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FBI examines files seized in Tylenol killings case

Associated Press / February 12, 2009
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CHICAGO - The items seized at a Cambridge home last week are being examined in Chicago as part of the investigation into the 1982 Tylenol poisonings that caused seven deaths, an FBI spokesman said yesterday.

A week ago, authorities seized a computer and boxes of files from James W. Lewis's home in Cambridge. The recent activity has raised hopes of a long-awaited break in the case.

Investigators returned to Chicago last weekend and began sorting through the items Monday, FBI spokesman Ross Rice told WBBM Radio.

"They brought with them the items that were recovered during the search, and they're now involved in the process of going through, very meticulously, all of those items to try to determine if there's any link to our investigation," Rice said.

A message left yesterday at the Chicago FBI's media office was not returned.

Lewis was free yesterday and has not been charged, Rice said.

It was unclear what prompted law enforcement officials to take a renewed interest in the self-proclaimed "Tylenol Man," but last week the FBI cited advances in forensic technology, along with publicity and tips that came in around the 25th anniversary of the crime in 2007.

Over three days beginning Sept. 29, 1982, seven people took cyanide-laced Tylenol and died in the Chicago area. The poisonings triggered a national scare and a huge recall, and led to the widespread adoption of tamperproof packaging in food and medical products.

Caught after a nationwide manhunt in late 1982, Lewis admitted sending a letter demanding $1 million from the manufacturer to "stop the killing."

But he said he was only trying to exploit the crisis, and denied he had anything to do with the deaths. He was convicted of extortion in 1983 and spent 12 years in prison, getting out in 1995.

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