This Day in History (September 29)

Sep 29, 1982: Cyanide-laced Tylenol kills six

History.com

Flight attendant Paula Prince buys a bottle of cyanide-laced Tylenol. Prince was found dead on October 1, becoming the final victim of a mysterious ailment in Chicago, Illinois. Over the previous 24 hours, six other people had suddenly died of unknown causes in northwest Chicago. After Prince’s death, Richard Keyworth and Philip Cappitelli, firefighters in the Windy City, realized that all seven victims had ingested Extra-Strength Tylenol prior to becoming ill. Further investigation revealed that several bottles of the Tylenol capsules had been poisoned with cyanide.

Mary Ann Kellerman, a seventh grader, was the first to die after ingesting the over-the-counter pain reliever. The next victim, Adam Janus, ended up in the emergency room in critical condition. After visiting his older brother in the hospital, Stanley Janus went back to Adam’s house with his wife, Theresa. To alleviate their stress-induced headaches, they both took capsules from the open Tylenol bottle that was sitting on the counter. They too were poisoned–Stanley died and Theresa lapsed into a coma. That same day, Mary Reiner, who had a headache after giving birth, took the tainted pills. A woman named Mary McFarland was also poisoned.

While bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol were recalled nationwide, the only contaminated capsules were found in the Chicago area. The culprit was never caught, but the mass murder led to new tamper-proof medicine containers. It also led to a string of copycat crimes, as others sought to blackmail companies with alleged poisoning schemes, most of which proved to be false alarms.

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