Josh Reynolds/AP
FBI agents carry boxes out of an apartment building in Cambridge, Mass., after searching
the apartment of James W. Lewis, who was linked to the fatal 1982 Tylenol poisonings.

FBI Reopens Case of Tylenol Deaths After New Information Surfaces

February 05, 2009 09:58 AM
by Josh Katz
The FBI has reopened the investigation into the 1982 Tylenol deaths and has searched the Massachusetts home of one of the case’s prime suspects.
The FBI searched the Cambridge, Mass. home of James William Lewis, 62, on Wednesday, who was one of the primary suspects in the deadly 1982 Tylenol poisonings in Illinois that would lead to tamper-resistant packaging. No one was ever charged with the murders of seven people, who died from ingesting the Tylenol laced with cyanide.

The FBI removed five boxes and an old Macintosh computer from Lewis’ home. The FBI also says that they have not charged anyone in the recent investigation, according to The Boston Globe.

The FBI’s office in Chicago said that they were looking into the case once again because of “advances in forensic technology.” The attention generated by the case’s 25th anniversary in 2007 also resulted in new tips from the public, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the case had “involved more than 100 investigators, more than 6,500 leads, 400 possible suspects, some 20,000 pages of reports, no crime scene and no motive.”

When people started falling ill from the Tylenol poisoning, Lewis sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson requesting $1 million to "stop the killing.” He was then arrested for extortion, but the authorities were unable to charge him with the actual killings, AP reports. He was sent to prison for 12 years for extortion.

Lewis got out of prison in 1995 and moved to Boston, where he started several computer-related companies. This week, the Web site of one of his companies called CyberLewis contained a message mentioning "the curse of being labeled the Tylenol Man,” and stating that, "Somehow, after a quarter of a century, I surmise only a select few with critical minds will believe anything I have to say,” according to the Tribune. The location that officials searched yesterday was listed as the company’s address on the site.

Lewis was also arrested in 2004 “on charges of rape, kidnapping, and other offenses in an attack on a woman in the building,” according to The Boston Globe. But the victim in the case would not testify and the case was dropped in 2007 after Lewis spent three years in jail. Lewis also faced murder charges in 1978 for the death of a senior citizen who was his former client. A judge dismissed the charges, concluding that the police work was not conducted in a proper manner.

The Tylenol deaths resulted in new, safer packaging for medicine. FindingDulcinea covers the history of the Tylenol case and describes its effect on the country.

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