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On This Day… Chicago’s Unsolved Tylenol Murders

Written by: George Chittenden : 05 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 29th Sept, back in 1982 when twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman from Illinois, died after taking a capsule of Extra-Strength Tylenol. Poor Mary was the first person to die from taking Tylenol, but unfortunately, she wasn’t the last. That same day three others died in Illinois and all three had taken tablets from the same Tylenol bottle.

The police quickly tested the tablets and discovered that they had been tampered with, and cyanide had been added. Within two days, three more people died, and they were all from Illinois. The police knew that the bottles had been tampered with post-manufacture as the bottles came from different pharmaceutical companies and the deaths had all occurred in the Chicago area. It became clear that the person responsible had acquired the bottles from various retail outlets and had placed the bottles back on the shelves.

How was the situation dealt with? Well, warnings were issued via the media, and patrols using loudspeakers warned residents throughout the Chicago metropolitan area to discontinue use of Tylenol products. Johnson & Johnson issued warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. Then on October 5th, 1982, they issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products, an estimated 31 million bottles. So, who poisoned and murdered seven people? Unfortunately, we have no idea. The incident inspired the pharmaceutical, food, and consumer product industries to develop tamper-resistant packaging though.

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