Updated 09/26/11 – 2:56 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — New revelations have surfaced about the origin of the infamous Tylenol poisonings nearly three decades ago.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Felicia Middlebrooks reports, in a new self-published book called The Tylenol Mafia, former Johnson & Johnson employee Scott Bartz claims the Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in 1982 actually took place in the company’s production or distribution channels.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Felicia Middlebrooks reports
Bartz, who lives in New Jersey, also says the makers of Tylenol and federal agencies steered the investigation in the wrong direction to avoid liability.
Bartz tells the Daily Herald he spent 3 1/2 years doing research for the book, which was set for release Monday.
He claims that Johnson & Johnson manipulated the facts surrounding the murders, and the Web site for his book says it “will create a big headache for J&J, the media that went along with this ruse, and authorities such as the FBI, local police and the courts that did flawed and even dishonest work.”
The Web site indicates that the book has gained extensive attention from the right-wing political group “Restore the Republic,” which also devotes extended attention to alleged “secret societies,” conspiracy theories about the “New World Order” and various other subjects, and survivalism.
The Daily Herald says Bratz insists he is not a disgruntled ex-employee, but concedes that he was laid off “not on the best of terms.”
In a prepared statement, Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said, “We believe the premise in Mr. Bartz’s book has no merit. The facts of this case have been shared with the appropriate authorities over the years, and we defer any comment on the investigation of these poisonings to the appropriate legal authorities.”
Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice had no comment on the book, but confirmed the investigation into the Tylenol poisonings remains ongoing.
The Tylenol deaths remain one of the most infamous crimes in Chicago history.
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.
In May, authorities confirmed they were seeking DNA samples from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in connection with the poisonings. But Kaczynski said he has never even possessed any potassium cyanide, the poison used in the Tylenol case.