the corner, and that turned out to be Teresa, Adam Janus’s wife. I asked her to tell me exactly what had happened that morning and what had happened all day. I ask a lot of questions. I’m a nurse. And you don’t get answers if you don’t ask questions.

Investigator Pishos
When I first got [to the hospital], I found nobody really knew how this was happening. I asked Dr. Kim what he thought, and he said, “We don’t know.” I said, “Well, let’s go back to the house and try to see what’s out of the ordinary.”

6:30 p.m.

At an Illinois Bell store in Lombard, Mary McFarland, a 31-year-old resident of Elmhurst, tells her coworkers she has a bad headache.

Jack Eliason
McFarland’s brother [to the Associated Press]
She went in the back room and took I don’t know how many Tylenol—at least one, obviously—and within minutes she was on the floor.

John Millner
Commander of detectives at the Elmhurst Police Department
I didn’t know her, but I knew her dad. It was just so sad that he lost his daughter like that. Somehow it was suspected that she had ingested something bad. Poison or something.

8 p.m.

Jensen, Pishos, and police officers arrive at Adam Janus’s house in Arlington Heights.

Investigator Pishos
I was expecting to walk in the house and go, “Oh, there it is.” But it was nothing like that.

Nurse Jensen
I looked and didn’t see anything that could possibly be a contaminant. There was a shelf full of over-the-counter medications and some prescription drugs.

Investigator Pishos
I went into the basement and found that they did some metalworking. Somebody had mentioned that sometimes in metalworking they use cyanide for polishing. We just wanted to make sure there was nothing in the basement they had been in contact with.

Nurse Jensen
I found a bottle of Tylenol, and there were six capsules missing—and three people dead. In my mind, it had to be something to do with the Tylenol. And of course there was no protective sealing on this or any over-the-counter drugs. They just had cotton tucked in there. So we went back to [Northwest Community Hospital]. We took the bottle with us.

8:15 p.m.

Stanley Janus is pronounced dead at Northwest Community Hospital.

9:30 p.m.

After landing at O’Hare from Las Vegas, Paula Prince, a 35-year-old flight attendant with United Airlines, stops at the Walgreens at 1601 North Wells Street to buy some Tylenol.

10 p.m.

Investigator Pishos
There was a tiny little room off the ER [at Northwest Community] where I sat down with a policeman to preserve the chain of evidence. Of course, we didn’t know at the time what the chain of evidence was.

Nurse Jensen
I plopped the bottle down and said, “This is the cause.” And of course nobody would believe me. And I stamped my feet. They said, “Oh, no—it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be.”

Dr. Kim
She said, “Maybe it’s the Tylenol.” And I thought, Well, that’s fine. But at the time, that was just someone saying that. I was very frustrated—and I was very desperate. How come I can’t figure out what is wrong with these people?

Investigator Pishos
The other bottle from earlier in the day, from the little girl—for some reason the paramedics in Elk Grove Village had inventoried it. And I had the police department in Elk Grove Village bring it to me at the hospital.

Dr. Kim
I was pacing in my office. I kept going in my systematic way: What is likely or not likely? All I came down to was cyanide. But I said, “No! Where? Where was the exposure?” The only way I could test was to check the blood for cyanide. I had never done that. I’d never heard of it. We didn’t do that in the hospital. Someone, maybe another doctor, told me about a lab that does those special tests. So I sent the blood samples away.

Investigator Pishos
When I got [the Tylenol bottles], I looked and saw the control numbers were the same. I reported back to the medical examiner’s office and I said, “Look, everything here is different except this: Both have Tylenol bottles, and they both have the same control number: MC2880.”

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
I told him [over the phone] to open the bottles and to smell them.

Investigator Pishos
I opened them up and looked inside. I poured them out. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Everything was capsules. However, as I was pouring them out of the bottles, I could tell there was a strong smell of almonds. And then I opened the second bottle and I said, “You know, the first one smells like the second one: almonds.”

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
I was very lucky because this investigator was able to smell cyanide. Only about half the population can smell it.

Investigator Pishos
And we both said the same thing at the same time: “Cyanide.”

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
Cyanide is a chemical asphyxiant. It blocks the utilization of oxygen by red blood cells. You can be in an atmosphere with plenty of oxygen, and you can breathe it in, but it doesn’t get picked up by the red blood cells, and you asphyxiate. It causes brain damage and cardiac arrest. It happens very quickly.


Thursday, September 30

1 a.m.

Dr. Kim
I eventually got the [lab reports]. It was a massive amount [of cyanide]—100 or 1,000 times more than was necessary to kill them.

3:15 a.m.

Mary McFarland is pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

9:30 a.m.

Mary Reiner is pronounced dead at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

Bill Rizer
Sergeant with the Winfield Police Department
We weren’t quite sure at the time exactly what had happened. We knew [Reiner] was dead, but I don’t think initially we realized until the other investigations came to light with the other towns that we had a connection.

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
About ten in the morning, an attorney from Johnson & Johnson [parent company of Tylenol’s manufacturer] shows up in our offices. We took him up to the lab, and the toxicologist explained what we had found. He was there about a half hour and left, and he could see, once we found cyanide in Tylenol, there was no way we could not release that information.

Roy Dames
CEO of Cook County’s medical examiner’s office
My first reaction was, “Let’s make sure there’s no other connection between these deaths before we go and tell people not to take Tylenol.” So they proved it to me, and I said, “Great—let’s go.” I believe I talked to the CEO of the company that made Tylenol, and I informed him that we were going to have a press conference, and his reaction was, “Do you have to?” And I said, “Well, do you have a better idea?” And he said, “No.”

Nurse Jensen
I hardly slept because I was so concerned about it, and I was angry about it, and I was sure it was a danger. So my husband was getting ready for work, and he woke me up and said, “Helen, they are saying it was the Tylenol.”

10 a.m.

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
The press conference was simply to tell people in the area that we had found cyanide in Tylenol and to warn them that there might be a danger—that if they had any, then it was probably a good idea at least for a while not to take it. We weren’t saying it should be recalled, but we thought that the community needed to be warned.

Nurse Jensen
I called our police department and said, “You’ve got to get Tylenol off the shelves.” Nobody had talked to the police. And they said, “Oh, we can’t do that,” and I said, “Oh, yes, you can.” The deputy chief was there, and he said, “Go ahead and do it.”

3 p.m.

Johnson & Johnson announces the recall of all Tylenol from lot MC2880.

Medical Examiner CEO Dames
I spent the rest of the day on the phone. You answer, and it’s people worried who had taken Tylenol. The simple answer is, “If you took it and you’re calling me, don’t worry. But don’t take any more.”

8 p.m.

Tyrone Fahner
Illinois attorney general
I was at Pheasant Run [a resort in St. Charles] at a big Republican event. There were a lot of people there—Senator [Charles] Percy and Governor Thompson and a whole bunch of local, state, and federal politicians. My aide came up and said, “I need you to take a call.” It was from one of my deputies, who told me that there had been poisonings. I said, “Why not call the state’s attorney?” He told me they were in multiple counties: Cook and DuPage. The attorney general has responsibility for the entire state.

James Zagel
Director of the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement
Somebody called me. There was a certain geographical dispersion, but the deaths were highly unusual—you don’t see a lot of poisonings.

Attorney General Fahner
I got in my car, and we started trying to figure out what was going on. There had been multiple murders at that point in time. Deaths, anyway. We didn’t know they were murders then.

Director Zagel
It became clear early on that this was something that was not only a terrible crime but capable of repetition. It was obvious very early on that this was going to require a lot of people to do what had to be done.


Friday, October 1

11 a.m.

Attorney General Fahner
In a conference room [at the attorney general’s office in Chicago], I pulled together the state police, the local law enforcement people, the chiefs of police, the director of the Illinois State Police—basically anyone who might touch it from a law enforcement angle I got the feds involved, too, because we didn’t know how big this was. You start to think, Wow, is this not only in Illinois but elsewhere?

1:15 p.m.

Theresa Janus is taken off life support at Northwest Community Hospital and pronounced dead.

5 p.m.

Police discover the body of Paula Prince in her Old Town apartment at 1540 North LaSalle Street.

Joan Ahern
United flight attendant and friend of Prince
Her sister was supposed to meet her for dinner, and she wasn’t answering her telephone. That sort of alerted her sister that something’s not right. And what I understood is that she was due back out that Friday and she was a no-show for a flight.

Richard Brzeczek
Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department
Her family couldn’t reach her, and they called the Chicago police to do what we call a well-being check. And I’ll tell you what they found. The Tylenol bottle was still sitting open on the vanity. She took it in the bathroom, and by the time she got to the threshold of the door, she was dead.

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
She took them on Wednesday night. And I remember thinking that she was dead by the time we went on television for our press conference.

Superintendent Brzeczek
There was a security camera [at Walgreens] taking still photos of Paula Prince walking up to the cash register and making her Tylenol purchase—you know, buying her death warrant right there. They were eerie. But there weren’t security cameras in the aisles to see if someone was putting it up on a shelf.

Flight Attendant Ahern
Paula was blond, vivacious, had a gorgeous smile. That guy stole all her dreams, her life, her future. He just destroyed it all. Just poof, one pill. What makes a man do something like that?

8 p.m.

Jane Byrne
Mayor of Chicago
That Friday I had three nighttime engagements. One was a rather big retirement party for a police officer. That was at Navy Pier, followed by a very social type of evening at Symphony Center. I did a Lincoln reading there, and that was to be followed by a black-tie dinner. These things were not similar. So I started out my evening, and the only thing on my mind at that point was, Well, what would I wear?

Superintendent Brzeczek
I happened to be at a social function with my wife when I got the call. So I called the mayor and said, “They tell me we’ve got a Tylenol death in Chicago.”

Mayor Byrne
When we walked out of the retirement party, the driver of the car came up and said, “There is an urgent message for the mayor—call the office.” So I got in the car, we called the office, and they explained the preliminary thoughts on what could have been—what was—a disaster. They knew at that time that [Prince] had been out and came in and had a headache and took Tylenol and then died. And it was like, Oh my God—there’s a million people out there.

Deputy Medical Examiner Donoghue
With the Janus family, we got the toxicologist out of bed. It was the first time in the history of the office that he had come in overnight and done analysis. And when they found Paula Prince, he was called back to do it again.

Mayor Byrne
What was on my mind was, How many others? [We called] the superintendent of police, the commissioner of the fire department, and the doctor in charge of the board of health. We had them meet me at Symphony Center in a backroom. I thought, Well, we’ve got to prepare. We ordered fliers printed, particularly in foreign languages. We planned everything to make sure that the public was notified. That was phase one. So I went down to my office. We were waiting on all these different sources to give us information. More and more was coming in, and there was no doubt that somebody had tainted the Tylenol.

11 p.m.

Superintendent Brzeczek
Mayor Byrne was all set to make a press announcement about finding Paula Prince. And it was at that press conference that the announcement was made that we were going to pull all the Tylenol off the shelves in Chicago.

Mayor Byrne
It created quite a furor. I don’t think I had done anything like that before.


Monday, October 4

At the behest of Mayor Byrne, the Chicago City Council passes an ordinance requiring tamper-resistant packaging for all drugs sold in stores.

Tuesday, October 5

Johnson & Johnson recalls all Tylenol products nationwide: 31 million bottles valued at more than $100 million.

In the ensuing days and weeks, the investigation continues.

Attorney General Fahner
The core the first couple of days was not so much to catch the perpetrators as it was to protect the public. Then the group grew, and within a couple of days we started having meetings in Des Plaines at a state police facility out there.

Superintendent Brzeczek
You had law enforcement agencies out in DuPage and law enforcement agencies in suburban Cook County and then the last one involved Chicago. You had the FBI involved; you had the U.S. attorney involved. I mean, everybody was involved.

Attorney General Fahner
We had hundreds of people actively seeking leads and running leads. We were getting a lot of wackos calling, saying they did it. There were over 1,200 things we thought were leads—not people calling, but leads we would go out and investigate.

Jeremy Margolis
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Were there leads? Thousands. Barrels of leads. The phones were ringing off the hook. Hotlines were set up. People were calling day and night with leads, some meaningful, some preposterous. A hundred officers and agents were running themselves ragged trying to make rational sense of the information being dumped—like drinking from a fire hose.

Superintendent Brzeczek
All this went on for a couple of weeks. This was the first media circus that I can remember. This was not only a Chicago story; it was an international story.

Attorney General Fahner
You couldn’t turn on a TV or look at a newspaper in the whole country and not see it.

Herb Hogberg
Detective with the Elmhurst Police Department
I went out to Des Plaines along with investigators from the other departments. The state had all the leads, and they would pass the information down to the investigators. We followed up with interviewing people from various areas.

Firefighter Keyworth
I have taught investigation for many years, and this was a traveling circus. Everyone was grasping for straws, you know. Of course, that’s the business. Everyone wanted to break it and be the first one to have the latest information.

Detective Hogberg
[The top investigators] had a series of people that they had us talk to that Johnson & Johnson had terminated. They were thinking, Well, maybe an ex-employee was upset with them. There was one I found interesting. Johnson & Johnson had had a problem with their talcum powder. Green stuff was growing in it, and mothers were upset. A team of chemists determined the green was a mold that grows in damp oak, and they had oak pallets down in the [talc] mine. On that team was this guy who got terminated. He was the type of person that I thought could lie through his teeth to me and I would believe it. He was very smart but didn’t seem to have an ax to grind.

Director Zagel
The distressing thing is there were a number of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the offense and were sorry that they didn’t. They wished they had.

Wednesday, October 6

An extortion letter arrives at Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million to stop the Tylenol killings. The police eventually trace the letter to James Lewis in New York City. For weeks the investigation focuses on him. (He is finally apprehended in December.)

Superintendent Brzeczek
It wasn’t James Lewis. James Lewis was an asshole, an opportunist. He tried to extort some money from Johnson & Johnson, and he went to jail. He was in the joint a long time. When someone is in the penitentiary, you can go and talk to him, with or without his lawyer present. In all those years, all the work on James Lewis to put it together: nothing.

Attorney General Fahner
Do I think James Lewis was involved? I did, and I do. And the head of the FBI office here at the time—I can’t speak for him, but I think he felt as I did. But we could never put him in the city, in the places, at the right time.

August Locallo
Lieutenant with the Chicago Police Department
I was the top man in violent crimes. [Lewis] had lived in Chicago, and that’s why they zeroed in on my unit. He was in custody in New York, and I was assigned to go to New York to interview him. Basically, the FBI had him in custody, and by the time we got to New York, he had his attorney and he wouldn’t talk to us. That was a futile effort. He’s a con man. Strictly a con man. And he’ll do anything to get to his goal. I really believed he might have killed somebody, but they couldn’t put anything on him.

Director Zagel
I have no comment on James Lewis. [In 1995, after serving 13 years of a 20-year sentence for extortion, Lewis was released from prison. Today he lives on the East Coast.]

Wednesday, October 20

Superintendent Brzeczek
We got no breaks. There were no breaks. What began to bother me was the bullshit that was coming out about the progress being made in the investigation. I called a press conference, and I said in my opinion we know nothing more now than we did when the first murder took place, and in my opinion, based on what is now known, this case will never be solved. You want to talk about the shit hitting the fan. We had a big meeting in the U.S. attorney’s office. [U.S. Attorney Dan] Webb was there, Fahner, Zagel, [Chicago head agent Ed] Hegerty from the FBI—a bunch of people. “What did you say that for?!” [they asked]. “Because it’s the truth,” I said. “You’re bullshitting the people and they’re terrified out there. Stop giving them false hope. Tell them the truth.”

Thursday, October 21

Ongoing lab tests discover cyanide-laced Tylenol in a bottle turned in by a Dominick’s near the Walgreens where Paula Prince made her fatal purchase.

Monday, October 25

Authorities reduce the Tylenol task force from 115 to about 40 investigators.

Detective Hogberg
Every night we’d get back to Des Plaines, and [the investigation’s leaders] would fill us in as to what had transpired during the day. I never felt I had all the information as to what was going on. We ended up with maybe 40 [investigators] who showed up until almost the very end.

Sergeant Rizer
At the end, everybody just said, “That’s it. No more to be done.”



Thirty years after the seven deaths, the Tylenol murders remain unsolved.

Attorney General Fahner
In all the time I was a relevant part of the investigation, I always thought that it would have been resolved. I would have bet anything on it. I didn’t see how we could have that kind of manpower, that much analysis, [and] that it wouldn’t be solved. I just didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now.

Superintendent Brzeczek
My opinion is that this was an initial homicide where the bad guy knew the victim and that was it. And then to cover it up, the bad guy went and contaminated the other ones. That motive makes the most sense to me.

Firefighter Keyworth
I personally think that the person or persons involved in this—my gut feeling was that their purpose was to bring the United States to its knees: “Look at the power we have. We can shut down the entire economy. We can control the world.” And for a short period of time, they did. In today’s world, it would be domestic terrorism. We didn’t have that terminology back then. But it was actually the first case of domestic terrorism in the country.

Attorney General Fahner
I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but it was kind of the first act of terrorism, in that there was no intended victim, just random victims. Not unlike what happens in the world today when people throw pipe bombs. Up until that time, when you had mass murderers like Richard Speck, these were people who had selected victims and decided what they were going to do or not going to do. But this really was random. And that’s what terrorism is to me—to frighten or kill indiscriminately.

Flight Attendant Ahern
I swear to you, there were no over-the-counter pills in my house for over two years. No aspirin; no Tylenol. I lost my trust in humanity. I was afraid to give my kids milk because there were no safety caps on milk. I was worried about cereal. I kept thinking to myself, If they can open up a pill bottle and put cyanide in there, what’s to stop them from poisoning all our food?

Director Zagel
You see a lot of terrible things in this business. You see a lot of terrible things even as a judge. And your mind sort of puts them away. But there are some things that you simply can’t close the book on, and what you can’t close the book on is not the investigative stuff and the various things you did. It’s the human parts of it, and the inhuman events that caused them, and it sticks with you.

Flight Attendant Ahern
I can bring myself to cry thinking about everything Paula didn’t get to see. People from the Tylenol poisonings didn’t get closure. They didn’t get to slam the door on the guy who did this.

Mayor Byrne
It was a very sad moment for my administration. I can’t think of a thing I’d have done differently. We did the best we could under the circumstances. But there was a young girl with a headache and she’s dead. It was just a terrible thing.

Attorney General Fahner
I feel very sorry for the families. I feel very badly. I think emotionally they want to know some justice has been done.

Investigator Pishos
The FBI came and talked to me not too long ago because they reopened the case. They were going back and swabbing everyone for DNA because I believe they still have the bottles with the capsules, so they are ruling out anyone who was in contact with those bottles.

Dr. Kim
The FBI called me six months ago asking me to do a DNA test. I asked them what was happening, and they said, “Well, we’re reopening the case.”

Rick Kappelman
Sergeant with the Arlington Heights police
Without divulging any more than this, the investigation is at this point open and active. They are actively pursuing leads even at this late date.

Royden “Ross” Rice
Special agent in the FBI’s Chicago office
The FBI is helping to coordinate a reinvestigation or a continuing investigation of the 1982 Tylenol poisonings. If evidence is developed which links a person or persons to that crime, they will in all likelihood be charged with violating state murder statutes in DuPage and/or Cook Counties. Because it’s still ongoing, we can’t discuss the case.

Ed Reiner
Husband of victim Mary Reiner
It’s still pretty rough. And it’s hard to talk about. This kind of thing doesn’t go away.