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Investigators go to Boston, re-interview person of interest 40 years after Tylenol poisoning murders

Investigators re-interview person of interest in Boston 40 years after Tylenol murders
Investigators re-interview person of interest in Boston 40 years after Tylenol murders 06:58

UPDATE: This coverage was published in September of 2022. On July 9, 2023 prime suspect James Lewis was found dead in his Cambridge residence. 

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Major developments surfaced Thursday in the 40-year-old investigation into the Tylenol murders in the greater Chicago area.

We learned Thursday that investigators went to Boston this week to re-interview the man considered a suspect in the seven deaths.

James Lewis was never charged with the murders, but he was convicted of trying to extort $1 million from Johnson & Johnson in the days after the cyanide-laced pills showed up on store shelves.

The CBS 2 Investigators began re-examining the case back in April. As CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards reported, we went to Boston as well last month to try to track down Lewis.

Indeed we did track down Lewis, at the very same Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment he moved into after being released from prison.

In 1982, seven people in the greater Chicago area died after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide. Next week marks 40 years since that event, which terrified the city and country.

Soon after, a man wrote an extortion letter to Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, the maker of Tylenol -- demanding $1 million to stop the killings.

The man who wrote that letter was James Lewis. He would later spend a dozen years in prison for the attempted extortion.

Forty years later, Lewis remains a person of interest in the actual killings. He is really the only living known person of interest.

When we went looking for him last month, he had not been seen or heard from in more than a decade.

We went to Lewis' apartment outside of Boston. We knew it was him – and he is a man with a long history of not being honest.

More than two weeks ago, we showed our entire exchange with Lewis to Arlington Heights Police Sgt. Joe Murphy. At the end, Arlington Heights Police asked for a copy of it.

Sgt. Murphy is the default head of a task force investigating the murders, which includes numerous agencies, Illinois State Police, and the FBI. He was unable to comment Thursday, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

However, CBS 2 was able to confirm that individuals investigating the Tylenol murders were in Boston in recent days - furthering investigative efforts that included interviewing Lewis. 

Sources at the FBI released this statement:

"No interviews on the subject of the 1982 Tylenol Murders have recently been authorized. Any opinions expressed by former employees are solely their own and do not constitute official statements attributable to the FBI. The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of the American legal system, and standard Department of Justice policy prevents the FBI and its employees from expressing opinions regarding a private citizen's guilt except as appropriate based on court proceedings. Department of Justice policy also prevents the FBI from commenting on the nature of ongoing investigations. For additional comment, we will need to refer you to Arlington Heights Police Department as the lead investigative agency."

Over the past six months, we have interviewed dozens of people connected to the case - from former police officers to emergency personnel and relatives of some of the victims.

We'll share their stories in a multi-part docuseries later this fall.

Investigators go Boston to re-interview person of interest in Tylenol murders 05:05
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