Did the Unabomber Use Tylenol For Murder?
The FBI will obtain DNA samples from Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber", as a part of a new probe into the Tylenol murders of 1982.
The original case began on September 29, 1982 when seven people unknowingly ingested Tylenol capsules that had been laced with the chemical cyanide – four of whom died. When ingested, cyanide acts on the cells in the body, making them unable to utilize oxygen. The person at first experiences weakness, confusion and difficulty breathing, which eventually leads to coma, cardiac arrest, and death.
The murders caused a wide-spread recall of the Tylenol products and launched an almost 30-year investigation into who was responsible for tampering with the products. Prior to today, the most recent development in the case was in 2009, when the FBI searched the home of James W. Lewis who served prison time for extortion letters sent to Johnson & Johnson, the makers of this pain relief product.
However, Lewis was dismissed as a suspect after investigators determined that it was impossible for him to have had access to the Tylenol shortly before they were ingested, a key component of this case. The medication capsules were injected with cyanide before being returned to their packages. Cyanide is a very powerful chemical which, in a short time, would eat through the capsule layer and destroy the product. The person responsible for the tampered drugs would have had to have access shortly before they were bought.
Although the FBI has requested the DNA samples from the Unabomber, he has yet to be considered a formal suspect on this case.
“Kaczynski has not been indicted in connection with the Chicago Tylenol investigation, and no such federal prosecution is currently planned," said the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a court filing.
Experts say that the Unabomber is just one of many people who have been asked for voluntary DNA samples in order to rule out potential suspects on the case. This type of DNA forensic technology was not available in 1982 and many cases, such as this one, have been reopened in hopes of finding answers that would not have been technologically available during the time of the original investigations.
"I have never even possessed any potassium cyanide [to lace the Tylenol with]," wrote Kaczynski in a statement. "But, even on the assumption that the FBI is entirely honest (an assumption I'm unwilling to make), partial DNA profiles can throw suspicion on person who are entirely innocent." He then goes on to offer his DNA as an exchange for putting a stop to a public auction of his belongings. The action was organized in order to raise the 15 million dollars owed to the families of the victims of his killings. The FBI went ahead with the auction on Wednesday, despite the Unabomber's requests.
Cyanide has also been used in other notorious murder cases including the gas chambers of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the 1995 attempt by the Aum Shinrikyo cult for mass murder in a Tokyo subway station and a 2003 aborted Al Qaeda plot to release this chemical in the New York City subway system.
After the 1982 incident Tylenol and other drug makers adopted wide-spread use of tamper-proof packaging.