Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski
Seven people in the Chicago area died in 1982 after ingesting Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide.
CHICAGO -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it's launched a "complete review of all evidence" in the unsolved 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in the Chicago area.
The statement comes after federal agents on Wednesday searched the home of a man linked to the poisonings that triggered a nationwide scare and prompted dramatic changes in the way food and medical products are packaged.
The FBI said its review was prompted by tips, advances in forensic technology and publicity surrounding the case's recent 25th anniversary.
No one was ever charged with the deaths of seven people who took the cyanide-laced drugs. And the FBI would not immediately confirm the search at the home of James W. Lewis was related to the Tylenol case, only that it was part of an ongoing investigation.
"All I can tell you is we have conducted a search on Gore Street in Cambridge (Massachusetts), and it's connected to an ongoing criminal investigation," said Gail Marcinkiewicz, an FBI spokeswoman told the Boston Globe, declining to elaborate.
According to the Somerville (Massachusetts) Journal, the investigation may have spread to locations in Cambridge and Somerville which may have been used as a lab or storage area.
Three of the deaths happened in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.
One victim, 27-year-old Adam Janus, was killed by the tainted pills, but authorities didn't know at that time that the cyanide-laced Tylenol was the cause.
Janus' 25-year-old brother, Stanley Janus, and new sister-in-law, 19-year-old Theresa Janus, had just returned home from a honeymoon when Adam Janus was found dead. The couple took Tylenol from Adam Janus' house and also died.
Also killed were Mary Kellerman, 12, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., Mary Reiner, 27, of Winfield, Ill., Paula Prince, 35, of Chicago and Mary McFarland, 35, of Elmhurst, Ill.
Lewis served more than 12 years in prison for sending an extortion note to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million to "stop the killing."
He was arrested in December 1982 at a New York City library after a nationwide manhunt. At the time, he gave investigators a detailed account of how the killer might have operated and described how someone could buy medicine, use a special method to add cyanide to the capsules and return them to store shelves.
Lewis later admitted sending the letter and demanding the money, but said he never intended to collect it. He said he wanted to embarrass his wife's former employer by having the money sent to the employer's bank account.
In a 1992 interview with The Associated Press, Lewis explained that the account he gave authorities was simply his way of explaining the killer's actions.
"I was doing like I would have done for a corporate client, making a list of possible scenarios," said Lewis, who maintained his innocence.
Lewis called the killer "a heinous, cold-blooded killer, a cruel monster."
He also served two years of a 10-year sentence for tax fraud.
Lewis moved to the Boston area after getting out of prison in 1995 and is listed as a partner in a Web design and programming company called Cyberlewis. On its Web site, which lists the location searched Wednesday as the company's address, there is a tab labeled "Tylenol" with a written message and audio link in which a voice refers to himself as "Tylenol Man."
"Somehow, after a quarter of a century, I surmise only a select few with critical minds will believe anythng I have to say," the message says. "Many people look for hidden agendas, for secret double entendre, and ignore the literal meanings I convey. Many enjoy twisting and contorting what I say into something ominous and dreadful which I do not intend.
"That my friends is the curse of being labelled the Tylenol Man. Be that as it may, I can NOT change human proclivities. I shant try. Listen as you like."
On Wednesday, two FBI agents sat parked across the street from the apartment building at a shopping center. At least two other vehicles with Illinois license plates were at the scene.
By afternoon, no law enforcement officials were seen entering or leaving the building -- a beige, six-story structure.
Neighbors told a Boston TV station that they saw Lewis in the area from time to time and were aware of his connection to the Tylenol case.
Illinois State Police, which were involved with the initial investigation and part of a task force on the killings, declined to comment, referring calls to the FBI office in Chicago.
The Illinois attorney general's office and Chicago Police could not immediately confirm any details about the investigation, but spokeswomen said they were looking into the matter.
The case has surfaced periodically over the years, primarily in stories marking the anniversary of the killings.
In 2007, 25 years after the deaths, survivors of the victims said they remained haunted by what happened and frustrated that nobody was convicted.
"I will never get past this because this guy is out there, living his life, however miserable it might be," said Michelle Rosen, who was 8 when her mother, Mary Reiner, collapsed in front of her after taking Tylenol for post-labor pains.