James W Lewis, a major suspect in the unsolved 1982 Chicago Tylenol murders, has passed away at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Tylenol murders involved the deaths of seven people in the Chicago area who had consumed over-the-counter Tylenol laced with cyanide.
Lewis became the sole suspect, and law enforcement chased him for more than 40 years, but he was never charged.
On Sunday, Cambridge police and EMS workers responded to a call at Lewis’s home in the Boston suburb, where the 76-year-old was soon pronounced dead.
Throughout his life, Lewis was suspected of being involved in multiple crimes, but he was only charged with attempted extortion after investigators proved he wrote a ransom note to Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactures Tylenol.
Lewis demanded that the pharmaceutical company give him $1 million, writing, “If you want to stop the killing.”
James Lewis: Tylenol poisonings killed seven people
Seven people were killed between the ages of 12 and 35, including three from one family, when they ingested the poisoned Tylenol in September and October 1982.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
The cause of the deaths was only discovered when a nurse found a tampered bottle of Tylenol at one of the victims’ homes. The case led to tamper-proof seals becoming the norm for medicines.
Lewis was arrested in New York following a nationwide manhunt, and his statements to the police only furthered their suspicions that he was the killer. He explained in great detail to the cops how the killer would have enacted their murderous plan. He claimed he was innocent and only gave this information to help.
He told the press, “I was doing like I would have done for a corporate client, making a list of possible scenarios.”
Lewis was sentenced to ten years for the attempted extortion. However, he claimed he was only trying to embarrass Jonhson & Johnson, his wife’s former employer, who he said owed her money. He said he would never have claimed the money.
The cops were concerned that the postmark on the extortion letter appeared to indicate Lewis knew about the deaths before the public.
In 2009, The FBI took another look at Lewis using “advances in forensic technology” when they removed a computer and other items from his home. However, they didn’t find anything incriminating.
Lewis had found himself in trouble with the law on numerous other occasions. He was charged with the 1978 murder and dismemberment of 72-year-old Raymond West in Kansas City, Missouri. The charges were dropped because West’s cause of death could not be determined, and the police had illegally obtained evidence.
In 1981, also in Kansas City, Lewis was convicted of fraud after illegally attaining 13 credit cards. And in 2004, he was accused of the rape and kidnap of a woman in Cambridge, MA; he spent three years in jail awaiting a trial, but the charges were eventually dismissed after a witness refused to testify.
James Lewis: Cambridge, Massachusetts police say his death was not suspicious
Yesterday, the police department in Cambridge released a statement confirming that police, fire, and medical responders had been to a home in Gore Street on Sunday, July 9, at approximately 4:01 p.m., where they found Lewis unresponsive.
He was declared dead a short time later.
The cops conducted an investigation and ruled his death not suspicious.