Tylenol poisonings spark panic
Chicago police Officer Michael Miljan, left, and Medicare Pharmacy employee Mary Butler inspect boxes of Tylenol in 1982. The deaths of seven area residents who ingested Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide remains one of the nation’s biggest unsolved murder cases. Photo: Stan Policht/Chicago Tribune

September 29–October 5, 1982

Most Americans of a certain age remember the era before tamperproof everything, from the foil barrier on our toothpaste to the paper seal on our peanut butter, and most Chicagoans remember exactly when that era ended. The news of the poisonings from cyanide-laced pills — seven people dead, including a 12-year-old girl — struck terror into consumers and prompted a nationwide investigation of a crime that remains unsolved.

From the Archives

October 2012 issue
Photo: Michael Zajakowski

Thirty years had passed when, in October 2012, Chicago published a reconstruction of the events, told in the words of investigators, doctors, and next of kin. The first to perish was a 12-year-old Schaumburg student named Mary Kellerman. Her father remembered the horrific day.

“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.”