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Kaczynski’s DNA Sought In 1982 Tylenol Poisonings

Ted Kaczynski

“Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski, serving life for killing three and injuring 23 in 16 bombings between 1978 and 1995. (Credit: AP)

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UPDATED 05/19/11 11:06 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Authorities are seeking DNA samples from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in connection with the nearly 30-year-old cold case in which seven people died from poisoned Tylenol capsules in Chicago.

As CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports, the Chicago office of the FBI says it is seeking DNA samples from several people, including Kaczynski, as part of the re-examination of the infamous 1982 case.

But so far, Kaczynski has refused to provide the samples voluntarily, FBI spokesman Ross Rice told CBS 2.

In a handwritten court motion, Kaczynski said he was visited by two prison officers who told him the Chicago FBI office wanted his DNA to compare with some partial profiles connected with the Tylenol tampering case.

READ Kaczynski’s Motion

Kaczynski says he has never even possessed any potassium cyanide, the poison used in the Tylenol case.

“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 persons who are entirely innocent,” Kaczynski wrote. “For example, such profiles can show that 5 percent, or 3 percent, or 1 percent of Americans have the same partial profile as the person who committed a certain crime.”

Kaczynski writes that in case he coincidentally matches a partial DNA profile in the Tylenol case, prosecutors need to preserve evidence taken from his remote Montana cabin when he was arrested in 1996. Such evidence will prove that he had no cyanide compounds at the cabin, he writes.

Kaczynski also says there are documents that will prove his whereabouts in 1982 would not link him to the Tylenol case.

He said in the motion that he would agree to provide the DNA sample if these conditions about preserving evidence were met.

Kaczynski grew up in southwest suburban Evergreen Park, and graduated from high school at age 16. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

In 1971, Kaczynski moved into his Montana cabin, which had no running water or electricity. He sent 16 bombs to several targets, among them universities and airlines, between 1978 and 1995, and his bombs left three people dead and injured nearly two dozen more.

Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996, based on information obtained from his brother, David, shortly after his so-called “manifesto” was published. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

This latest news comes in the wake of an auction this week of Kaczynski’s possessions, including books and photographs.

Meanwhile, the FBI says the investigation into the Tylenol poisonings remains ongoing. Nearly three decades later, they remain one of the most infamous crimes in Chicago history.

Discarded Tylenol

Tylenol discarded after the 1982 poisonings that left seven people dead in the Chicago area. (1982 File Photo; Credit: CBS)

The first victim, Mary Kellerman, 12, of Arlington Heights collapsed and died on Sept. 29, 1982, after taking some Tylenol for a head cold. A short time afterward, postal worker Adam Janus, 27, also of Arlington Heights, also died, followed soon afterward by his brother, Stanley, and sister-in-law, Teresa.

New mother Mary Reiner, 27, of Winfield; Lombard phone center employee Mary McFarland, 31; and flight attendant Paula Jean Prince, 35, of the Old Town neighborhood also died suddenly within the next few days.

A reporter for the City News Bureau discovered that all the victims had taken Tylenol, and a panic ensued when that link was made public. Soon, manufacturer Johnson & Johnson ordered stores to clear its shelves of Tylenol, and Mayor Jane Byrne banned the drug in Chicago.

The case also spawned a national investigation that brought together city, state and federal authorities, and changed the marketing and packaging of over-the-counter drugs.

Another man, James Lewis, was arrested after sending a letter to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million for him to “stop the killing.” But while Lewis was convicted of extortion and sent to prison, he was never charged with the Tylenol murders.

Lewis was back in the news just two years ago, when the FBI confiscated boxes and a computer from his home in Cambridge, Mass. But no charges against him were brought forth.

A one-time defense attorney for the Unabomber said in California he would not be surprised if his former client was being looked at.  

“If you had to pick somebody that could be responsible for those particular offenses, he’s certainly a logical person,” lawyer and DNA expert Robert Blasier said. “(Kaczynski) has the technical know-how to come up with that method for doing away with people.”

But CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller says it is also possible the FBI simply wants to rule Kaczynski out, “so if the real person, the real offender is caught, that person can’t say, ‘It was the Unabomber, it wasn’t me.’”