James Lewis, suspect in Tylenol poisonings that killed seven in 1982, found dead at Cambridge home

The suspect in the Chicago-area poisonings that triggered a nationwide scare was 76 years old.

James Lewis holds documents at federal court
James Lewis, who was a leading suspect in the 1982 murders of seven people who swallowed tainted Tylenol, holds documents at federal court, June 5, 1984, in Kansas City, Mo. Keith Myers/The Kansas City Star via AP, File

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The suspect in the 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in the Chicago area and triggered a nationwide scare has died, police confirmed on Monday.

Officers, firefighters and EMTs responding to a report of unresponsive person about 4 p.m. Sunday found James Lewis dead in his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home, Cambridge Police Superintendent Frederick Cabral said in a statement. He was 76, police said.

“Following an investigation, Lewis’ death was determined to be not suspicious,” the statement said.

No one was ever charged in the deaths of seven people who took drugs laced with cyanide. Lewis served more than 12 years in prison for sending an extortion note to Johnson & Johnson, demanding $1 million to “stop the killing.”


When he was arrested in 1982 after a nationwide manhunt, he gave investigators a detailed account of how the killer might have operated. Lewis later admitted sending the letter and demanding the money, but he said he never intended to collect it.


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