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James Lewis, the suspect within the fatal 1982 Tylenol poisonings, has died : NPR

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James Lewis is proven being escorted thru Boston’s Logan Airport, Friday Oct. 13, 1995, after being launched from the Federal Correctional Establishment in Oklahoma.

Charles Krupa/AP


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Charles Krupa/AP


James Lewis is proven being escorted thru Boston’s Logan Airport, Friday Oct. 13, 1995, after being launched from the Federal Correctional Establishment in Oklahoma.

Charles Krupa/AP

The suspect within the 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven folks within the Chicago space, precipitated a national panic, and resulted in an overhaul within the protection of over the counter drugs packaging, has died, police mentioned on Monday.

Officials, firefighters and EMTs responding to a record of an unresponsive particular person at about 4 p.m. Sunday discovered James W. Lewis lifeless in his Cambridge, Massachusetts, house, Cambridge Police Superintendent Frederick Cabral mentioned in a remark. He used to be 76, police mentioned.

“Following an investigation, Lewis’ dying used to be decided to be no longer suspicious,” the remark says.

Nobody used to be ever charged within the deaths of 7 individuals who took the over the counter painkillers laced with cyanide. Lewis served greater than 12 years in jail for sending an extortion be aware to producer Johnson & Johnson, hard $1 million to “forestall the killing.” He and his spouse moved to Massachusetts in 1995 following his free up. Indexed numbers for his spouse weren’t in provider.

When Lewis used to be arrested in New York Town in 1982 after a national manhunt, he gave investigators an in depth account of ways the killer may have operated. Lewis later admitted sending the letter and critical the cash, however he mentioned he by no means meant to gather it. He mentioned he sought after to embarrass his spouse’s former employer via having the cash despatched to the employer’s checking account.

Lewis, who had a historical past of bother with the legislation, all the time denied any function within the Tylenol deaths, however remained a suspect and in 2010 gave DNA samples to the FBI. He even created a web site by which he mentioned he used to be framed. Even supposing the couple lived in brief in Chicago within the early Eighties, Lewis mentioned they had been in New York Town on the time of the poisonings.

In a 1992 interview with The Related Press, Lewis defined that the account he gave government used to be merely his approach of explaining the killer’s movements.

“I used to be doing like I’d have performed for a company consumer, making an inventory of imaginable situations,” mentioned Lewis. He known as the killer “a heinous, cold-blooded killer, a merciless monster.”

The FBI seized a pc and different pieces from Lewis’ house in February 2009 after Illinois government renewed the investigation.

The FBI’s Chicago workplace on the time cited “advances in forensic generation” and mentioned it, along side the Illinois State Police and native police departments, used to be carrying out a “entire evaluation of all proof advanced in connection” with the killings.

In a span of 3 days starting Sept. 29, 1982, seven folks — together with a 12-year-old woman — who took cyanide-laced Tylenol within the Chicago space died, triggering a national recall of the product. The poisonings resulted in the adoption of tamperproof packaging for over the counter medicines.

Helen Jensen, a nurse who helped deal with the primary sufferers at a suburban Chicago health center, mentioned in a telephone interview Monday with the AP she was hoping Lewis’ dying can be a last coda to a tragedy that has haunted her for 4 a long time. She additionally was hoping it will deliver sufferers’ households some closure.

“His dying is a conclusion. No longer essentially the realization everybody sought after,” mentioned Jensen, who’s retired. “However it’s an finish. I am 86 now. And I’m happy I were given to look the top earlier than I die.”

Jensen mentioned she used to be the primary to determine {that a} bottle were tampered with. Investigators laughed at her.

“I used to be a girl and I used to be a nurse,” she mentioned. “I understood the attitudes of that point. However I used to be confirmed proper via tomorrow.”

Jensen mentioned Lewis, who she accepts used to be accountable, “modified the sector as a result of what he did.”

“We misplaced our innocence,” she mentioned. “We’ve grow to be much less trusting of everybody else. We will blame all of it on him. … He used to be a terrorist and we’ve suffered from his terror for 40 years.”

Lewis had prior run-ins with the legislation.

In 1978, he used to be charged in Kansas Town, Missouri, with the dismemberment homicide of Raymond West, 72, who had employed Lewis as an accountant. The fees had been pushed aside as a result of West’s reason for dying used to be no longer decided and a few proof were illegally bought.

He used to be convicted of six counts of mail fraud in a 1981 bank card scheme in Kansas Town, accused of the usage of the title and background of a former tax consumer to acquire 13 bank cards.

Lewis used to be charged in 2004 with rape, kidnapping and different offenses for an alleged assault on a girl in Cambridge. He used to be jailed for 3 years whilst looking forward to trial, however prosecutors pushed aside the costs at the day his trial used to be scheduled to start after the sufferer refused to testify, the Middlesex County District Legal professional’s Administrative center mentioned on the time.

Police in 1983 described Lewis as a “chameleon” who lived in numerous states, used no less than 20 aliases and held many roles, together with laptop specialist, tax accountant, importer of Indian tapestries and salesman of knickknack, pharmaceutical equipment and actual property.

The loss of duty within the case has lengthy pissed off sufferers’ households.

Monica Janus, who used to be 8 years previous when 3 participants of her circle of relatives died after taking the contaminated drugs, instructed CBS Chicago in 2022 that she concept the investigation used to be “actually sloppy.”

Lewis’ spouse used to be out of the town and contacted a neighbor when she may no longer come up with her husband, and the neighbor contacted police, Cabral mentioned.

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